Inspired by exceptional craftsmanship and unique patterns CASTELLANO enhance the techniques of some of the most highly skilled artisans in Colombia and celebrates the unknown tribes that are part of our history and ethnic origins. Each CASTELLANO product carries the essence of a traditional indigenous tribe which should not be forgotten. Each piece is made by hand and carries its own hidden story and its own message.
Daniela Castellanos told House of Coco ;
CASTELLANO was born from a desire to use fashion to reconnect women around the world with the elemental factors of nature and spirituality, to inspire and empower them through unique weaves and patterns made entirely by hand
Here, she tells us more…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
I launched the brand in July 2014 during my first trade show in London, Scoop in the Saatchi Gallery. In December of the same year I launched the website and also the social project. The reason behind my setting up Castellano is very simple: I wanted to follow my passion and share with the world the human story hidden within each handmade piece, woven by indigenous Wayuu women in Colombia and bring to the fashion market a product that is ethical with a positive social impact on the communities manufacturing them.
In December 2013 I graduated from my journalism degree and began to search for a purpose and a meaning of my life. This desire led me to go backpacking in Colombia, my home country. I knew of the existence of Wayuu and Arhuaca tribes but was always curious about their lifestyle and their weaving process. In order to gain a better understanding, I lived with the tribes for two months to explore their story, which was my inspiration for making an ethical, sustainable and handmade collection. I also wanted to incorporate luxury into the products with the use of leather and Swarovski crystals.
Whats your background?
I was born in Colombia in the spring of 1989. Life as an entrepreneur began in my early teens, when I started my first tailoring classes at the age of 14. I have always had a passion for making clothes for women and I remember selling my designs to my friends at school. Sadly my mother passed away when I was 18 and my father has always been a huge support and inspiration to me. He has guided and helped me during my time as a student and fashion model, to later becoming a TV presenter at age 19 and then a beauty queen contender for Miss Colombia aged 21.
I arrived in the UK in February 2012 to improve my English writing skills and search for an internship as part of my degree in Colombia. I worked in a renewable energy company in London and then worked for a kickstarter project in the US. I studied journalism and communication because my dream was to become a news anchor in my country. I presented my final thesis on a historical wholesale market in Bogotá and wrote a book about the human face that is hidden in the products. This market opened my eyes to the wonderful diversity of the Colombian fashion business and allowed me to write about the human stories that are still unknown to many people. Here I met many hardworking, wise artisans who inspired me greatly.
My life experiences and various careers as a Model, TV Presenter and consultant in the renewable energy sector led me to where I am now. All my previous experiences shaped my character and made me much stronger. By trying various things I realised that I wanted to pursue my passions and take the step to becoming a social entrepreneur. This is when I created CASTELLANO.
How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
I have a small team so far. I am the CEO and work full time for the brand and social project. My aunt, Vanessa, lives in California and joined me in February this year. She has been helping me with the finance and developing the social side of the business. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to secure three graduates from the London College of Fashion, in March, to join the team and develop a marketing strategy that can help grow the brand awareness.
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
Definitely. You always make mistakes, but you can only know with the benefit of hindsight. I would have written a substantial business plan with an emphasis on the financial side of the project. I think I rushed a lot because I am a passionate person and I like to get things done.
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
I’ve had more challenges than I expected, it’s been tough trying to build a new brand on my own. One challenge has been spreading the word and networking as I’m fairly new to London. Selling wholesale to retailers has also been challenging as I’m unable to reduce the cost significantly due to high manufacturing costs, overheads and other costs that go into making handmade and fair trade products.
Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
They wouldn’t know that I am extremely disciplined and determined with my goals. They wouldn’t know that I wake up every day at 6 am to do Ashtanga Yoga, then work all day until midnight.
2015 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
I see CASTELLANO as an international high-end fashion label and social enterprise that preserves the cultural heritage of indigenous communities renowned for weaving skills and finest craftsmanship. I would like to expand the brand within Europe and also the USA markets, notably NY and LA. Castellano will also develop a luxury leather collection combined with ethnic textiles from indigenous communities. My main goal is to make an impact on the communities that make the products and to develop social programmes that educate communities in marginal areas suffering from a lack of electricity and water to create a better standard of living.
To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
Two things mainly. One is the experience of being on Richard Branson’s Virgin media business Competition where I received 2238 votes in under 3 days. I wasn’t expecting this response from people in Colombia and the UK. This inspired me greatly to carry on my journey as an entrepreneur and make me realise how many people believe in my project.
Secondly, I have been in conversations with the Swarovski head-quarters in London where the social responsibility team has been partnering with me. The idea is to develop new collections with their remaining stock to create a story of the second life of their crystals. This will reflect their principles on social and environmental commitments and also allow CASTELLANO to create more jobs for indigenous women in Colombia.
Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
I think I feel at home in London, as i have been living here for the last 3 years of my life. I like the culture and the fact that you can travel very easily to the rest of Europe. I have developed connections with many entrepreneurs, start-up programmes and social enterprises that have helped me significantly, so my heart and feelings for the people and the city are very deep.
Three beauty products you can’t leave the house without?
My blush, perfume and lipstick.
Style is a way to communicate with the people around without having to say a word. Your style should be an extension of your personality- transmitting those characteristics which most matter to you, for example: confidence, happiness, serenity, glamour.
Best thing about London to you?
The fact that it is an international and cosmopolitan city with great opportunities for young people and entrepreneurs. Also the diversity of cultural things that you can have in one city, like museums, theatres, gastronomy, shopping area
Statement shoe or statement bag?
Obviously a statement Castellano bag! I honestly never leave the house without one of my own mochila bags. Apart from the fact that I love the colours and that I am representing Colombia in my own small way, it’s also led to many sales!
If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear everyday?
Definitely a solid pair of funky and comfortable trainers. I really love walking and I spend of a lot of time visiting boutiques and trade shows, so I need to have comfortable footwear.
Favourite love song?
I don’t have one!
Best place for a coffee?
I don’t drink any coffee, but I like hanging out in coffee shops for inspiration sometimes. For example, I love the 6th floor in Peter Jones in Sloane square. It is close to my house and it has large windows and a great view of london. I love open spaces that are quiet and not crowded.
Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
“Treat others as you want to be treated” – It’s something I try to keep present every day of my life.
Dark chocolate and raw brownies. I love raw foods and raw deserts!
If you could spent 24 hours in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Right now I’d like to get away and relax somewhere peaceful to contrast with the non-stop pace of my life. I’m planning a little getaway to the beach for the summer, but the location is a secret!
In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
The next phase of growth will require a more serious capital investment. With it I plan on beginning to focus on marketing, hiring a team of likeminded passionate people and reaching markets within Europe and the USA.
Watch this video for more of an insight…