Antonio Canovas del Castillo del Rey, was born in 1908 in Madrid, Spain. He was born into a noble Spanish family. He studied at the Colegio del Pilar in Madrid, at the University of Madrid and at El Sacro Monte in Granada.
In 1936, at the onset of the Spanish Civil War, he left for Paris to embark on a diplomatic career. From 1941 to 1949, Castillo designed dresses, jewellery and hats for the fashion houses of Paquin and Piguet. He also designed accessories for Chanel.
Castillo, together with Balmain, Balenciaga, and Dior, was considered one of the most promising of the new generation of Paris designers to emerge after World War II.
In 1945, Elizabeth Arden persuaded him to join her salon in New York and he worked there till 1950. He produced collections based on natural shoulder lines and slim silhouettes, topped with samell hats. He was also in demand during the 40's as a costume designer for the New York Metropolitan Opera Company and for several Broadway shows.
In 1950, Castillo was invited by Jeanne Lanvin's daughter to design for her mother's firm in Paris, with hopes of relaunching the firm's name. In 1950 he joined the fashion house of Lanvin. Jeanne Lanvin, the founder of the house, had died in 1946 and the salon needed someone to maintain it's traditions. From 1950 to 1962 the House of Lanvin-Castillo was known for elegant clothes, slender lines, long flowing skirts in rich fabrics, and elaborate embroideries. In one of the first collections for the house, in 1951, he showed white satin evening gowns trimmed with mink fur. His following collections for Lanvin continued to produce designs based on her original Robes de Style, with close-fitting bodices and long flowing skirts. Between 1956 and 1960, capes featured often in his collections, fringed or triple-tiered in 1956 and floor length by 1960.
In 1962, Castillo left Lanvin and in 1964 opened his own house in Paris. He continued to create elegant clothes and elaborate costumes for private clients, the theatre and the moves.
In 1971, Antonio Castillo won the Academy Award in costume design for the film Nicholas and Alexandra.
Antonio Castillo died in 1984 at the age of 76.
He used soft fabrics for his coats and dresses which were often draped at the hip or paneled at the side. Castillo (like Balenciaga) admired greatly his Spanish heritage, and many of his designs reflect the dignity and grace of Spain. One of his designs in 1965 is called "lace cage" and it uses black lace in an A-line design which has a wonderful stately aura in a mature classic style. It was worn with a hat shaped like a Spanish mantilla.