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.”

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