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Latin fashion icon, Merlin Castell has been fascinated by exquisite clothing since an extraordinarily young age. As a little boy, he dreamed of creating flawless masterpieces that would be worn by beautiful people. Today, Merlin is dressing Hollywood’s stars in his fabulous, unique designs, but his rise to the top was no walk in the park.

​​Growing up, life was difficult for the eccentric Merlin. Born in the countryside of Honduras, Merlin was the youngest of seven brothers, all living and working at a local banana field. Shoes were a luxury for the Castell children; they only received one new pair each Christmas. When Merlin was seven, he severely injured his toe playing soccer barefoot. This injury grew into an infection and his mother eventually took him to U.S. Missionaries to get a vaccine. To calm Merlin down, the nurse told him that if he was a good boy and didn’t cry he could pick out a book. He was silent for the treatment and to this day cherishes his very first Vogue Magazine which he picked out from the pile of books. As he flipped through the pages, he was enthralled by the vibrant colors and materials that were so eloquently draped over the models in the magazine. Even though he couldn’t understand a word of the English text, he memorized every picture and sketched each design.

At age eight, Merlin earned himself the name “Jumper Kid” when he started designing his own jumpsuits with big enough pockets to stash the fruit he picked while working out in the fields. Growing up his family had no spare allowance for shopping so Merlin resorted to sketching his owns designs for the local seamstress to create. At age nine, his mother was diagnosed with cancer forcing his family to move to the city for her treatment. While her cancer was benign and improved, she made the decision to stay in the city for Merlin’s benefit. She believed her youngest son had prodigy-like talent that would be wasted if they moved back to the countryside. At age 10, Merlin began attending a public school and was instantly more advanced than his peers. He found class to be boring and sat in class often sketching drawings of his beautiful, well-dressed teacher. When his principal discovered his sketches, he called Merlin’s mother into his office and both were nervous of his perverted behavior. There wasn’t however any truth to his mother’s accusations, and instead Merlin marveled at the way clothes hugged his teacher’s model-esque frame and thus she became hisvery first muse.

Two years later, Merlin saved up to buy a bicycle to ride around with his older brothers. However, on his way to the store he passed by a store selling used sewing machines. He realized that with a few more weeks of saving he could buy his own sewing machine instead of getting a bike. Merlin continued excelling in school, always at the top of his class. Merlin went on to graduate from a college in Honduras with a Patterns and Sewing degree. The three month program didn’t challenge Merlin’s intellect and only covered the basics leading Merlin to seek out higher education. After eight months of tirelessly seeking a scholarship to allow him to attend London’s American Career College, Merlin was disappointingly denied. At age eighteen, he enrolled at a university in Honduras to study architecture. He enjoyed the new outlet of creativity, but seemed to struggle with the math intensive program. During this time he also began working for an interior decorator, which gave Merlin an opportunity to let his imagination run wild. The job included an assignment to design a home for an extremely wealthy woman. She fell in love with Merlin’s designs and hired Merlin to desitgn an extravagant 5-story mansion over the next four years. This woman became his “Fairy God Mother” and after four years of mentoring, she sent him to a prestigious fashion university in Milan, Italy, paying for his education.

In Milan, Merlin attended the Instituo Marangoni where he specialized in leather. When he finished school he decided to move to Los Angeles where he thought he would have the best opportunity to succeed. He landed in the US with $265 in his pocket and nothing but the clothes on his back because the airline had unfortunately lost his luggage. As he stepped into a taxi, he realized he had no place to go. Luckily, the taxi driver had a kind heart and let him sleep on the couch. For some time after, Merlin then stayed with the taxi driver’s brother, and was finally able to repay his debt when he designed his wife’s wedding dress. Once he was settled in Los Angeles, Merlin went to work at Cosmo’s where he sketched for the store’s seamstress, and eventually moved into the studio. Jealous of Merlin’s work, the seamstress took advantage of his illegal immigrant status, and would threaten to contact the authorities if he did not do as she said. She alarmed the building so he couldn’t leave, which kept him constantly working. He would sell some of his samples to Playmates and be forced to give his check to the seamstress. She would then only pay him a fraction of what he earned, and this proved to be his motivation to quit.

Merlin moved to downtown Los Angeles where he had to put his dreams on hold while he struggled to get by. He worked in a restaurant as a dish washer and then a server. One day a customer asked him where he bought his pants, and he explained that he had made them. Impressed, the customer got him an interview with designer Amy Bond. He landed the job and began working as her assistant. After just two years of working for her, he saw the studio grow from one to twenty-two sewing machines. In an attempt to forward his career, Merlin went to work as the head designer at Red Ball, but a disagreement with the new owner resulted in him going back to work with Amy Bond. One day, Merlin attended a White Party in Santa Barbara wearing his own creation made from pocket linings since he couldn’t afford cloth. The shirt was such a hit he ended up selling twelve of them on the spot for 350 dollars each. After receiving such a great reaction he started making them in different colors and even tie-dying them himself. Today, the Los Angeles-based designer is best known for his Haute Couture Tailored Clothing. The Merlin Castell line has become one of the most talked about collections and has been featured in national and regional press. Merlin has been voted “One of the Top Designers to Watch Out For” and he recently appeared on The Janice Dickinson Modeling Show on Oxygen. To date, his fabulous clothing has graced the likes of Paris Hilton, Priscilla Presley, and Paula Abdul among others.