Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rory Castillo: A Latino fashion designer

Rory Castillo is always creating and is limited by time and having only two hands
By Adrian Perez, Vida de Oro

Fashion Designer Rory Castillo
The fashion design world, at times, appears a bit confusing especially to those of us who have opted to conform with a standard mode of dress which allows us to blend into our social circles.   That is not the case for fashion designer extraordinaire Rory Castillo, whose daily apparel has made him unique and able to stand out in any social circle.  Matched with a creative and contagious personality, many wonder why he is still in his hometown of Sacramento, California.

For three decades, Rory’s work has been seen at numerous fashion shows in major cities and worn by movie stars, musical performers, and some of Hollywood’s elite.  Yet, the unpretentious Rory is proud to share that he grew up and still lives in a part of town that is economically challenged and at times, crime ridden. 

Rory Calhoun
Born and raised in Sacramento, Rory was named by his father after Hollywood’s Rory Calhoun, who used to woo the likes of Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe.  Growing up, he demonstrated artistic abilities beyond his years, to the point that his childhood friends would tell him he would someday be a famous artist.

“In junior high, I was skipping a lot of classes, art being one of them,” shares Rory.  “When time came for grades, my art teacher Mr. Michael Fenton, passed me only after telling me he shouldn’t, but that he knew I was talented and needed to focus on what was important.”

Rory in high school and military
These were the first words of encouragement shared with Rory that lead him to pursue an artistic career.

Upon graduating from high school, Rory enlisted in the military, serving a three-year tour of duty with the Army in Europe, where he was exposed to the world of fashion design, studying historical fashions at The Albert and Victoria Museum in London and The Prado in Madrid.  He lived in Alicante Spain, studying paper maché and fashions based on Spanish roots.

“My Latino inspired designs attract the most attention since I have found that many Latinos want to feel in touch with their Latino roots,” Rory says.  “But, lately I’ve been feeling like I’m a designer of the world, without boundaries of what I can do or create.”

When Rory returned to Sacramento, he was providing free advice and doing free fashion shows for friends and nonprofit organizations.

Rachel Gloria-Hinojosa
“I met Rory in the early 1980’s, noticing he was pleasant and stylish,” says long time friend Rachel Gloria-Hinojosa.  “He had asked me to model for him and I regret that I never did, but he always gave me good advice on what to wear and what colors to use.  He is still a sweet and caring person.”

Things changed for Rory in the early 1980’s when he was asked to produce a fashion show for the donor appreciation banquet in recognition of their support of Cinco de Mayo and 16th of September events held annually at Southside Park.  At the end of the show, Rory was offered a payment for his services.

“I was shocked,” says Rory.  “No one had ever offered me money for my shows, so when I was offered $250 dollars, I said OK and needless to say, I was thrilled and it made me feel my worth as an artist.”

Rory in Hollywood, 1984
Sporting a “George Michael” look, Rory’s skills increased in demand and felt a calling to go to Hollywood.  So he moved and was almost immediately taken in by Hollywood’s elite, producing fashion shows at the historic Biltmore Hotel, Paramount Studios, El Rey Theater, and the Hyatt Regency Hotel.  He became a costume designer for several movies and short films including:  Got Papers; Valentina’s Tango; and, Forgotten Voices a short film based on a story by Rory. 

Rory’s Hollywood triumph came when he was the stylist for international performer Vikki Carr, for her 1999 PBS Special, Memories/Memorias.  He also provided the dress for rock and roll icon Rosie Hamlin, of Rosie and the Originals fame when she performed her hit song “Angel Baby” on another PBS music special.  His popularity continued to grow along with the demand for his skills, which lead to his use of drugs.

“I was experimenting with drugs, which could have been my downfall,” says Rory.  “But thanks to my strong will of self preservation and not possessing an addictive nature, I stopped and didn’t use them again.”

Rory returned to Sacramento and slowly immersed himself back into the fashion design business.  He was recruited by Sacramento’s Music Circus to do costume designs and worked with several nonprofits on their beauty pageants. 

Karri Grant (L) and Lucy Garcia Robles (R)
“I met Rory almost 2 years ago and we both have a love of fashion, but a stronger love for its history,” says Personal Stylist Karri Grant.  “I think his work is exceptional because he focuses on the history, design and breathes life into every piece he creates.  His work is wearable art.  I have the pleasure of modeling his designs and having him create one of a kind garment just for me.”

Rory says he doesn’t believe there is a “goal” when you're an artist because there is always more that can be done.  He really enjoys what he is doing and can’t see himself retiring as long as he is creating.

 “I’ve been modeling for Rory since the early 1990s and I think his work is incredible, artistic, and classy,” says professional model Lucy Garcia Robles.  “He was self taught, and that is passion.  He is a teacher and looks for the beauty in everything and everyone.”

What’s next for design-master Rory Castillo?  He just completed a very successful show in Las Vegas and is working on a series of indie-projects, but wants to venture back into film.

“I’m always excited about the future,” Rory adds.  “And, what is around the next bend, and who are the new faces I will meet and enrich my life.”  - Vida de Oro


  1. Very cool...thanks for sharing the article! Congratulations, Rory!!!!

  2. Well deserved. Not only a top notch fashion designer but a great person that cares about others.