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Designer Merlin Castell for LAFW24 Powered by Art Hearts Fashion: Futuristic and Fabulous

Updated: Apr 3

Julie Shen

LAFW 2024 opened with the Merlin Castell show. It was definitely one to remember with the eclectic designs and gorgeous creations. Latin fashion icon, Merlin Castell has been fascinated by exquisite clothing since an immensely young age. As a little boy, he dreamed of creating flawless masterpieces that would be worn by beautiful people. Today, Merlin is dressing Hollywood's stars in his fabulous, unique designs, but his rise to the top was not an easy feat.

Growing up, life was difficult for the eccentric Merlin. He was born in the countryside of Honduras. Merlin was the youngest of seven brothers, all living and working at a local banana field. Realistically, shoes were a luxury for the Castell children. As a turning point, when Merlin was seven, he injured his toe playing soccer barefoot. Eventually, his mother took him to the U.S. Missionaries to get a vaccine. The nurse promised him a book to read to calm him down. Ironically, he picked out a Vogue Magazine, which he cherishes to this day. As he flipped through the pages, he was enthralled by the vibrant colors and materials that were so eloquently draped over the models the magazine. He though he could not understand a word of the English text, he memorized every picture and sketched each design.

Merlin went on to graduate from a college in Honduras with a patterns and sewing degree. He did not feel challenged by the program and at age 18, he enrolled at a university in Honduras to study architecture. He enjoyed the creativity aspect and was later hired by an interior designer, which gave Merlin the opportunity to let his imagination run wild. The job included designing a for an extremely wealthy woman. She fell in love with his designs. This woman ended up sending Merlin to a prestigious fashion university in Milan and paying for his education.

Many years (and jobs) later, Merlin moved to downtown Los Angeles, where he had to put his dreams on hold while he struggled to get by. However, he never lost sight of his goal to be a fashion designer. He ended up working as an assistant to designer Amy Bond. After just two years of working with her, he saw the business grow from one to twenty-two sewing machines. Today, the Los Angeles-based designer is known for his Haute Couture Tailored Clothing. The Merlin Castell line has become one of the most talked about collections and has been featured in national and regional press. Merlin has also been voted "One of the Top Watch Out For" and his clothing has graced the likes of Paris Hilton, Priscilla Presley, Paula Abdul among others.

Merlin Castell recently presented a futuristic and fantastic collection at LAFW 24 powered by Art Hearts Fashion. Gemma Magazine had a moment to speak with him after the show about his views on aesthetic, vision, and motivation.

I love the story of your childhood and I know your mom believed in you at an early age. How did you feel when you were sketching?

Since I was a child, I have been thrilled, and I still am because I only remember the best moments of my life. I have always thought that happiness is programmable; one is born. The right to choose what one wants is what my mother taught me. I have always taken responsibility for my actions, so I do not suffer from disappointments because I go to a tone that vibrates at a certain level and raises or lowers it in the way that suits me. I was fortunate to have a very patient mother but tough in disciplines that made me strong as a child. One does not know what one's vocation will be, but there are signs, and parents must be alert to guide their children in the right direction.

Mida Alpha Romero

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

I don't think so much in inspiration, but I believe life is like a puzzle. The pieces are there, and little by little, you form your life. At first, you don't know, but you realize it makes you happy little by little. I studied architecture and thought that was my alternative career, but it was different. I worked as an architect to be able to pay for the career that I dreamed of. I tell people to use the weapons at their disposal to achieve their dreams. Everything has a beginning and an end, and we are responsible for how it starts and how it ends.

What inspired your designs and most recent collection at LAFW

Regarding my shows, there is no inspiration. Everything is in my head, programmed with a date and time when things will happen, and for projects, I know the perfect moment to project them. It is the story of my life. I don't need to see anything around me; there is nothing, and no one that inspires what is already written in my head, whether someone likes it or not. I am not someone who pleases others, but people don't know what they want. Until you see it done, what happens in the head is individual, and you cannot please everyone simultaneously. I only propose my idea so that others can develop it separately.

