In Conversation With Emilia Castillon on Her Brand, Cactus Dreams

Based in Miami, Florida, Cactus Dreams is a fashion brand that repurposes vintage clothing and fabrics to create something unique and sustainable.

Created by Emilia Castillon in 2018, the brand hopes to encourage others to reach past materialistic desire and harmful fast fashion, to embrace beautiful sustainability and wearable art. Each garment is designed and handmade all by Castillon with each piece being one of a kind and inspired by cultures across the globe.

Q: How would you describe the aesthetic of your work?

The aesthetic is hand crafted streetwear inspired by 90s/00s trends – including genderless oversized and layering pieces. Influenced by music and different cultures around the world, each piece is uniquely one of a kind. I mix styles together by pulling different aspects I like from artsy grunge to girly bohemian, and hip hop fashion to create reworked clothing with an individual style.

Q: What sparked your interest in fashion?

I worked in retail for about 7 years at Free People. I’ve always enjoyed styling clothing and was always drawn to fashion that looked custom or handmade. Clothing is definitely a way that I express myself in my daily life, and the relationship we as consumers have with fashion really sparked my interest.

Q: What are the biggest inspirations for Cactus Dreams?

Upcycling is really what inspires me. The fact that I can take an old garment that someone threw away and turn it into a new and beautiful creation motivates me. While working for many years in the fast fashion industry, I truly came to know how problematic fast fashion really is on so many different levels.

After making a few pieces out of second hand items, I realised people loved the outcome. I saved a piece of clothing that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill which really excited me. This inspired me to make even more upcycled clothing and branch out even further.

Q: How has your work evolved since you began?

I bought my first sewing machine a year ago and taught myself. Since I began, I’ve improved my sewing skills so much and can compose pieces to look more complete. I also started to explore other mediums, like handmade epoxy resin earrings and jewelry.

Since the pandemic I started making so many cloth face masks which evolved into being able to produce larger quantities of clothes too.

Q: Are there any types of clothing that you avoid making?

Not really! At this point I’m interested in learning how to make all kinds of garments.

Q: What was your favourite piece to create?

My favorite piece to create so far was a Vintage Kimono Jean Jacket using fabrics from beautiful vintage kimonos I bought in a thrift store in Kyoto, Japan. The different fashion I saw while traveling in Japan really inspired me so much to create more clothing.

Q: Sustainable fashion is usually more expensive than fast-fashion, how do you sustain affordable prices with your brand?

All the materials I buy to create apparel are second hand from local markets and thrift shops. I also accept clothing donations from friends, family, or anyone that wants to donate their old clothing. I think people are starting to realise how much they consume and how harmful it is to the planet. That it makes them feel better about donating it somewhere that will literally recycle it into something new that will definitely be worn again in the future.

Q: How important is sustainable fashion to your brand?

Within this year I really woke up to how terrible fast fashion contributes negatively to the environment and exploitation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) garment workers.

I am fully committed to only using 100% recycled materials to make all the clothing I produce and using all left over scraps for other projects – so absolutely nothing goes to waste. Being sustainable is the foundation of my brand and I truly believe sustainability will continue to weave its way into the fabric of society moving forward.

Q: What plans do you have for your brand in the future?

Eco friendly fashion is in style, but it isn’t just a trend and the need for ethically made products is increasing even more. Currently I am a one woman show, but I plan to gradually grow into a bigger team while paying fair wages with safe conditions. I believe transparency is key!

Vintage and second hand clothing will always play the biggest part in my business because recycling and reusing will reduce clothing waste. My ultimate goal is an anticapitalist approach to fashion that allows customers to shop affordable and ethically made streetwear, while staying current in trends.

Follow the brand on Instagram, or check out Cactus Dream’s website to see more.

Words by Charlie Vogelsang

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