Filipino fashion designer RC Caylan first migrated to Grand Rapids for love. Today, he has a new dream: to bring Grand Rapids into the spotlight as a city of fashion.
Born in Iligan City and raised in Batangas City, Philippines, RC grew up close to his grandmother, who was a seamstress. Constantly surrounded by sewing machines, pattern papers, and scissors, he aspired to be a designer someday. Of course, it would take some time, lots of hard work, and a little good luck to get there.
MIGRATING FOR ROMANCE, STAYING FOR AMBITION
Back in the Philippines, RC worked as a cosmetologist in the pageanting industry. “I was kind of a gay stereotype,” he joked. Later on, he worked as a spa manager for a cruise ship. It was there where he met his future husband. “He was one of the guests on the cruise, and he had me exclusively do all of his treatments. He saw me every day and got almost every treatment we offered!” The two became a couple by the end of the 8-day cruise. “It was like a Titanic moment,” he recalls. After a year of long distance, RC made the move to Grand Rapids to be with his now-husband in 2012. Shortly thereafter, he decided to pursue a career as a fashion designer.
Since his big move, RC received his associate degree in Fashion & Merchandising from Grand Rapids Community College in 2015, interned with big-name designers in Hollywood, and went on to showcase his work in runway shows in San Francisco, Detroit, and even Rome Fashion Week. Finally, his studio RC Caylan Atelier, located at 80 Ottawa Ave, Suite 308, came to life in 2016.
Today, RC crafts trendy creations inspired by modern and classic aesthetics blended with functionality. With exquisite attention to detail and quality, his goal is to make a masterpiece out of every project – whether it’s a special occasion gown, a wedding dress, or anything else. He also emphasizes the importance of intimate consultations to ensure he captures clients’ personalities through his designs. “Everything I do is custom-made for my clients’ wants, needs, and dreams,” he said. “I’m just here to bring that to life.”
AN ENCHANTED EVENING FOR AN ENCHANTING CAUSE
Most recently, RC had his first solo fashion show entitled An Enchanted Evening. The event took place at the JW Marriott Hotel in Downtown Grand Rapids on September 15, 2017. Almost 300 attended. “It was the grand launch of my brand here in Grand Rapids. Before that, not that many people knew who I was and what I do,” said RC. “It was great that not only was my brand recognized on a large scale, but I was also able to give back to the community!” An Enchanted Evening benefited the American Cancer Society and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Grand Rapids.
INTERVIEW WITH RC CAYLAN
How did it feel to plan and execute your first successful solo show (An Enchanted Evening)?
I was overwhelmed! I never expected so many people to come. It was the proudest moment in my career. I’ve been to Rome fashion week and shows in Detroit and San Francisco – and that was all amazing, but to have a fashion show just for me with all the chairs filled up, seeing everyone enjoy themselves was even better!
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
When I make something for my clients and they’re completely happy with it. That’s the greatest satisfaction to me. That’s why I display all the Thank You Cards from my customers on my office wall!
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Oh, the struggle is real every day! Putting up this business and introducing myself to this community as a designer, and especially as an immigrant, was really hard.
One reason RC chose his studio’s location was superstitious. “I’m Filipino and we tend to be superstitious,” he explained. “I like the address. The suite is 308, so it ends with an infinity sign. The street address is 80 Ottawa, so it starts with infinity too. It’s never ending – like a never-ending opportunity!”
What do you love about Grand Rapids?
Without question, the first reason is that my husband is from here. Second, if you’re an immigrant, you’re always told that the USA is the land of dreams, but to me, Grand Rapids is the city of opportunity. It has so much to offer. This city is growing more and more every day, and there’s so much potential for anyone. Third, I love the cold weather.
What are your thoughts on Grand Rapids’ current fashion scene?
It’s coming up! Even though we’re known for being very conservative, there’s definitely potential. I see more and more people every day moving up in the way they dress. I take pride in representing a smaller city like Grand Rapids. As a designer, that’s one of my goals: To show everyone that we can be as trendy as Parisians and New Yorkers.
Why did you decide to become a member of the Chamber?
As a small business owner and also being new in the community, being part of an organization like this is great. You can use their resources to help grow your brand. It’s also a great thing to have to meet new people and make connections. I’m also trying to learn how to make my business more sustainable. Right now, my marketing is all word-of-mouth, which is very helpful, but I need to do something more if I want to grow.
Save the date 11/13/2016 6:00 pm @Eastern Market #RcCaylanAteliér invades Detroit Michigan Fashion Scene for 14th Edition #WalkFashionShow…. #FashionDesigner #Launching #Fashion #PureMichigan #GRMichigan #ProudPinoy #Custom #Bridal #EveningWear #LongGown #RedCarpetGowns #CoctailDress #ReadyToWear #MensChicStreetStyle. Showcasing my SS17 Collection "L' ombré dela Nuit" ….. Credits: Photography: August Nyson Earrings:Vintage Jewelry Collection by #CityAntiquesGr Sherri Ysseldyke Taylor MakeUp: Amanda Shepard Hairstyle: Cassandra Didaskalou and Hannah Labardee by #TheParlourGR Model: Cydni Payton