FROM LEFT: Edmundo Castillo; sketch from Castillo's spring collection
One day several years ago, while Edmundo Castillo was still the creative director at Sergio Rossi, we were chatting about inspirations, and he mentioned a book, the title of which drove me straight to amazon.com: The Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe.
Although it was written in the tone of a psychology textbook, I nonetheless devoured it in one weekend, enthralled by its tales of centuries-old Chinese footbinding and our societal attitudes about stilettos and all that they imply. Fast-forward to the present day, when I mention to Castillo that the book remains a favorite. “Isn’t it fascinating?” he says. “I’m pretty sure I lent my copy to someone who lent it to someone else, and I haven’t seen it since. It plays a part in making me do what I do and the way I do it. I need to buy another copy.”
Even without his paper muse within arm’s reach, Castillo seems to be doing just fine. He had set aside his own line when he joined Sergio Rossi in 2004, but by 2008 he had left the Italian house, disillusioned by the notion of designing shoes that were “half me, half someone else’s identity.” This season finds his relaunched eponymous collection arriving in stores—a fresh, colorful and, yes, sexy statement that represents who Edmundo Castillo is today.
“The thought running through my mind was, Where would I be today if I hadn’t stopped designing my own collection?” he notes. “And in that interim, so much had happened to shoes—what was considered high then would be considered low now. A lot of excitement has been injected into shoes, and I wanted to design a collection that showcased where I would be in those changes.”
Castillo is fond of noting that this debut collection (available locally at Saks Fifth Avenue Bal Harbour) evokes the feeling of “shoes as makeup for the feet,” and one can make the easy association in the blush-toned suede of the Spark open-toe slingback, or the lipstick-red Debi d’Orsay pump. But it’s also an overarching idea, the notion that shoes should complement without announcing their presence too loudly.
“There are shoes out there that look like you’re walking with two Christmas trees on your feet,” Castillo says. “If you’re wearing the perfect shoe, the first thing anyone should notice is a woman walking, moving gorgeously.” The Debi is a perfect example, he says, calling it “a shoe that goes with everything, that does for the leg everything that a shoe should.”
And while platforms are plentiful in the collection, Castillo is also one among several shoe designers who believe we should all start thinking a little lower. “I’ve always liked the platform, and the challenge is knowing the fine line between a high heel that feels refined and when it starts to get a little vulgar,” he says. “More than anything, it’s the idea that shoes are starting to look the same out there, so perhaps it’s time to return to some styles that are refined or demure—a new ballerina, or a new way of looking at a kitten heel.”
If Castillo (who turns 44 this month) sounds passionate on the subject of shoes, there’s good reason. He grew up in Juncos, Puerto Rico, with one brother and three sisters, and shoes were a daily topic of conversation. “When I was a kid, there were so many fights among my sisters over shoes,” he remembers. “And what became fascinating to me wasn’t necessarily how [the shoes] looked, but how a woman’s whole demeanor would change when they put on a pair of heels, how they became who they were outside of the house. I realized that the shoe is a key element, that piece of the puzzle that’s needed to be complete.”
I mention that I wouldn’t mind having a brother who was a shoe designer, and Castillo laughs. “My family is filled with women,” he says. “I sent them a lookbook of the new collection, and there was a lot of controversy, because I said, ‘You can each pick one.’ It caused a lot of stress: ‘Can’t we have more than one?’ But I love them all.” If Castillo’s family is any indication, his relaunch is off to a rousing start.
Editors are also paying attention. “The reaction has been amazing. I wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast,” Castillo says. “I wanted to start small, with just a few stores, but we’ve had an enormous amount of interest. Everybody is going for the simplicity of the collection, and I think they’re filling a need for some things that are missing out there: the beauty of simplicity, and timeless shoes.”
He’ll transition that idea for fall, he says, with “classic fall colors, bordeaux and green and camel and shades of brown, but I wanted to do them in a way that felt a little more up, a little more happy. The camel has just a little more orange in it than a plain camel, while the brown feels a little more cognac or chestnut. And the black isn’t really a true black, but not a gray, either. It’s like a shadow that goes with every color.”
More than anything, Castillo finds himself excited and newly passionate about a shoe that feels very much of this moment. “I love making shoes that look like they belong in the 21st century; I’m obsessed by that idea,” he says. “But at the end of the day, shoes are fashion: They should be fun and a little experimental, but they also should make sense. I want to explore all of that.”