Was there a specific vision for what was featured at LAFW powered by Art Hearts Fashion Week

In this case, I tell stories about my collection, which I call the “return of extraterrestrial abduction.” It is about a dream that I had as a child. I watched a spaceship land in front of me, and I saw deformed people descend with four arms, others without heads, and others with four eyes and four busts. I never understood why I had that dream. Now I interpret it as the aliens who are returning, the people whom they abducted from the past from the 40s 50s until today, and I understood that they carried out experiments on them and added arms and heads to see if they performed better. As you will see, humans do not have enough time to complete all our work, but if we had four arms two brains four legs we would work twice as fast. The idea is that we are so radical that we were created to produce something we live to work for.

How do you stay updated on the latest fashion trends?

A genuine designer only follows trends but instead establishes them. What makes a designer is his scent. For some, it may smell bad. For others, It is pleasant. Designer clothes are not bought by people who follow trends; instead, they follow designers because if the designer has his style, few people will have it, which is exclusive to having a piece of a designer's mind. Trends are planted in the brain with marketing. They do not come from designers. They come from advertising, and they bore me. I would never wear something that I see in another person

Can you tell me about your signature style or aesthetic?

The mind has no pattern. It is universal and can go in all directions, like Willy Wonka's elevator. There are no limits. I like everything football-related because my body is in the present, but my mind is always on an eternal journey. Sometimes, I return to the present, but it bores me, and I prefer to live thinking about the future.

Nebraska/Mackenzie Claude

How do you ensure that your designs are both fashionable and functional?

Function is an indispensable necessity. Every time I create a new design, it is a new challenge. They say that paper can handle everything. No one can draw what they like on paper, but how will they materialize it without basic learning techniques? That's why they must attend school and learn the necessary techniques to solve drawing problems. Many designers hate sewing or making patterns, which blocks them because they must depend on someone else to execute their ideas with techniques. Ideas are gaps that each person interprets in their own way, so imagine how complicated it is for a designer who does not know techniques to solve his concept through other people's minds without a professional guide. I learned my techniques early so as not to depend on someone. At the age of 11, I exchanged my bicycle for a used sewing machine, and I do not regret it to this day.

What challenges do you face as a fashion designer and how do you overcome them?

I have no challenges as a designer when you know what you want. You get it; many people don't know what they want, so they face challenges. A prepared person can handle challenges. The market resolves everything. It is what it is. There is a space for each of us. I am building a structure and identity to establish my future MerlinCastell. It is a brand, not me, and as a MerlinCastell brand, it will be sold to the highest bidder. That is my goal. You build something and sell it. I propose to sell the MerlinCastell recipe, which I am perfecting to the maximum. Little by little, the seasoning begins. I have a philosophy: I do not own anything, and nothing belongs to us. Everything is temporary. I enjoy the creation process and live my moment; giving your essence is everything. Humans are so different from each other, so we have to share how special we are in This life. We ​​have a purpose. We have to find it.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a fashion designer?

My advice to people who want to be designers by vocation, not by vanity or ambition, is that they have to invest a lot of money in themselves instead of their product. The product is not your creation but you. As an artist, you have to invest in yourself and be your own project; people will not understand your vision if they do not know you; when a singer has a new musical album, he needs an image to promote his work; the same applies to all careers, many designers. They don't know who they are, especially young people. They are influenced by what they see on social media, and they copy the recipe they see there, thinking that it will help them, but it doesn't; it's a lie. You have to create your recipe so that your cookies have no competition. There is nothing that competes with the original. Leave your fingerprint in what you do well or badly. In the end, it will be worth it. If you are exceptional and valuable, invest in yourself instead of your product to make yourself known. And you have to create trust in your future clients. In general, I don't trust buying products from strangers. I like to see the origin of what I consume. Make yourself known. That's my advice. Your products and ideas are in your head. They will come to light in the future. The moment you are produced, Over time, someone will come to invest in you because you are already a product, and then you will have products to distribute to the whole world.

To keep up with Merlin Castell

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