Aquatalia is aiming to make the transition from an all-weather shoe company to a lifestyle brand. As part of that effort, the Global Brands Group Holding Limited-owned label has hired Edmundo Castillo as creative director and executive vice president.
Castillo previously served as creative director of Via Spiga and Sergio Rossi, as well as his own line, which has been on hiatus since 2013 but which earned him a CFDA Perry Ellis Award for emerging accessories talent and a nomination for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. He began at Aquatalia a month ago, spearheading the development of his first collection, which will launch in stores for fall 2016.
Castillo’s work for Aquatalia will be based in New York, where he will design two core collections (fall and spring), with intermittent pre-collections filling store assortments in-between. The collection will include designs for men and women, and he will oversee the expansion of the Aquatalia brand into categories outside footwear. The label has confirmed that Castillo will design its first handbag collection, and the firm is mulling additional product categories for the future.
Castillo recently visited Aquatalia’s Italian manufacturing facility to learn the inner workings of its weatherproofed materials. “It’s very important for me to get a better understanding of how they work,” he said in a phone interview of the label’s core fabrication, which has recently earned fans including Gigi Hadid and Kate Middleton.
Though Castillo is best known for his spindly stiletto designs that populated the floors of Jeffrey New York and Barneys New York in the early Aughts, the designer feels that his footwear interests have since shifted toward a more casual approach. “The everyday-type shoe is a category that is fast-growing in the market, and for me it almost feels fresher than a sexy stiletto-type shoe,” he said.
In Castillo’s eyes, this change in the footwear paradigm has primed him for his new role at Aquatalia. “At the end of the day I love a great shoe that you wear forever, I love to inject that ‘I have to have it’ kind of thing into design — whether it’s a men’s shoe, women’s shoe, sexy shoe, or every-type shoe,” he said.
Of Castillo’s appointment, Jimmy Gabriel, Global Brand’s president of footwear, said: “Our key focus is to establish a DNA for the brand going forward. We really have an incredible opportunity here to build on the success of the past 20 years, to increase our awareness and to expand our customer base globally.”
As part of his responsibilities, Castillo will be charged with widening the breadth of Aquatalia’s offerings to accommodate new consumers. Part of this will include a range of premium shoe designs. The label says that amid the changes, its opening price point will remain the same at just under $400.
Said Gabriel: “It’s all about widening the bandwidth of the brand. It is our job to not lose our existing customer, but to gain new ones, in new markets. It’s about smart, beautiful design and that is why we felt that bringing Edmundo on was a great strategy and a key move.”
He declined to provide projections for the label’s growth.