Antonio Cánovas del Castillo

Cánovas del Castillo, Antonio

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo de Rey (1908 – 1984) was a Spanish fashion and costume designer, who worked for Lanvin too.

The beginning

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo was born in Madrid in 1908. He attended the Colegio del Pilar and the Madrid University, then he moved to Granada and studied at El Sacro Monte. In 1936, when the Spanish Civil War started, he moved to Paris. Here he worked as diplomat until 1949, when he began working as fashion designer for Piguet and Paquin. Furthermore, he designed accessories, such as foulards, bijoux and hats, for Chanel and Schiaparelli.

antonio cánovas del castillo
One of the dresses designed by Castillo for Elizabeth Arden’s advertising campaigns, 1948.

Castillo, along with Pierre Balmain, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Christian Dior, was part of the new generation of Parisian designer after Second World War. In 1945, Elizabeth Arden persuaded him to reach her in New York. Here, he designed collections base on natural lines and thin shilouettes, with tiny hats. In the same period, from 1945 to 1950, he also worked as costume designer for the Metropolitan Opera House and Broadway. He also designed costumes for some films (The beauty and the beast). Here he reached the peak of his success and happy creativity.

The years at Lanvin

antonio cánovas del castillo
A Castillo dress for Lanvin, 1951.

After Jeanne Lanvin, founder of Lanvin, died, her daughter called him to design the haute couture and then the prêt-à-porter for the fashion house (1952 – 1962): the aim was to renovate the image of the brand. His creations, with their drawn chest and their fluid skirts, managed to renovate the Lanvin style without betraying it.

antonio cánovas del castillo
A marvelous evening dress from Castillo for Lanvin, 1955.

His evening dresses were spectacular, with the sensual satin matched with the mink. When Cánovas del Castillo worked for Lanvin, the brand was renowned because of its elegant dresses, its slender lines, its long and soft skirts with rich fabrics and elaborate embroideries. After his period in Lanvin, Cánovas del Castillo trained some of his young assistants. Among his protégés you can find Oscar de la Renta and Dominic Toubeix.

antonio cánovas del castillo
Dress forme the 1963 collection designed by Castillo for Lanvin.

In 1964 he started working on his own, helped by two among the most enthusiastic Lanvin clients: Barbara Hutton and Gloria Guiness; five years after the maison changed its owner. Cánovas del Castillo also won a Oscar for the best costumes in 1971, due to his work together with Yvonne Blake in the film Nicola e Alessandra. Then, he died in 1984.

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