Blossoming to Life

It’s no coincidence that Easter celebrates both Jesus’ resurrection and the spring equinox, because at the end of it all, the lesson is all about love and life triumphing over the illusion of fear and death. As much as I am fascinated by the grand drama and beauty of ceremony, my personal belief is that prayer can be less esoteric and can be practiced in a more commonplace, more practical, more down-to-earth manner. The simple ways in which we consciously choose to live day by day (and die to our egos moment by moment) are what allows us to truly open up to the vibrant gift of life all around us.

L1130142“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

Happy Easter! :-)

Catching a Wave

For a couple that’s undoubtedly swept up in each other, what better way to celebrate than a wedding filled with sun, sand and sea in the company of family & friends? For Cat & Mark, Shangri-la Mactan became the perfect sun-kissed setting for their destination wedding over the past Christmas season (while for me, the sand and the waves became the perfect inspirations for the bridal gown).

Both from the advertising industry, Cat & Mark wanted a celebration that was stylish but relaxed, and the gown had to reflect that. Not a minimalist barefoot-in-the-sand affair, Cat & Mark’s wedding mixed elegance with a laid-back island vibe, setting the tone for good tidings and catching a wave of blessings to come.

436The beautiful bride in soft waves of silk organza. To mimic the effect of ripples on a sandy shore, tones of white and off-white silk organza were mixed together along with beaded French lace.

2-2Strips of layered silk organza formed the bodice with the bead work peeping from underneath like droplets of water.

702Walking on sunshine–Cat & Mark livened up their relaxed, elegant wedding with vibrant touches of bright bougainvillea pink and coral hues.

*Photos by Paul Vincent

Fashion for the Oscars

I admit, I’ve been bitten by the Oscars bug this year. So far I’ve only managed to watch “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Gravity”, “American Hustle”, “The Wolf of Wall Street” & “Blue Jasmine” and have yet to see “12 Years a Slave”, “Her”, “Nebraska” or “Philomena”. I really enjoyed the films this year, particularly “Dallas Buyers Club”, and very early on placed all my bets on Matthew McConaughey & Jared Leto to win for best actor & best supporting actor (if you’d like to participate in Lifestyle Network’s Oscars promo & get a chance to win & watch the Oscars 2015 live, click & join here http://www.lifestylenetwork.com.ph).

As a fashion designer, however, I find that it’s really the stunning ladies who have been stealing the limelight this awards season…and not just with their red carpet style. It’s been lovely to watch so many talented actresses flesh-out such interesting, complex, non-cliché roles this year that when Lifestyle Network invited me to design an ‘Oscar worthy’ gown for my favorite actress, I couldn’t easily decide on one favorite and sketched out four.

photo(10)Modern Filipiniana designs for the red carpet

L1130075One of my favorite actresses (since her role as a young nurse with a mouthful of braces in “Catch Me If You Can”, followed by her role in “Enchanted”), five-time nominee Amy Adams is both wide-eyed and worldly, so I designed a gown for her that mixed embroidered & textured gold lace appliqués (and some piña) with some modern sexiness.

L1130072Having only seen Lupita Nyong’o in clips of “12 Years a Slave” and her interview on Actresses Roundtable on the Hollywood Reporter, she easily blew me away! I designed her gown as a wink to Hollywood royalty, mixing raw silks & piña with hand embroidery.

L1130073Who doesn’t loooove Jennifer Lawrence? She’s a gorgeous, talented, irreverent goofball on the red carpet and off. And whether she’s playing a bow-and-arrow wielding teen or an unpredictable housewife with a strange updo, she never fails to draw me in. For her gown, I designed a gown embellished with mother-of-pearl.

L1130074The great Cate (Blanchett) hardly ever strikes a wrong note, acting-wise or style-wise. From her turn as Queen Elizabeth to her uncomfortably tragic portrayal of a New York socialite in deep denial, she is always stunning. For her gown I designed a white silk organza & jusi gown with black embroidery & beadwork inspired by a Barong Tagalog.

photo(3)Catch the exclusive live telecast of the 86th Academy Awards on March 3, 2014 only on the Lifestyle Network.

