Inspirational Photo of the Day

One of the best things about being an artist is having a home filled with art that you didn’t just collect, but that you created yourself. This stag head piece, made of reclaimed wood and bits of wire, was in the home of a German artist who had left his driveway open for people to freely come in enjoy his work (unfortunately, I seem to have lost the card I kept with the artist’s name on it, ugh!). I loved the almost folkloric feel of this piece along with the whimsy of it, which somehow also made it feel very modern. In an increasingly hi-tech and digital world, unique art and designs reawaken our senses and bring us back to the amazing, tactile beauty of handmade work.

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From West to East

Over the span of more than a few days, and with the help of our unlimited transportation passes, Ito and I criss-crossed our way through and around Berlin. In our neighborhood, we visited the inspiring Museum für Fotografie, Helmut Newton’s museum, which happened to be just a few stops from our area in Ku’Damm, known as Berlin’s Champs Élysées. We browsed and ate at KaDeWe (the city’s premier department store with the craziest gourmet food floor) and hung out more than once in Bikini Berlin (the hippest design concept mall overlooking the Berlin Zoo).

Exploring further down, we visited the haunting Jewish Memorial and walked around the historic Potsdamer Platz down to Checkpoint Charlie, which marked the infamous divide between the former West and East Berlin. We wandered the vast green spaces in Tiergarten (which is bigger than Central Park!) and enjoyed the beer gardens, relaxed to the live classical music that played by the Konzerthaus, and enjoyed the beautiful grounds of the Kulturforum and Museuminsel.

We also took to stepping off in unfamiliar stops and visiting neighborhoods said to be the stomping ground of the more creative, non-traditional types. In the areas surrounding Kreuzberg were many pop up galleries, open air markets, underground bars, and industrial-turned-conceptual spaces that were continuously evolving (sometimes on a daily basis). On our way to crossing the Spree River and visiting the former East Berlin, we even stumbled on a veritable ‘institution’, Bürgermeister (the best burgers in Berlin!), housed in a former public toilet under an overhead railway track. Go figure!

On our last night in Berlin, we discovered that the days had gone by way too quickly–but it’s a good thing one of the joys of traveling is planning the return!

IMG_5681Enjoying the cultural and historical sights in the Kulturforum

DSC_0306In Potsdamer Platz, the hi-tech Sony Center guards a relic of the past–the Kaisersaal (Imperial Room) encased in glass

DSC_0432The city has numerous picturesque, tree-lined canals, in addition to the beautiful wide open spaces of Tiergarten

DSC_0550Trees all aflame in the areas surrounding the Reichtag building

L1140836A sunny picnic by a medieval church in an open air organic market in the cool neighborhood of  Kreuzberg

DSC_0591Delicious brunch followed by a walk through the galleries in Moritzplatz, Berlin’s hub of creative cool

DSC_0596Fresh vegetables, rustic bread and a killer chorizo omelette  served on a slate slab

DSC_0595The best fresh blueberry pancakes topped with glazed peaches and smoked bacon

L1140820An interesting assortment of antique door handles at a weekend flea market

DSC_0477Kids in full swing at a lively outdoor street fair

L1140894The Oberbaum Bridge spans the Spree River between the former West & East Berlin

L1140897The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km long open air gallery featuring artworks by various artists painted on the Berlin Wall

L1140849This bridge is a historical landmark built in 1896 that now signifies the reunification

L1140841Taking a break by one of the hundreds of murals lining the Wall

L1140953A train speeds by and a full moon looks down over Berlin

*Photos by Ito

Fashion Tips: Learning to Travel Light

A light and savvy packer I am not (although I try very hard to be). I used to travel with more than five pairs of shoes and numerous bulky items–various coats, bags, etc.–for a two week leisure trip, and while that’s not a lot for some people, I’ve recently been learning to whittle down the items I take whenever I travel.

I’ve learned that NOT over packing for a trip, especially in the colder months when weather & temperature shifts can be drastic, takes a little extra effort and more than a few styling strategies. It’s almost like planning a small collection (only the accessory pull-outs are from your own closet, LOL)! Last year I even obsessed about it enough to sketch out what I would pack for a three-week trip, just to make sure that each item in my suitcase could be mixed & matched at least three other ways! The sketches turned out to be useful for other trips too, with a few items/styles being changed around for variety.

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So what are some of the things I’ve learned that have helped me pack light(er)?

-Layering is key. Packing lightweight items in natural or blended materials like cotton, cashmere & silk allowed me to dress for different weather conditions/temperatures while creating new looks for different days as well.

