LOS ANGELES When he was a child growing up in France, Christian de Castelnau dreamed of becoming a star.
His dream became reality, but it wasn't movies that brought stardom.
De Castelnau's fame is linked to the fashion industry, where he is known for designing easy, comfortable clothes, the kind that quickly become favorites in a woman's closet.
"I designed when I was a kid," de Castelnau said. "I didn't plan to make a profession of it. I wanted to be in the movies."
But he isn't complaining.
Last year his company recorded a 70 percent increase in sales. He has a store on Madison Avenue in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco.
The plan is to open 25 stores in the next four years.
Though de Castelnau has worked in every aspect of the business, he prefers designing. And he has some definite ideas about what customers like.
"I think people want to feel comfortable in what they buy and wear," he said during the California Mart's spring press previews.
That's why he prefers cotton jersey and rayon blends in unconstructed shapes and styles.
For spring, look for tropical prints in hot colors and ethnic themes in earth tones.
Though his clothes reflect the easiness of California's lifestyle, de Castelnau said his influence comes from the street.
"I idealize what I want a woman to wear," he said.
"On the streets of New York or Paris, I look at the woman, I don't look at color."
Clothes, he said, are just an accessory to make a woman more pretty and comfortable.
De Castelnau's business has grown tremendously since he opened the doors 10 years ago.
His groups now include petites and large sizes, along with Kids de Castelnau.
The men's division was put on hold, but is expected to gear back up this year.
Though de Castelnau doesn't really design with a certain woman in mind, he said it's the affluent woman who buys his clothes. But she doesn't have to be, he added quickly.
And this woman has no age. De Castelnau doesn't believe his clothes fit into age categories.
Perhaps that's why they appeal to women such as Christie Brinkley, Jackie Onassis and Princess Stephanie of Monaco, he said.
De Castelnau's popularity is evidence that a designer doesn't have to be in New York to be successful.
"It's easier to work here," he said.
"Consequently, you become more creative. The designer market belongs to New York.
"Sportswear belongs to California." BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 416968