PB: For starters, we just want to know how you got into the industry. We read online that when you came to New York, you were at Max’s Kansas City. We’d love to hear a bit about that.
Carlos Falchi: It was a wild and fun place – and a lot of work. But, I was really lucky. When I first came to NY I worked in restaurants, I was a young immigrant. I went to Florida, actually Fort Lauderdale. I was in Brazil and started working when I was 13, and when I turned 18, I wanted to take a vacation. I had a cousin who just came back from Ft. Lauderdale and said “it is wonderful, you have to go there”. So, I went to visit my cousin in Florida, I didn’t speak a word of English. My cousin had to write down a few lines as to how to get around. I got there in 1965, arrived at the hotel, and worked there for a while. When they closed the hotel, I moved to upstate NY.
Finally, I got to NYC and I decided to work at Max’s as a bar boy – I didn’t know what that meant, but sure, I’d done it before, I could be a bar boy. So I literally worked my way up through Max’s. I made my own clothes, made friends, it was the place to be. When I got the graveyard shift, I was able to meet all sorts of people. People started to ask me where I got my clothes and I said that I made them, so people started to ask me to make them clothes. I started to meet artists, I met Miles Davis and I made a pair of pants for him – he loved them and I got to meet him. Miles was going to open at Carnegie Hall and I got to dress him for that event. I worked with him for 2.5 years. Through Miles I met Tina Turner and all different artists. I became friends with all of them – even Andy Warhol and later he did 2 videos for me. So that’s how it all started – right there at Max. I was told I needed to go to Bendel’s on 57th st. I brought in my clothes and some bags with me – how I carried my clothes. They looked at everything and loved everything. Then they asked about the tote I was carrying – it was all patchwork from the clothes I made. They asked me to come back and bring my bags. At this point, I didn’t know bags at all, but I just put things together – unlined, free formed and hand stitched. They went crazy and they loved it! So, Bendel’s was my first store – I had no concept of business. In 1973, they opened a boutique for me.
CF: Yes, it was an accident.
PB: With clothing, were you always making clothing?
CF: I was always making my own stuff from a very young age. My mom did wedding dresses. So we grew up next to wedding dresses and next to fabrics. But, I was in the military so it was very different for me. I never studied design or went to fashion school.
PB: So, it was really all something you came across?
CF: I was always into color. The reason my leathers became quickly known, because when I first started everything was dark, beiges and browns in the summer. But, I would take chlorox, soak the leathers in my bathtub so it would take out some of the color and then I would add ending die. It’s something I still do.