-Pack with a color scheme in mind. To make the most out of fewer clothes, I stuck to a limited color scheme so that everything worked with each other & layering was a no-brainer. Black-white-grey, or brown-khaki-cream, or navy blue-pale blue-white…then I just contrasted with textures and played with accessories.

-Think slim. Instead of packing a lot of big, bulky coats, wearing thin, temperature adjusting thermal inner wear under my clothes allowed me to bring more streamlined styles.

-Mix in dressy separates. My lace shirts, cigarette pants and velvet tops didn’t remain in a separate ‘night out’ pile, but got paired with denim and layered over, or under, other pieces for double-duty during the day. Needless to say, I chose to design dressy pieces that weren’t too heavy and ornate.

-Bring samples! Sample toiletries make the best addition to a cosmetic kit (my favorites were Cetaphil and Shu Uemura’s cleansing oils)! They’re small, light and can just be disposed of afterwards.

-Stay light on your feet. Personally I prefer dressier walking shoes that don’t take up much space like ballet slippers, loafers, or brogues. But I also pack a pair of lightweight Converse hi-top sneakers in case it rains or we go hiking somewhere wet. For winter, I bring thermal socks/tights and ankle boots.

-A statement bag is okay to use in transit, but I usually pack another durable, lightweight bag for days when I will be walking around a lot (which is often). My 16 year-old black, nylon Prada backpack has been everywhere and carried water bottles, travel books, snacks and numerous flea market items, while conveniently keeping my hands free.

I’d love to know, what are some of your tricks to lessening your load while traveling? :-)

Inspirational Photo of the Day

Traveling by train in the fall is truly a visual study in transition. Watching the scenery continually unfold while catching the season as it goes through its shift is the perfect reminder of how transient everything is. Despite the illusion of permanence, life is continually evolving and changing tracks, bringing us new experiences. Creativity is all about embracing changes and moving with the times :-)

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Big, Bold & Brimming Over

Sometimes a place completely defies our expectations and just takes us by surprise. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when Ito suggested we visit Berlin–subconsciously I expected huge blocks of impenetrable, imposing monuments, I suppose. Instead, what we discovered was a city that was exciting, creative, distinctive and bodaciously flavorable, much like a highly addictive brew.

It’s a sprawling city, and between East and West Berlin lay a wealth of history, culture, and probably some of the most vibrantly creative neighborhoods around. From our ‘home’ base on the lovely & leafy Kurfürstendamm (or Ku’damm), to the painfully historic areas in Potsdam, to the culturally rich surroundings of Mitte, to the wonderfully hip and happening neighborhoods in Kreuzberg, we spent 10 days just scratching the surface of a city that is exciting despite, or maybe because of, its flaws–taking us along for the ride as it comes to terms with its past and boldly creates its future.

*Photos from our first few days…

L1130438Berlin’s main station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof…

L1150099…is where the party started!

L1140726One of my favorite sculptures were of these fräuleins and a young herr by the banks of the Spree River

L1140655The beautifully historic Berlin Cathedral

IMG_6006Taking a break from exploring the impressive Museuminsel (Museum Island)

L1130373Enjoying the stretch of festivities beyond the Brandenburg gate

DSC_0482Glorious weather and an entire stretch of delicious food, flowing beer and cool, live music

DSC_0281Berlin boasts a wealth of architectural styles from Classical, to Modern…

DSC_0300…to Renaissance/Baroque

IMG_5987The leaves of the trees lining the parks had mostly turned a fiery hue

IMG_6031Stumbling upon a flea market filled with gorgeous antiques

     L1150024Versace is not the only one with a Medusa medallion

L1130492Finding the amazing work of Frank Gehry, not outside, but inside a building

**Photos by Ito

Day Trippin’

I don’t know what it was about the air in Amsterdam’s famous Canal District that made everything seem so…um, inspiring ;-) Or maybe it was the coffee?

L1140418Arrived through Amsterdam Centraal, a Gothic/Renaissance Revival station built in the 1800′s

IMG_5634Keith Richards looked on approvingly as we took a break for coffee…

IMG_5636…people watched…

IMG_20140930_013144…and uploaded some pics on Instagram!

L1140426Wandered past the square of the Paleis op de Dam

L1140415…and into the winding paths of this Unesco world heritage district where we enjoyed some seriously delicious food

L1140422I wondered if I could take these through customs??

L1140437Would have made the perfect addition to any ‘herb’ garden…

L1140427These world famous waterways were the perfect venue for bar hopping!

L1140419A tourist admired the classic features of Venus in the infamous Red Light District, LOL!

