By day, Paolo Castro is a physiotherapist, but by night, he is a designer, a businessman, an artist and an entrepreneur. He is innately interested in all things fashion and always has been, but it wasn't until 2008 over a coffee catch up with his sister, Ginny, that Paolo decided he would take a chance and launch his label, Orocéo Castro. Now, his eponymous label is stocked internationally, and it has garnered an envious following including the likes of Michelle Williams, Ashanti and the members of Fifth Harmony, but Paolo remains humble…
Who or what influenced your relationship with fashion growing up?
I used to tag along with my mum and my sister Ginny on their shopping trips and that started my interest in fashion, but I have always known that I wanted to dress women growing up. I remember as a kid observing my sister play with her Barbie dolls and thinking that I could dress them better.
Did you study fashion or are you self-taught?
I studied fashion at Melbourne Fashion Institute.
What inspired you to launch a label?
It was the summer of 2008 when my sister, Ginny, and I were having coffee at a café in Perth when somehow, we got talking about what we really wanted to do in life. I told her that I wanted to make clothes and she said she would love to style garments. This led to an impromptu brainstorming session and we decided to try our hands at starting our own brand. Neither of us had any sort of formal training in any facet of fashion so I decided to study fashion before actually starting the brand. I finished studying in 2013 and we finally launched the label in 2015.
How would you describe your label?
We aim to be a lifestyle brand with a specific style that is a combination of mine and Ginny’s. Our core aesthetic can be described as ‘modern preppy’ and this will always be evident in every collection we come up with. This is peppered with touches of elegance, quirk and femininity as well as an uptown and put-together look.
Where are your garments designed and made?
They are all made in Melbourne.
What does a week in your shoes look like?
Ginny and I both hold professions that are far removed from fashion. She is a registered nurse and I am a physiotherapist. I work four days a week and I really only get to work on the brand at night and on weekends. I normally work on a collection on weeknights and then do the business side on weekends. I try to set aside Sunday for a rest day, but this rarely happens. When you’ve got your own business, you somehow always relate everything you encounter daily with it and continually research and think of how else you could improve it.
Why are you passionate about manufacturing your label in Australia?
This past decade has been tough on the Australian fashion industry, with several amazing brands closing down because of the impact of cheap imports and fast fashion. These Australian brands have very distinct styles that are both fashionable and interesting and are of great quality. These days, you walk along Bourke Street and you find people wearing the same boring garments and repetitive styles bought from these international fast fashion brands and it’s just not inspiring. I have also seen local designers buy into fads too, and it is sad but I understand where they are coming from. These international brands are much cheaper. More people buy from them and therefore they get to set trends, so for a local label to keep their business afloat, the designers end up compromising their aesthetic and follow such trends to try and entice people to buy from them. I believe that Australian fashion needs reinvigoration and manufacturing locally would help this cause and naturally, I would love to be part of it.
Explain the design process of one of your garments?
The Orocéo Castro shirt is one of my absolute favourites in all of our collections so far. It is part of the Kundiman collection (Kundiman is a traditional Filipino love song), and I remember wanting to convey a sense of passion juxtaposed with vulnerability through this garment. I incorporated ruffles on the collar to represent passion and a hand sewing technique called, ‘fagoting’ beneath the shoulder part of the shirt, to express vulnerability.
What do you think about fast fashion?
I think fast fashion would instigate the death of fashion if nobody does anything to counter it.
What challenges do you face as an Australian made label?
I’m sure any designer who also manufactures locally would agree that the most significant challenge is the higher cost of having things made here.
Label highlights or achievements to date?
Being able to dress celebrities like Ashanti, the members of Fifth Harmony, Michelle Williams, and having one of our garments featured in Elle Magazine.
The Fashion Advocate x