By Anna Logan
Photos By Patrick BYRNES
ROB MILLS and JONATHAN WARD
Caroline Castles, a Brookstone alumna, started a vegan and ecofriendly clothing line right
out of college. Her love of the coast, fashion and the environment converged into her wildly successful company, South Castles.
Caroline Castles is former army brat that spent close to a decade of her life right here in Columbus. Born in California and now living in coastal Wilmington, Caroline is inspired constantly by the beach and her friends. Her lifelong love of the environment and entrepreneurial spirit led her to create the South Castles brand. With the help of her mother and sister, natural fashionistas and designers, Caroline set up the company in hopes of creating a line of clothing for the quintessential Castles Babe. South Castles is ecofriendly and cruelty free—using alternative and recyclable materials. Caroline’s brand is well known for their swimwear line. Today, South Castles offers swimwear, intimates, dresses, rompers and many more options for the Castles Babe. Caroline sat down with SVM to speak about her journey into fashion design.
Can you tell us about how you got into designing fashion? What was the inspiration behind South Castles? Creativity runs in our family. My mom used to make my sisters’ and I’s clothes when we were young, and she’s always had a strong talent for interior design, sewing and designing window treatments and upholstery design. My sisters are very artistic, and my sister, Taylor, went to school for fashion merchandising and design, with a focus on technical design.
I went to school for Entrepreneurship and Business Development at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The semester before my senior year, All students in the EBD program present an initial elevator pitch for a business idea. I initially pitched a Vegan clothing company, produced mostly from repurposed vintage clothing. The professor loved the idea, and insisted I build upon it and take it to the next level. So, during my senior year, I developed this idea further and wrote an extensive business plan and investors presentation. After I graduated, I continued to pursue this idea, which eventually evolved into South Castles, vegan clothing and swimwear. Initially I got quite a bit of advice and direction from my mom and sister on sewing and design. I was lucky to have them, and I was very lucky to have a natural talent for both sewing and design as well.
What was the inspiration behind South Castles? The inspiration behind South Castles came from many different places--my family, friends, professors, and Wilmington itself (living at the beach) to name a few. The original name of South Castles was CastlesCouture. However, after the brand began to evolve and less items were actually considered “couture”, as we were making many of each style for wholesale and retail purposes, we rebranded and changed the name to South Castles. Nevertheless, the name has always sort of been a namesake for a family of all women.
Did you always know you wanted to go into fashion? I did not always know I wanted to go into fashion. Honestly, I was a bit of a tomboy when I was younger, and while some of my sisters were very much into style and fashion, and even took sewing lessons, I was never very interested in any aspect of it.
I also changed my major many times in college. Originally I wanted to major in Environmental Science. I have always been very interested in the environment, which is one reason South Castles is a vegan clothing company. However, once I settled into the business school and the entrepreneurship program, and was very confident that was the field I should be in, fashion and business naturally went hand in hand for me.
Is there a single collection or piece that you feel embodies everything South Castles is all about? Honestly, I’m not sure there is a single collection or piece that I feel embodies everything South
Castles is about. We have a very broad product line. I think this is because we offer both clothing and swim, and also like to give our customers a wide variety of options at any one time. I will say the styles that really stand out as making South Castles, South Castles, are the Jumpsuits, Rompers and Maxi Dresses. Styles like the Cut-Out Maxi Dress and the Deep V Jumpsuit are some that initially brought attention to the line. However, most recently, our swimwear has stolen the show, and now represents the top 1-3 best selling styles overall, with 4-8 best selling styles being Maxi Dresses, Rompers and Jumpsuits.
South Castles is both vegan and eco-friendly. Why did you decide to make your clothes so environmentally conscious? To begin with, I’d like to answer the obvious question that many people ask: How can a clothing line be vegan? South Castles is vegan because we do not use
any materials that come from or are bi-products of animals. We do not use leather, fur, silk, wool or blends of any of these. We also steer clear of harmful chemicals and dyes. I have always been very passionate about the environment. To me, it seems like a no-brainer. Processes like tanning leather use very harsh chemicals and are terrible for the environment, the people that complete the process, as well as the families that live downstream from where this is done. Skinning
animals for fur is just cruel and unnecessary.
All of your clothes are handmade here in America. Could you tell us a little bit more about why that is important for you and your brand? There are many reasons why made in America is important for us. Although we are still a small company, I think it’s important to promote
keeping jobs in the United States. Additionally, there is a good deal of concern about human rights issues in some factories overseas, including safety concerns, child labor, unfair pay and unjust treatment of the workers. It’s hard to oversee these issues when many company’s don’t actually see the conditions of the factories they use, and safety and employee standards
are much more lax in many countries. Keeping our production in the U.S. isn’t always the easy route, but it is important to us and to most of our customers.
You promote the “Castles babe” lifestyle. What do she and her life look like? The “Castles Babe” is timeless and mysterious. She’s well traveled and cultured. She’s environmentally conscious, and takes care of her body and her mind. She loves music, and has just a bit of a rebellious side. She cares deeply about her family and friends. She is free spirited and courageous.
You graduated from Brookstone in 2006 before moving to Wilmington, North Carolina for school. Is there anything you miss about Columbus?
I mostly miss the people in Columbus. During my childhood and teen years my father, Ret. Col. John Castles II, was in the Army so we moved 15 times, everywhere from Texas to Alaska. Columbus was one place we lived in longer than most. Moving there 3 separate times, living there a total about 6 years, so it felt very homey for me there
Finish this sentence: The best thing about the South is…Definitely the