“I feel that fashion, besides being primarily visual, is secondly emotional and thirdly sexual: It’s our self identity.” –Nirco Castillo
Nirco Castillo’s modern, minimalist yet energetically fluid design sensibility is equally informed by his past as his progressive view on fashion. Born in Santiago, Dominican Republic and moving to Rhode Island when he was six years old, Nirco cites a vibrant mix of cultural challenges, personal triumphs, his close-knit family and a creatively steeped environment in shaping a strong sense of self as well as artistic viewpoint. Nirco explores the idea that fashion is both a visual manifestation of self-identity and sociological force through his design process. And as a result, the end product is an evolving, forward-thinking, boundary-pushing commentary on societal notions of fashion, from functionality to feminine ideals.
Why did you choose fashion design out of all the creative fields?
I feel fashion design chose me. Ever since I can remember, I always drew women wearing dresses. Sometimes they were running with shopping bags (chuckling). I remember saying to my kindergarten teacher in the Dominican Republic when I was leaving the school, “I will bring you back a dress from New York.” She was wearing black heels with a woven short-sleeve, convertible collar, sky-blue with white polka dots, knee-length dress with buttons down the center…it came naturally to me.
I also love contemporary abstract art and when I have the time, I like to paint.
You mention that your “debut collection challenges preconceived notion of fashion”. Can you elaborate on exactly which preconceived notions you are choosing to challenge and how?
Fashion is perceived as superficial and disconnected from reality. However, I believe that fashion is one of the most tangible physical and emotional art forms that we as a society have. It plays a role in every aspect of our lives. As a designer, what I would like to challenge is the ideals of elegance. What is elegant is no longer the same refined and delicate beauty that we witnessed in the past. Elegance to me occasionally comes with a certain grittiness and power. Also, I feel that clothing needs to be more transitional: day to night, work to party, sexy and playful.
How do you envision yourself evolving fashion with your design aesthetic?
I feel that there is room and potential to make clothing more event transitional. People say that everything has been done when it comes to painting and fashion, but I would like to keep picking my brain and evolve my design aesthetic so that it can stand on its own.
What part of your identity do you impart on your designs and how does it show through the collections?
I consider myself to be very sensual, assertive and funny. You could see it in my awareness and emphasis on the body, color and playful geometric lines.
Who is the woman you’re designing for and what do you want her to identify with in your clothes?
First of all, my woman is a socially intelligent female. She is forward thinking, fitness-conscious, powerful, confident and sexy. She wants clothing that is innovative without being overpowering. She wants to adorn her body to highlight herself, not to hide behind her clothing.
What’s next for you? Where are you headed?
I want to continue to work doing what I’m passionate about and to enjoy the process. Also, I want to make my clothing available to a bigger audience.
Nirco explains his journey from imaginative child to innovative designer.
Being originally from the Dominican Republic and growing up in Rhode Island, how has that experience shaped your self-identity and ultimately your identity as a fashion designer?
I feel that being an immigrant at such a young age gave me room for a greater degree of cultural fusion. Rhode Island was my “America” and my family was “Mi Isla bonita.” The two are very different and instead of choosing sides, I was caught in the middle. I could only choose one direction—which was to be an individual whose identity is influenced by an entire world of characteristics. When I look in the mirror, I do not see someone that is purely Dominican or purely American. I just see myself. I see Nirco. At points in my life as a child and teenager, I felt that both cultures were against me. Maybe I was being naïve, or maybe it was just gay teenage drama, but the conflict gave me momentum to develop into a sometimes strongly opinionated young man who isn’t afraid to play with social ideals. Rhode Island was a great place to be raised. Its preservation of history and appreciation for the arts was very fitting for a young boy who would spend hours drawing. I definitely took advantage of all the arts programs and visual history that it had to offer. Rhode island is also a very college-oriented place. This heightened the importance of both education and freethinking. In some ways, I get much of my forward–looking, futuristic-fused-with-classical aesthetic from Rhode Island. I was raised by an independent, strong, hardworking Dominican mother. She instilled the same work ethic in me. My two sisters also had much to contribute. They were exuberant, feisty, sexy Latinas who encouraged dreaming big. They exposed me to fashion. I would sit and admire them, as they got ready to go out. It’s where I, as a fashion designer, got my sensuality, admiration of the female body and love for color.