Inspirational Photos of the Day

If there’s anything that excites and inspires me as much as fashion and art, it’s books. According to my childhood yaya I learned to read at age 3 and I’ve loved books ever since. E-books are a godsend for practicalities’ sake, but for the full visceral experience, nothing beats getting lost in the feel, the look and the smell of a good old-fashioned book…except maybe getting lost in the feel, the look and the smell of a good old-fashioned book in a good old-fashioned bookstore :-)

DSC_0462“Not By the Book” makes a pilgrimage…

DSC_0464…and finds a home in the cozy second floor library…

L1120328…of this little haven and book lover’s shrine.

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Do you have a favorite library, bookstore or book nook to curl up in?

Fashion Tips: Pajama Dressing

Could there be anything easier or more laid back than the idea of wearing your pajamas all day? Of course the reality is not quite as relaxed as just slipping on an old ratty set of pajamas and rolling out of bed, but it is easier than you think. First off, choose pajamas in a more luxurious fabric, like silk, satin or cotton sateen. Solid colors (with contrast piping) are easy to wear even as a set, paired with velvet slippers or satin heels. Printed fabrics work best when matched with a solid, basic color (a printed pajama top worn as a jacket with solid colored pants, for example, or a printed pajama bottom paired with a solid colored top).

As with all things, fit is important. Pajama dressing is meant to be relaxed and easy, so choose pajamas that drape rather than bulk up (pick pajama bottoms with a flat front for a more flattering fit) and don’t over accessorize. Now that’s what I call ‘dressing up’ that you can do in your sleep! ;-)

What do you think of pajama dressing? Is it impractical or something you’d try out?

photo(3)For me pajama dressing is perfect for loooong weekends or relaxed work-to-play days (printed satin pajama bottoms of my own design–circa 2004, black Chanel uniform pullover, black YSL heels).

Through the Looking Glass…

…and into a different era, traipsing through wonderland, and losing oneself in a maze of priceless artifacts and antiques. That would be just another Saturday at the Marchés aux Puces, or the Paris flea market. Looking around, I came upon more than a few stalls that had curated specialized fashion pieces–everything from decades-old handmade lace from Le Puy en Velay (very pricey!), to vintage designer ballgowns from the last century, to beautiful crystal perfume bottles, to gloves and chapeaus of every style since the early 1900′s.

I’ve always loved exploring flea markets, ever since I was a teenager. It’s like going on a treasure hunt, unearthing interesting things that we may never have known we wanted until we found them. I guess it stems from the fact that, more than retail therapy, shopping/browsing at flea markets offers a glimpse of another time and an interesting side story, but unlike a museum, we have the option of taking a little piece of history home with us.

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*Photos by Ito

The Art of Lichtenstein

Dots, stripes, playful use of pattern and bold color…no, I’m not talking about Spring/Summer 2014, I’m describing the humorously critical, playfully subversive exhibit of Roy Lichtenstein at the Centre Pompidou in Paris last October. A complete retrospective of over a hundred of his major works were on show for the very first time in France, and we were lucky enough to catch it.

One of my earliest favorite artists, Lichtensteins’s flat, graphic renditions of comic-inspired art was at the forefront of the Pop Art movement and heavily referenced, as well as impacted, popular culture and fashion. Even to this day, many graphic artists and fashion designers unconsciously owe their influences to him.