L1140449What’s in a day? Quite a bit when you’re tripping your way through Amsterdam’s laid back canals :-)

Crossing Cultures

Sometimes a wedding is not just a union of two people, but a blending of two cultures. When I first met Chloe and her then fiancé, Richard, they were in the midst of planning their church wedding in England. Chloe wanted a gown that celebrated her Filipino heritage while reflecting her husband-to-be’s customarily proper culture. Both traditions strongly reflect a love for the classic and romantic, which was a perfect description as well for their picturesque union in a little medieval church in the Oxfordshire countryside :-)

IMG_5286From Manila to the UK–her strapless gown with a full trumpet skirt combined vanilla-colored bridal taffeta with a demure piña silk top that buttoned up the back

10636251_10204196035093379_2025374310240529240_nThe gown featured dainty, hand beaded French lace appliqués inspired by sampaguita blossoms

10473737_10204196033293334_5305070289407181521_nA ‘lady-of-the-manor’ gown with a touch of Filipiniana

10754905_10204196065094129_1241153656_nBest wishes to the beautiful couple! Richard smiles as Chloe blooms in the sunny English countryside

*Photos courtesy of Chloe Alexander

One Thing Leads to Another

The best thing about exploring new places is that one is technically never lost, simply because every turn is an exciting find :-) Oftentimes in discovering a place (in this case, Antwerp) we would be led down one street, and the next, and the next, by nothing more than a sense of wonder and an insatiable curiosity. And it’s usually started off by seeing something small but interesting…

DSC_0249…like a lamp post overflowing with pretty flowers. Which led us down a street in the Old Town…

DSC_0258…into a Palace on the Meir where we found some deliciously irreverent chocolates at The Chocolate Line…

L1140358…before heading into the direction of a side street lined with antique shops that ended in a weekend flea market…

L1140302…that eventually popped us out onto the beautiful medieval square of the Grote Markt…

L1140331…then led us around a side street of Antwerp Cathedral to find this charming brass sculpture of men building the cathedral…

L1140323…then down another street to pop into a store of hand made Belgian lace…

DSC_0251…before coming across a colorful and eye-catching driveway…

L1140356…that turned out to be the home of an artist who had opened his gallery for viewing…

L1140388…which took us down to the cellar and out to a space filled with amazing paintings…

L1140392…then back out on the street. Don’t you find that it’s always exciting to find out what lies just around the corner?

*Photos by Tippi & Ito

MoMu (& Me)

One of the places on my ‘must-visit’ list in Antwerp was the ModeMuseum (MoMu), or Fashion Museum, home to the collections of my favorite Belgian designers and the center for some of the best–in my opinion–contemporary couture. The museum itself, much like Antwerp, was not that big, but the fashion design concepts it holds and the impact of Belgian designers (and the early, famed, Antwerp Six) in the world of fashion has been nothing short of enormous.

While we were there I was lucky enough to catch the “MoMu Now” exhibit which put on display pieces from some of Belgium’s best (Raf Simons, Anne Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, my early favorite, Olivier Theyskens & many more) grouped by theme instead of by designer. Seen this way, it was evident that the collective fashion design aesthetic really mirrored the city of Antwerp itself, from its romantic utilitarianism to its refined deconstruction and love of art & industry. It reminded me that the best of contemporary fashion is not about blindly following global trends, but also about infusing design with its relevant environment and with modern function.

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*Photos by Ito

On the Design Track

A lot of memorable things have happened in the couple of months since I last wrote, and today being a stormy day at home makes it the perfect day for a new blog post :-) In time for my birthday last October, Ito and I took a Eurail trip through Belgium and Germany (with a day trip to Amsterdam thrown in for good measure), to discover a side of Europe we hadn’t visited before. One of our travel idiosyncrasies as a couple has been a long standing fascination with train stations, mainly because we don’t have many (any?) in Manila.

The first leg of our trip was a few days in design-savvy Antwerp–after flying in to Brussels it was a quick train ride from the airport to the Antwerp Central Station, one of the most impressive train stations in the world. The domed building seemed more like an elaborate cathedral than a station, with ornate, lacy grillwork and gilded accents that made me want to design a dress in its honor! Visually captivating on many levels (literally and figuratively), this station reminded me that ethereal form and hard-working function are not mutually exclusive and are, in fact, something to strive for in our designs.

L1140409Looking at it, it’s no wonder it’s known as the ‘Railway Cathedral’

L1140459Natural light and gorgeous industrial details

L1140460Domed roof, vaulted ceilings…

L1140466…and well designed efficiency

L1140470A beautiful station makes commuting a pleasure

L1140473Impromptu portrait thanks to the station’s dramatic lighting!

L1140288Where form and function, classicism and modernism, all meet

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