Filipino Immigrant Brings High Fashion to Grand Rapids

When pressed, Romel “RC” Caylan, a rising design star, may describe himself as a kind of fashion ambassador for Grand Rapids. Truth be told, he simply loves the city, and honors the journey that brought him to this corner of Michigan.

Caylan was born in Iligan City and raised in Batangas City, in the Philippines. He studied accounting, became licensed in cosmetology, and was working in a salon on an international cruise ship when he met his future husband, a passenger originally from Detroit. “It wasn’t planned” to come to America, he says. “But I am proud to say it was meant to be.”

In 2012, two years after what he jokingly calls the Titanic voyage, Caylan moved to the United States, where he embarked on his first formal education in design. As a boy, he had delighted in the studio of his grandmother, a seamstress, marveling at the simple tools that turned lines on paper into flowing gowns. Just three years after arriving in the States, Caylan graduated from Grand Rapids Community College with an associate’s degree in fashion design and merchandising.

I’m welcome here and I feel I belong here. I love Grand Rapids. If America is the land of dreams, Grand Rapids is the city of opportunity.”

By the following year, he had opened a studio downtown, a business with four employees specializing in custom, high-end bridal, evening, and prom dresses; won two national awards given to the most promising designer of the year; had his work modeled on runways in San Francisco, Detroit, Rome, and Los Angeles; and obtained space in a Beverly Hills showroom that is attracting celebrity clients.

And when Caylan launched his brand with his first solo fashion show? He called it “An Enchanted Evening” and held it a hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, with more than 300 people in attendance, and donated proceeds to the American Cancer Society and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Grand Rapids.

“In every interview they always ask me, ‘Why Grand Rapids?’ I have the opportunity to go to New York to build my brand, or to L.A.,” he says. “I’m welcome here and I feel I belong here. I love Grand Rapids. If America is the land of dreams, Grand Rapids is the city of opportunity.”

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…