DSC_0859A bust with the famous Ben-Day dots treatment stands beside Lichtenstein’s flat, comic-inspired paintings

DSC_0880Over a hundred of his works were on display

Other than his more famous pieces, what I loved most about this exhibit was that it showed another side of Lichtenstein, a side that loved classical art and sculpture, but expressed in his own inimitably modern, singular way…

DSC_0882An ingenious 2-D version of a bust sculpture made from metal

DSC_0890Lichtenstein’s take on the classic nudes but given a Pop Art twist

DSC_0868Classic meets pop culture–this bust is both comic-inspired and looks like a mannequin head

DSC_0877A sculptural rendition of his flat paintings shows a mix of Lichtenstein’s lesser known influences

What do you think of Lichtenstein’s work? Is it still inspiring and influential to this day?

Inspirational Photo of the Day

Ahhh, the bliss of quiet time in the midst of everyday push and pull, hustle and bustle. To be allowed to breathe, read, contemplate, observe, reflect and imagine once more. This girl, quietly reading a book in the middle of a busy city, reminds us that carving out our own quiet space is possible anywhere at anytime. JOMO, or the Joy Of Missing Out, is apparently the new catch phrase for 2014 (according to the Huffington Post here), but it’s been something that I’ve always felt I had to do to stay sane & grounded, not to mention to keep my inner equilibrium.

Personally, my favorite quiet moments are when I’m reading, or designing, or writing on my journal (this blog is one of my journals). What’s your way of experiencing the ‘joy of missing out’?IMG_20131122_203504

*Photo by Ito

Sidewalk Style

As much as Manila has a formal-wear-and-cocktail-wear culture when it comes to dressing up, in Paris, the sidewalk is as much a platform for fashion as the catwalk (or the ballroom, for that matter). Parisians famously dress up even to head to the market, and if you think about it, everyday fashion is much more reflective of a person than what they wear when dressed for a special occasion.

Having coffee outdoors in a terrasse and watching people go by, I noticed how even simple jeans, sneaks & a tee could look polished and stylish, and I appreciated how taking the time to put themselves together came off as having self-respect more than being vain. Rather than dressing up as a way to show off status labels, I discovered that the best sidewalk style was an off-the-cuff mix of fun, fashion and functionality.

L1120657Vastly different, but equally stylish

L1120070Trend-savvy, hip AND very functional

L1120250Gotta love a man who knows how to accessorize!

L1110511Casual but still polished

L1120636The everyday suit, from the modern classic to the more flamboyant

L1120511The ultimate in fashionable, functional cool

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IMG_3806Haute couture hits the sidewalks

DSC_1197Keeping warm, having a café & people watching!

Personally I find that a big part of a city’s culture is seen & developed through its everyday fashion. Given our tropical weather, what do you think would make the best sidewalk-styles for Manila?

*Photos by Ito

Redesign & Start Over

Last November, Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda wreaked havoc on many parts of the Philippines with countless cities and towns completely devastated in its wake. Sadly, a number of the beautiful islands in Cebu that Ito and I had visited over the summer were left ravaged by the Super Typhoon. Now, alongside with the continuing relief efforts, the rebuilding of structures (and lives) has slowly begun.

In design, starting from scratch with the slate wiped clean is often seen as an opportunity to begin with fresh ideas not compromised by trying to accommodate the mistakes of the past. This may be our chance to rebuild from the grassroots, creating greener, more sustainable rural environments and establishing safer coastal communities. This way, what started out as a tragedy doesn’t have to end as one.

In what ways would you like the Philippines ‘redesigned’ as a greener country for the future?

DSC_0072Just one of the many beautiful islands in Cebu

DSC_0314The five centuries old St. Peter & Paul Church in Bantayan Island, one of the islands hit hard by the typhoon

DSC_0167Fishing communities, like those in Malapascua, need environmentally sound and sustainable structures to weather future storms

DSC_9775Starting with a clean slate and respecting Mother Nature as we redevelop, restructure & redesign our coastal communities

PB290007Designing for a cause. Backstage snapshot with my model Patch Magtanong at last December’s “Filipino Para sa Filipino”, a fashion fundraiser to help raise money for the rehabilitation of the Visayas

*Photos of Bantayan & Malapascua Islands by Ito Ocampo

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