A Charlotte Gentleman: Couturier Luis Machicao shares his inspirations

Luis Machicao

Meet Luis Machicao: Charlotte’s renowned couture fashion designer.

From Peru originally, Machicao settled in the South to create a home base for his creative work and luxe designs. With his inspiring vision, Machicao has helped put Charlotte on the map, designing for and participating in exclusive events like New York and Paris Fashion Week. He held the prestigious title of Best Designer for the 2013 Paris Fashion Week, and continues to present innovative and timeless designs each season.

Machicao, ever the gentleman, sat down with us at QC Exclusive to talk about where he’s been, how he got to where he is today, and what’s in store for the future of his designs.

Luis Machicao

Why did you make the move from Peru to Charlotte?
I’ve been visiting the U.S., specifically Miami, since I was seventeen years old, but when I was working for the presidential family in Peru—designing for the First Lady and the President—the political climate became really bad. There were a lot of terrorist attacks on the staff, so that’s why I decided to move to the U.S. I moved to Charlotte after a friend invited me to visit, and I fell in love; I’ve been here for seventeen years.

How did your interest in fashion design begin?
My childhood housekeeper told me that, since I was about five or six, I used to lay out and color coordinate all of my outfits for Mass on Sundays. That surprised me, because I don’t recall that, but it seems that ever since I was a little kid, I have always been interested in the fashion world.

Where do you get the inspiration for your designs from?
Sometimes silly things, like if I’m in a restaurant and somebody comes in with a nice dress, and that dress is a red color, instantly, a whole variation of that dress comes to mind. I get ideas for 70 different dresses in red. Sometimes, in my travels overseas, I could be in a museum, and suddenly the muse comes to my mind and I start designing everything. In moments like that, I need to have paper so I can start sketching; I don’t want to lose track of my ideas. So inspiration comes to me in different ways, varieties, shapes—you name it. My dresses, they have some 1950s-related inspiration, but they’re timeless. I think the classy woman is always in: It survived the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the 2000s, and God knows what is coming now. A classy woman will survive any decade.

Tell us about your design process.
Everything is by appointment. I take at least 50 measurements, because it needs to be precise, it needs to fit like a glove—everything needs to be perfect about it. We pick the material that the client wants, I suggest some shapes, and then I begin to sketch. Once she approves the sketch, I order the fabric from New York and do the fitting. I like to have a long period of time to complete the gown, because it is a work of art. You need to do everything button by button, application by application.

Luis Machicao

Do you only design gowns?
I only design formal wear, but I also do bridal gowns, tuxedos, and red carpet gowns. I design swimwear for women and men also, as well as purses and handbags. I have a perfume line as well. I’m the only couturier in Charlotte—the only one that was trained in Paris—and I’m very lucky to be able to offer that. I also show my own collections at the Mint Museum Uptown every March.