Carlos Castillo, creator and owner of the MAN 1924 label, has always aspired to transfer his refined sense of “difficult simplicity” into clothing. Ever since he opened his first shop in Bilbao at age 18, everything he has created is a reflection of his eye for meticulous detail. His grandfather, Ambrosio Navares, founder of the MAN label and revered textile businessman, introduced Carlos all of the ins and outs of the fascinating world of textiles. Always obsessed with pattern and quality, Carlos Castillo relays his personal vision through his clothing, gaining recognition and distinction for the MAN 1924 label. MAN 1924 has two flagship stores that Carlos oversees along with his sister Olga, one in Bilbao and the other in Madrid’s Salamanca neighborhood.
Carlos, what would you say to someone who doesn’t know Bilbao to convince them to come visit?
I think Bilbao today is worth the time. You can find, if you look a little bit, anything from the glamour of a big city to the quality of life that you find in a city you can see walking around in one day.
We know that you travel a lot. What do you miss when you are away from Bilbao?
I miss so many things when I’m abroad. And though I love traveling and it energizes me, what really brings me peace and makes me happy are the little day to day things. I have all of this in Bilbao with my family and friends.
How would you spend a perfect day and night in Bilbao?
My perfect day (especially a weekend) normally wouldn’t be in the city because I like sports and the outdoors so much, the truth is I’m only in Bilbao a little bit. I think for more laid-back people, or what I myself do (when I go to a place that I don’t know), it might be like this: breakfast while reading the newspaper in the cafeteria at the Bellas Artes Museum, a visit to the Guggenheim, a Spanish tortilla at the Kirol, a ham sandwich at La Viña, all of this smack in the middle of Bilbao…
Later, a stroll through the shops: Echegoyen, for, Denis, La trastienda, Man 1924, etc. Then I would finish it off with a good meal, maybe at the Mugarra, for example, I believe that would fill up a morning.
The wonderful thing about Bilbao, as I have said before, is its quality of life. In only ten minutes on the metro you can leave the restaurant and be walking along the seaside and have a complete change of scenery. You can stay there or return to Bilbao to see an opera or a concert at the Euskalduna Palace or at the Sala BBK on the Gran Via.
The theme of going out for drinks is more complicated, I think. I don’t know much about this, but I think Bilbao hasn’t got a vibrant nightlife. At the Apikale they make a great gin and tonic and at the Splash&Crash in the Domine Hotel you can also get a good drink, but in a relaxed mood.
For a late dinner I love to go to the Berria Museum, next to the Puppy at the Guggenheim. They have an enormous variety of wines and everything is delicious: sliced ham, a good, fresh tomato from the garden and a Spanish tortilla with cod is the house favorite. And, it’s a peaceful place. Also, the fried hake at the Monterrey is beyond comparison.
Is there some little undiscovered corner of Bilbao that you could recommend for us?
The little corners depend a lot on the person and the moment, so it’s difficult to answer this question. For me, even though I hardly go, I love the Karola, it’s a place on the estuary to go to at the end of the afternoon—with the beautiful light—to have a few beers and listen to music.
Although I think there should be more alternative places that fall outside the mainstream, as there are in all European cities, where you can enjoy the cafes, bars and restaurants on the banks of the rivers that cross through them.