Interview with Carlos Castillo in El Correo Digital
«We want MAN 1924 to have a name worldwide, even if it is only for a few, for a select market»
El Correo Digital dedicates a vast article to MAN 1924 and Carlos Castillo, in which our creative director talks about the past, present and future of the brand.
Full English translation.
Carlos Castillo and the art of pattern making: when things are well done in Bilbao
Over the past few years we have witnessed the 180º turn undergone in tailoring. The generalization of fashion and the rise of 'low cost' firms have allowed blazers and suits to consolidate definitely as wardrobe pieces among a most varied range of people. However, this textile revolution has also led to a decay of the old exquisite patterns and a palpable quality loss, to the point that the minute technique and the sybarite essence formerly ruling the tailored pieces are being lost. Even if the most extreme purists in this industry warn of a not very favourable horizon, there is still room for hope, and in Bilbao it has a proper name: MAN 1924.
When we talk about this art we do not only refer to the formality of a suit, but to different pieces, such as blazers, coats or trousers which are tailored with impeccable patterns and breathe the same style, equally matching Oxford shoes or a pair of sneakers; at a wedding or an informal plan. This is precisely the key of MAN 1924, commanded by Carlos Castillo. Born in Madrid, from Bilbao at heart and traveller by vocation, he has spent almost his entire life living in the city and over half of it developing his career. «I still have a strong bond with Madrid; I have spent several seasons there and I have family there. However, I spend my life in Bilbao. Life here is very good, it’s wonderful», he acknowledges.
From his shop in Ercilla 21 street, Carlos is in charge of the creative part, designing the collections and deciding on the fabrics, the compositions and the patterns. His sister, Olga, is the person responsible for everything related to management and monitoring the other stores; the one in Claudio Coello 23 in Madrid and the one in Óbidos, in Portugal. Besides, they also sell in other points of Europe, Japan, Corea or USA, and of course, on their website, an important window to the world to continue creating their own market niche based on effort, perseverance and a blind faith that quality will always be better than quantity. «We want MAN 1924 to have a name worldwide, even if it is only for a few, for a select market», admits Carlos, facing the current unfavourable prospects. «The textile industry has stopped being important; the quality of clothes is undervalued and we forget it is a very important introduction letter», he values.
A recognizable image
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this creative director can be a very graphic description of his own firm. Whatever the setting, his style is always in the same guiding line. His recognizable beard, a certain 'effortless' air and that aspect halfway between classic and 'sport' define the pillars of the philosophy he intends to convey in his tailoring pieces. The prestigious international photographer, Scott Schuman, also proves us right. Only people with class and attitude he finds across the streets of London, Paris, Milan or New York appear in front of his refined lens; those who seem to live an eternal Fashion Week and who live the experience of being overwhelmed by a cloud of flashes matter-of-factly. Later, he publishes them in 'The Sartorialist', a totem in fashion photojournalism. Some time ago, Carlos became one of those usual faces. «We always saw each other at fairs, he used to take photos of me and I didn’t know him. One day I approached him to say hello and we started a conversation. He noted my telephone and began to invite me to his famous gatherings. We have had quite a bond during these years». Apart from attending these select meals where there is only room for around twenty elegant people picked worldwide, he has also had the chance to rub shoulders with personalities such as Anna Wintour, the well-known director of Vogue USA, during a dinner party at the US Embassy in Madrid. «She gave me a dedicated book; she is a very interesting person».
Even the iconic Jeremy Hackett, one of the greatest representatives of British elegance and founder of the prestigious men’s fashion company Hackett London, personally approached his store to have a look at his proposals. «I think he liked what he saw», he admits. And it is not surprising, because when fashion is in your blood, it shows. Carlos belongs to a breed of creators with a passion for clothing and pattern making. MAN is the acronym for 'Manufacturas Ambrosio Navares', the company founded by his grandfather in 1924 which has survived until today without losing its identifying traits. His father was the owner of the well-known men’s fashion stores Denis and his fate seemed clear since his childhood. «I knew what I liked since I was 7 years old. I was fascinated to go to my grandfather’s traditional factory, even on holidays, to personally see how all the processes were done: how the fabrics were wetted with damp cloths to prevent them from shrinking, how the pieces were marked and cut, how they were sewn and ironed and how they tried them on once finished», he says.
«Create your own story»
With the expertise and know-how transmitted throughout several generations, Carlos began his solo career at the age of 19. He began to manufacture his own product and he combined it with other brands he bought, especially English. Thus, he began to write his own story. «I have done something unique in Spain, something nobody else has done. Something special, something of mine. The important thing is to create a story people identify you with, and among the entire offer available they look for you, because they want and appreciate what you offer». That is why their labels read 'MAN 1924 Masterpieces', because his pieces are unique and transcend fashion to become icons, small timeless wardrobe jewels that can be likewise worn by 18 year old boys all the way to men of seventy, and even women.
In MAN 1924, apart from offering tailored suits and morning coats, you may find the best qualities in English wools and cottons such as Harris tweed: waistcoats, impeccably cut coats, shirts, polo shirts, natural silk ties, 'bucket hats', hats, 100% wool caps and pocket handkerchiefs, like those white ones that Carlos himself always wears in his jacket’s pocket. I never leave home without it. I went to an English school and I used it even to play football, because I didn’t take off my blazer or tie. For me it is part of my life and my story» he assures. They also offer for sale the scarves of his second firm, LOVAT & GREEN, led by Carlos together with his sister Olga and his wife, Isabel Calonge. Among this wide offer, however, he admits he has a special predilection for 'Tomi' trousers, a model that is imposing on the classic chino trousers and which has a special touch in its workmanship. Besides he admits his devotion for 'Kennedy' blazers, the spoilt girls of each collection. They are indeed pieces born with an icon vocation to reinvent themselves every season. «70 or 80 % of the collection are blazers, for us they are essential».
Without a doubt, in these 'fast fashion' times, it is always pleasant to find a business which remains faithful to the old methodical lines and develop under the innovative prism of professionals like Carlos. In this case, MAN 1924 can boast of possessing the same soul as its owner, a person determined to return tailoring to the privileged place it had time ago.