Creativity – In the Studio with Natalia Castillo
In this series on The Southern C, I am thrilled to introduce our readers to some of the great Southern creative minds we run across on our social network and at The Southern C Summits. These individuals are the artists, designers, makers and doers that are shaping our landscape with their vision and ingenuity. Go behind the scenes to get a glimpse into their studio, find out what they are working on, discover the path that led them to this moment and gain insight into what motivates and inspires their work and lives.
The subjects and their niche may vary but many share the paradoxical traits of creative individuals – they daydream, observe, ask big questions, people watch, seek new experiences, view life as an opportunity for self-expression, take risks and bounce back all while following their true passions. We hope you will be inspired as we spotlight the creativity that abounds in our region. According to Einstein, “Creativity is contagious” and this is one thing we are happy to spread.
This week, I would like to introduce you to Natalia Castillo, the creative mind and designer behind Escapada, a collection colorful and fun resort wear for the modern woman. A Durham, N.C. native, Natalia graduated from Emory University and began her career in apparel with Macy’s department stores. After working in the apparel industry for several years, she was eager to start her own business and after seeing a void in the marketplace, she set out to launch a resort wear line that was inspired by her lifelong love of travel.
Now recognized in boutiques and resorts around the world for their stylish, well-priced and quality pieces, Escapada was recently named to Inc. Magazine’s 2014 list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in America. In addition, Escapada is a brand with a conscience and supports global charities that enhance the lives of those in need, educate children and aid environmental causes. Seeing a void, successfully filling it topped off by giving back after all is said and done… sounds like a Southern creative to me!
Describe your brand and how it got started.
Escapada Living is a women’s apparel and resort wear brand inspired by the vibrant, effortless culture of the islands. From printed tunics and flirty rompers to chic dresses and easy cover ups, the line exudes a vibrant, yet relaxed aesthetic perfect for any beach vacation – or for landlocked dreams of an exotic getaway.
I founded Escapada in the fall of 2009 in Charleston, SC. I have always been entrepreneurial, and after working as a buyer at Macy’s department store for nine years, I was eager to start my own business. I was on vacation in Hawaii when I noticed a void in the market for flattering, colorful, affordable resort wear. This led me to launch, and later sell, two other resort wear lines before establishing Escapada. Today, the brand is sold in more than 2,000 boutiques worldwide, online, and in our Signature Store right outside Charleston in Mt. Pleasant, SC. We have grown so much so quickly and I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Describe a typical day in your studio or office.
There is no typical day – I’m always busy! Half of my time is spent traveling and the other half is spent in the office, strategizing with my team on creative projects, operations, sales, and human resources. I also spend a lot of time working with our production manager in Indonesia… the difference in time zones results in lots of late nights!
How has your background influenced your work?
I graduated with a BS in Biology and had plans to go to med school. I knew being a doctor was not my passion, so I got a job working at Macy’s as a sales manager. I took this as a temporary position until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I ended staying there for nine years and found that I absolutely loved fashion! That background as a buyer for Macy’s gave me the foundation for starting my own company. I learned about every aspect of retailing, and that experience has proven to be invaluable in building my wholesale business.
Favorite biz tool, app or resource?
My favorite online resource is Inc Magazine. They post numerous interesting and informative articles daily, with so many great ideas and insights. It is the online resource I read every day!
Where do you find inspiration?
Travel is definitely my #1 source of inspiration… after all, “Escapada” means “getaway” in Spanish! The vibrant colors, rich culture, and relaxed lifestyle of the tropics have a huge influence over Escapada’s collections. My creative team and I are also inspired by art, home design, and the beauty of Charleston and its surrounding islands. We are constantly developing fresh new prints and styles, trying to stay ahead of the curve.
The rare day off – what do you do to unwind?
The beach for sure! It is definitely my favorite place to escape with a good book.
Best business advice you ever received?
Follow your gut! I have never had a business plan for any of my three businesses. My companies have all been very successful because I am constantly reacting to business trends rather than following a business plan that might be outdated. I know many people would disagree with me, but following my gut has worked out well for me.
For more of Whitney’s Southern Creatives Q&A’s click the names below:
Whitney Wise Long, co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit, loves to connect with Southern entrepreneurs and learn more about their creative endeavors. This series – “In the Studio With” – offers her the perfect opportunity to do so!