Recent SUNY New Paltz graduate Kevin Castel ’18 (Finance; Economics) is the co-founder of Akúlix, a new luxury fashion brand focused on producing unique, hand-made clothing, using high-quality and sustainably sourced materials and fabrics.
Castel traces his interest in clothing back to his upbringing in Haiti, where his mother worked as a seamstress.
“My mother worked in Haiti as an OB/GYN nurse, but as a hobby she used to make suits and other garments for both professional men and women,” he said. “I learned a lot from her in terms of different sewing techniques, and just from watching her do something she loved to do.”
His love of high fashion, however, is all his own. Upon arriving in the United States as a teenager, Castel found work as a model, and developed an appreciation for quality, well-fitting clothes, and the confidence they can instill.
“I started to study different designs, different fabrics, and from there I learned about clothing designers and styles,” he said.
Rather than pursuing a design degree, Castel made the decision to enroll at SUNY New Paltz.
“I came to visit New Paltz with my dad, and I told him this is it, this is the school I’m going to,” he said. “I liked the feeling, I liked the environment, and I got the vibe that I was supposed to be going this school.”
He focused on developing the business and economic acumen he’d need to pursue his entrepreneurial interests.
“One of the reasons I chose finance and accounting is that it matters in just about any industry I would want to get into as an entrepreneur,” Castel said. “I got a lot from the School of Business, and I’m using everything I learned, pretty much every day: how to create budgets, allocate funds for different projects, do research and deliver presentations.”
Castel and his business partner began planning for what would become Akúlix in 2017, and launched the brand in March 2018. They are focused on modest growth in the short-term, working to build market awareness, place their pieces in boutiques in New York City and surrounding areas, and continue to emphasize quality production.
“We want to create a culture in the luxury market where we would focus on the customer experience, and at the same time give our customers pieces that will last a lifetime,” Castel said.
“In the fashion industry we can have a great impact on people, because people love to know what they’re wearing and love to feel good about what they have on their skin. Maintaining that focus gives us much more leverage to be creative, with our design and with our brand.”
Castel is part of a growing community of entrepreneurs with SUNY New Paltz roots, and the School of Business has added new courses and programs, including the new Hudson Valley Venture Hub, to help current students and regional business-owners grow and create.
While he works to get Akúlix up and running, Castel offered a bit of advice to future entrepreneurs about what drives him, and what he believes will lead to success.
“In anything I want to do, people come first,” Castel said. “In any business venture I’m getting involved with, I have to know that it has a positive impact on people, improve their lives and contribute to the greater good.”