The New York-based shoe designer, a passionate collector, has a home full of paintings, drawings, mixed-media and sculpture. Castillo, the creative director at Via Spiga and head of his eponymous line, even brings a separate mini-collection with him whenever he’s on the road.
“The pieces travel,” he said. “They go with me to many places, from the office to home, from Milan to New York and New York to Milan. It’s not about a piece that has to hang on the wall because it was bought for that wall. It’s a more relaxed and informal way of collecting art, so to speak. It’s kind of like a moveable installation.”
And the artwork plays a vital role in his work. “I like to create shoes not as fashion pieces but more like art pieces,” the designer said. “I’m in a moment where I want the shoes to have that extra something so they become timeless. [Works from] Goya or Chuck Price or Richard Hambleton last forever. They are always good, and that’s what I want my shoes to be — good forever, not just this season.”
Castillo’s love of the visual arts started early. He studied fine art at Altos de Chavón School of Design in the Dominican Republic. “I never took fashion design courses,” he said, “but I asked, ‘What is the best form to express my creativity, my love for art?’ Shoes was where I felt I could do best in exploring that and [sustaining] it for years and years.”
He started filling his walls when he was still in college, after illustrator Antonio Lopez, who guest taught a class during the holiday break, gave him a pencil sketch of a woman.
Castillo quickly made his first official purchase, a star-shaped wall sculpture by Chuck Price that now hangs over his bed. “I had just started working at Donna Karan, and it was so [expensive] for me at the time,” he recalled. “But it was one of those things that made me feel weak and made my heart go, ‘Sigh, I want to have that.’”
Today, the designer is close pals with Price and owns several of his works. “I am really lucky that I have friends who are great artists,” Castillo said. “It’s a privilege to be able to see what they are working on, get inspired by them and exchange opinions. It becomes a different way of creating fashion that isn’t just about the trends for next season or what the stores are looking for. I think more about what people would love to have and what they don’t already know they want.”
In addition to Price’s creations, other prized pieces in Castillo’s art collection are works by Ruben Toledo, Anh Duong, Peter Tunney, Carlos Rodriguez and Richard Hambleton.
Still, the shoe designer doesn’t discriminate between renowned artists and the unknown. Over the years, he has discovered new works in a variety of places, from sidewalk sales to prominent fairs such as Art Basel Miami Beach and the Venice Biennale.
“I’m not going to be a snob about it,” Castillo said. “It’s about what I love, and I don’t buy art just as an investment.”
Recently, he has been enamored with sculptures incorporating electricity and colored lights.
At Art Basel Miami Beach in December, he purchased a mirrored light box by Chul Hyun Ahn and is eyeing a second piece by the same artist. “I love light,” Castillo said. “It is very much a part of my design philosophy. The color is saturated and the pieces are just glowing, almost bursting. It’s three dimensions and more. It inspires me in designing shoes that [exude] that same emotion.”
And lately, Castillo has felt the pull to create something new himself. “I’ve been thinking about drawing, just to loosen up, to go back to using watercolor and wash and things like that,” he said. “I love the human form, and I like to draw big.”