Francisco Costa and I met long, long ago.
At the time, he was the toast of the fashion world — the award-winning creative director of Calvin Klein.
His runway shows each season were must-see events.
What I didn’t know at the time was that toward the end of his tenure, Costa was feeling burned out.
Ready for a change.
So, he left his job, took a trip home to Brazil, and it changed his life.
Including a new fragrance he launched recently called Aroma.
Let me tell you — Aroma is so intoxicating, so sexy, so unique, that I — after nearly 20 years of using the same fragrance — am switching to this one.
More on that later.
Let’s go first to the Amazon... where it all started.
ALINA CHO: What inspired you to start Costa Brazil? You went to the Amazon, right?
FRANCISCO COSTA: Precisely.
I booked a trip with this one guide and just told him, "Send me anywhere you like, I just want to be somewhere I've never been before, really for the experience." And I ended up in the state of Acre, on the west coast of the Amazon, with the Yawanawá, [an indigenous community].
And I stayed 10 days with this tribe.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
FRANCISCO COSTA: I had an incredible time. I imagined that the forest was going to be very oppressive, very tight, and very hard, and it was just the opposite. The forest was really welcoming, and you can breathe.
ALINA CHO: There was something you found there that really inspired you to create your line and to land on the scent that you have. What was that?
FRANCISCO COSTA: On the sixth day I was there, I noticed this very distinct scent in the community. I thought that it came from the wood and the bonfires that they have throughout the village. I said, "Oh man, this wood, it just smells so beautiful." I really couldn't pinpoint what it was.
ALINA CHO: So, what was it?
FRANCISCO COSTA: I was noticing they were throwing rocks into the fire. Finally, the day before I left, I said, “What is that?” So, they handed me this oxidized resin, called Sepá, which is something that we know as Breu. What is Breu? Breu is this resin from this one tree native of this region [in the Amazon].
ALINA CHO: Got it.
FRANCISCO COSTA: Imagine a rock and then you break this rock and [it’s] gummy inside.
This gummy texture has with the most incredible scent. And that was pretty much the reason I was not bitten by one mosquito while I was there.
Later, when I sent the resin to be analyzed in the lab, the first thing the chemist told me was that it has a mosquito-repellent property.
ALINA CHO: Amazing.
FRANCISCO COSTA: So, besides having this incredible scent, that's why they had all those bonfires throughout day and night in the village because it helped with mosquitoes.
ALINA CHO: Once you figured out where the smell was coming from — the resin — did you immediately know, "Oh my God, this is it. This is what I'm going to do”?
FRANCISCO COSTA: Pretty much. It was immediate. I had never smelled anything like that before.
ALINA CHO: By your own admission, you did not know much about beauty. So, how did you go about creating products with this special scent?
FRANCISCO COSTA: I’m a believer that certain things just show up at your door, right?
ALINA CHO: I agree.
FRANCISCO COSTA: If you don't open the door, you miss it.
ALINA CHO: Yeah. I totally agree.
I discovered Aesop about 25 years ago at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo.
ALINA CHO: Love Aesop.
FRANCISCO COSTA: Oh my God, it's wonderful. So, I imagined that I would recreate Aesop.
ALINA CHO: Interesting.
FRANCISCO COSTA: Then I go to the Amazon and the whole thing turned upside down. Because I have this resin now, this gorgeous scent, with all these amazing properties. So, I took a second trip to another region [of the Amazon].
ALINA CHO: Right.
FRANCISCO COSTA: I was in this town called Natal. And I was going to visit this one block of the town that has one tree that [takes up] the whole block. Before I got to that square, I saw [another] tree that had [something that looked almost like a] coconut.
I said to the driver, "What's that?" And, he said, "Oh, that's the sapucaia tree."
ALINA CHO: Okay.
FRANCISCO COSTA: Anyway, long story short, I had them pick this thing off and I took it to another lab. I got a call, this chemist saying, "Francisco, we just did the oil, a cold press oil. And it's amazing.”
ALINA CHO: So, that’s my body oil?
FRANCISCO COSTA: That’s your body oil.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
FRANCISCO COSTA: Kaya has all these firming properties. And anti-inflammatory properties.
ALINA CHO: You really did go home to find yourself.
FRANCISCO COSTA: It was like a calling. I thought I had a plan. That plan was completely broken by me finding this ingredient. I had to reshuffle the whole thing because now I had ingredients that nobody else had.
ALINA CHO: Let's talk about the fragrance.
Why did you decide to launch it now?
FRANCISCO COSTA: I think it was the smartest thing to do. I just instinctively felt that.
ALINA CHO: It was time.
FRANCISCO COSTA: I felt ready. I feel like people now understand what the brand is about.
ALINA CHO: Totally.
FRANCISCO COSTA: So, the fragrance to me is a stamp, a trademark.
ALINA CHO: Absolutely.
FRANCISCO COSTA: And I wasn't planning to make a medicinal fragrance, but it does act like a medicine.
ALINA CHO: In what way?
FRANCISCO COSTA: It really calms me down. And if I don't have it, I have to go home and just put it on, you know?
ALINA CHO: It's funny. Scent is a very, very powerful thing. You smell something and it immediately takes you back to a moment in time, doesn't it?
FRANCISCO COSTA: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It takes you back. Obviously, it takes me to the forest. It takes me emotionally to that space, which is very healing,
ALINA CHO: Do you miss being in fashion?
FRANCISCO COSTA: I think I've replaced fashion with dressing the body.
ALINA CHO: Yeah.
FRANCISCO COSTA: I think this intimacy with the body, it's quite unique. Our products are touching the skin in a very intimate way. I find that very sexy.
ALINA CHO: There's nothing better than being passionate about your work, right?
FRANCISCO COSTA: Oh, I love that. And I think this is giving me a lot of space to learn, and I think that keeps me energized, young. I love fashion, I think I will certainly do something, but in a different way.
ALINA CHO: Oh, please Francisco. Please, please do that.
FRANCISCO COSTA: Yeah.
ALINA CHO: I hope you do.
FRANCISCO COSTA: I'm hoping so, too.
ALINA CHO: Will it happen soon?
FRANCISCO COSTA: Let’s see. I hope we get something done by the end of the year, but if not, it's whenever it comes out.
ALINA CHO: That would be amazing. I can't wait. I'll be first in line.