The place where I decided to interview Custo was Soho House, one of the spaces that I like the most from the new Soho House & Co in Barcelona.
The first Soho House opened its doors in 1995 as a second home for all those who were part of the creative industries. Since then, the group has gradually expanded opening new clubs throughout Europe and North America, as well as restaurants, cinemas, spas and hotels.
I’ve also been at Berlin Soho House, and I can assure I was amazed by that place! I was there having dinner at its restaurant Cecconi, which it’s always a good choice wherever you are. It’s located in a neighbourhood that at first side feels dismal but, as soon as you turn around the corner, it becomes the coolest neighbourhood in Berlin!
Soho House Barcelona is housed in an astonishing 18th century building located in the historic Duc de Medinaceli square, overlooking Port Vell marina. The new building was designed by Nick Jones, Vicky Charles (the company’s executive director of design) and James Waterworth (the European design director).
The hotel has a rooftop terrace overlooking the sea and mountain. The club also provides a space where the members can get comfortable and relax, a cinema room for 36 people, a spa, a gym, and a speakeasy bar called The Green Room. All this special spaces turn the Soho House into a comfortable home for its members.
Therefore, it was Soho House Barcelona the meeting location for interviewing Custo. We firstly were conversing at the cinema, personally the most beautiful room of the hotel because with those lights, the carpet, the old armchairs… it makes me feel as if I was in the ‘50s. Afterwards, we moved into a beautiful room for more privacy during the interview.
It was a pleasure meeting and conversing with Custo. Being one of the most successful businessmen in Spanish fashion –very few people don’t know who he is- Custo is always available and he makes you feel comfortable. For those who do not know him, I’ll share with you the story of his life.
His full name is Custodio, although everyone calls him Custo, even his five children who are from 8 to 27 years old. He studied architecture for four years, until Yamaha sponsored him a trip for two years: two friends and Custo travelled around the world by motorcycle. The trip begin in New York, and they drived to Alaska, Tierra de Fuego, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Africa, South Africa… passing through the Mediterranean, The Middle East, Asia and Europe. During this trip, being in the Southern California, his friends and Custo find out what was surfing about.
This trip was almost the last contact Custo had with the world of motorcycles: only once after then he decorated a Harley Davidson for a collection in an auction for a hospital in Africa.
Having finished this intense trip, he arrived in Barcelona. Custo proposed his brother going to surf in California. We could say it began there the journey of his lifetime. They both get to Ocean Beach, San Diego, where they spend four months learning how to surf. During this practise, seeing the T-shirts the other surfes were using, they came up with the idea of making simple cotton T-shirts with prints. We’re talking now about the ‘80s. The two brothers came back to Barcelona and started the project in 1982. They were making a very innovative bet: the first ever made printed T-shirt. Back then, Spain was a very conservative country, and everyone was just wearing dark color clothes. Custo explained they nearly go on vacation as people weren’t interested in buying those colourful T-shirts: when he was travelling to Japan in the ‘80s everything was black or white. But despite this worries, they unexpectedly met with terrific success! They started selling the printed T-shirts in Barcelona, and just in three months they were already throughout Spain. Two years later, they had reached United States, and in the 86’s they were also selling in France and Italy. From 1982 to 2000, Custo has been selling his shirts in several shops until in 2000 they opened their first shop in the Born, a neighbourhood in Barcelona, and it remains open.
In 1996 they decided to take a chance in the United States, in Los Angeles. They went through hard times at first, but gradually they were getting confidence and strength. Henri Bendel bought their brand and offered them some shop windows on 5th Avenue with a lot of visibility. Consequently, they were invited to the New York fashion week! Back then, it was a very small fashion week where just took part around 40 designers. Custo offered a very different and innovative fashion show. It was held in a gym in Nolita’s neighbourhood, and they didn’t contract professional models: instead, different characters from New York walk for them, such as a firefighter, a pregnant woman, a policeman, a client from Henri Bendel’s shop… It was such a success that The New York Times published a whole page dedicated to them on Sunday! It was a bombshell in America! Hollywood started using Custo’s T-shirts: Julia Roberts was the first one followed by the actors of Friends, and many others.
Who is your favourite designer?
Issey Miyake, because he is more like a researcher than a designer, and his languages are very innovative.
Where do you get inspiration from for your collections?
We have our own identity: we emphasize the color and fuse different kind of materials.
Do you get nervous before the fashion shows?
No, I do get excited but not nervous as I count on and fully trust my work team.
What would you never match in fashion?
I would match everything! We have a motto: I like impossible marriages. Colors that don’t match, fabrics that don’t match… it’s a creative language! We have to do different, innovative things.
What do you do when you get up?
I take the children to school and then I go to the gym. I’ve been practicing sport all my life, I love it! I was 9 when I started gymnastics.
I’m aware you do like Peruvian food a lot. But referring to Spanish dishes, which is your favourite one?
I like spoon dishes such as beans with shrips, I love it!
Which is the last concert you’ve been at?
Moby, in Mexico.
What will you do when you retire?
I’ll travel for pleasure.
Do you have any good-luck charm?
No, I don’t.
Tell me the best and worst characteristics about yourself.
Perseverance would be the best thing about me, and impatience the worst.
What are you proud of?
I’m prouf of my children, of course.
I you could change three things in the world, what would you change?
Intolerance and politics. I’d also slow down time.
What are your values?
Friendship and knowing how to live life.
How did you picture your life when you were young?
I wanted to be an airplane pilot.
Have you fulfilled your dreams?
Yes, I have.
In a crisis moment, what helps you?
Thank you very much.