INTERVIEW WITH FASHION DESIGNER CORAL CASTILLO
“Coral Castillo’s collection features an array of stunning pieces that are structure, yet feminine and although entirely done in black, somehow ethereal and light. Coral’s designs show a love for texture and layers-dramatic shapes and draping portray a playful relationship with light and opacity” – Blythe Hill
Born in Mexico City, Coral found her passion for designing clothing at a very young age. Her mom was a dress-maker and Coral grew up with the exposure to fine fabrics and custom made clothing. In 2005, Coral started designing for selected clientele, without any guidance or training in fashion. Once she decided to pursue her passion she studied Fashion Design at The Art Institute of California – San Francisco. Graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Fashion Design she received honors and was awarded best portfolio for fall 2012. In 2009, she won best overall effect for the Art Institute of California-San Francisco Fashion Show. Other awards include Best of Women’s DayWear for Discarded to Divine 2009 and 2010, 1st place in a design competition for OC-Fashion Week in 2011, and in 2013 Coral was recognized as one of the best designers in Orange County. In 2019 Coral won the Moss Adams Fashion Innovator award. In 2018 Coral participated in a series called STITCHED and ended as the winner of Episode 5. Most recently, Coral was a finalist of PROJECT RUNWAY S19.
INTERVIEW WITH FASHION DESIGNER
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as a designer?
I feel that I have always loved everything related to creating clothing. My mom was a dressmaker and since I was very little I enjoyed seeing her choose different fabrics, how she would cut, and saw it together to make a beautiful garment. Also seeing the transformation of her clients as they slipped into the dress. You could the happiness on their face as they looked at themselves in the mirror. I want to have the same affect on people as they put on my garments.
How important is your cultural background for your brand?
I was born in Mexico City later lived in Tijuana BC. In 2001 we moved to the US, and I forgot of how beautiful my culture is. In 2019, I went back to Mexico for the first time in a while. I saw Indigenous people making embroideries in the streets, and everything was so beautiful and full of color. The art was so rich that I fell back in love with my home. Then, with “Project Runway,”
it was a great opportunity to show a collection inspired by how beautiful my culture is. So in my second to the last collection (GENESIS COLLECTION), I actually added embroideries handmade by Indigenous people. Most of them live in poverty, so with every embroidery that I used on “Project Runway,” I made sure to go back and pay the person who made the embroidery directly. The show gave me $10,000 for materials, and every single dollar spent on the embroideries made it back to the Indigenous artists.
In my last collection called Aztec goddess (inspired by Aztec mythology) most of my designs are macrame which it’s typical technique used in the central coast of Mexico.
Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
My biggest mentor in the industry is Christian Siriano. It was an honor to work with him during Project Runway S19. He pushed me to using and experimenting with different colors that aren’t just black. I love black because it is a color that will never go out of style. Trying new things pushed me out of my comfort zone but when designing it made me discover another part of myself, now I love to work with color.
Listening to Nina Garcia ( editor-in-chief of ELLE USA) was something that I will never forget. She said I needed “to be assertive, more bold” (I have quiet personality).
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
Don’t worry so much. Be patient, good things will come to you when you don’t expect them.
What was your biggest fear when starting your own brand?
I think what worried me the most was that I wouldn’t have the funds to create the next collection.
Who would you most like to see wearing your garments?
I would love to dress anyone walking on the red carpet. I love dressing people when they need to be at their best.
Name two icons you admire or you would like to collaborate.
Zendaya. She embodies the exact kind of balance between soft and edgy that I love to play with. I can see her in one of my dresses, and imagine it to look like an extension of who she is, rather than a garment she puts on.
A letter to your future self. What would you write?
No matter where you’re now. You did good!
– Fashion designer Coral Castillo
Photography by Mark Gunter: https://www.markgunter.com.au
Website Coral Castillo: https://www.coralcastillo.com/
Instagram Coral Castillo: https://www.instagram.com/cc.coral/