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The Better Half: The Delinquent & the Model Student

How two former classmates did things not by the book
October 31, 2009, 7:13pm
Ito is constantly amazed by Tippi’s fresh perspective in life and in her craft.


Their love story was something straight out of a teenage romantic movie. Ito Ocampo was San Agustin College’s resident delinquent student whose naughty antics were the bane of Tippi Lacson’s role as class monitor.

The class bad boy and model student were ironically seatmates in high school, and while any romantic involvement was the least of their thoughts then, the two definitely noticed each other. In fact, Tippi made it a point to religiously record Ito’s tardiness and absences (which were aplenty).

“We were in totally different groups, but I thought she was cute,” remembers Ito. Tippi adds, “I thought he was cute too, but he’s so different from me. Instead of going to class, he’d go playing billiards. All the trouble in class, more often than not, was caused by him.”

After high school, Ito went to UST, while Tippi studied at UP. They weren’t really close friends, but Ito and Tippi shared something which helped them get close: common friends. “Because we were classmates in high school, we had common friends so we’d all hang out together,” explains Ito.

Through their common friends, Ito and Tippi became close friends themselves. “We became each other’s confidantes,” shares Tippi. “If he’s going to see this girl, he’d tell me all about her. If I had problems with my boyfriend, I’d go to him for advice.”

Without realizing it, Ito and Tippi began developing feelings for each other. When Ito began hinting that he was interested in a certain someone, Tippi became incredibly curious. “She’d fish around a lot!” says Ito. When he finally mustered the courage to confess his feelings, Ito wrote Tippi a poem.

“He named this girl he likes Miss X,” shares Tippi. “And his poem goes, ‘Miss X is known by few; you’d turn in your grave if you knew. By now you’re wondering who, I want you to know Miss X is you.’” Tippi was naturally overwhelmed, but she reeled in her feelings and her reaction was a simple, “Ah, okay.”

“It’s awkward because we’re friends and it’s not out and out ligaw,” she confesses. “With us, I’m not sure. Maybe he’s not serious or maybe he’s just fooling around.”

But Ito was serious. “The transition from being friends to boyfriend and girlfriend scared her,” he says. That is why he didn’t pressure Tippi into jumping into a new relationship, and courted her patiently until she said yes.

“I was nervous,” Tippi admits. “We were friends, and I wasn’t sure whether to pursue it or not. I was so worried if things wouldn’t work out between us, then the friendship might get ruined.”

But her fear was later proven unfounded as they made their relationship work far better than they did their friendship. Ito and Tippi might be complete opposites, but because they knew each other so well, they learned to adjust to each other. “We knew each other prior to our relationship, so she already knew all my kalokohan,” Ito shares.

“We are completely accepting of each other,” adds Tippi. “He would let me try things he likes, and I would let him try things I like.”

Ito is maalaga as a boyfriend, and his being sweet eventually rubbed off on Tippi. Valentines’ are especially memorable for the couple.  “I find it ridiculous that every Valentines’ day, all the restaurants would have this set package menu that’s so expensive, and the only thing that’s different about it is that it comes with a rose,” complains Ito.

So he would think of more creative ways to declare his love. Tippi recalls, “On my way to school and coming out of the village, I came across this huge streamer that he put up in the service road, and written across it was ‘Happy Valentines’ Day, Tippi!’ When I got to UP, there was another streamer which he put up in our college. Even months after that, people would still remember the streamer he put up. That’s Ito. He’s always out to do something different.”

But despite Ito’s penchant for unique ways of surprising Tippi, his proposal was simple and sweet. He proposed to her during dinner at Manila Hotel, and they got married in 1997. The couple both had steady jobs at the time, and they have long decided on getting married in Italy.

“We want to remember everything about our wedding,” says Ito. So they brought their immediate families to Italy with them to witness their marriage.

The couple has been married for 12 years and they keep things fun by having “little adventures.” The couple tries to be creative with their dates. Instead of just going out and having dinner and go drinking afterwards, they’d go on a road trip and visit someplace new.

“One of the things Ito taught me is that we should always prioritize our marriage over everything,” says Tippi. This is why, despite their jobs, they always find time for each other.

Tippi is a fashion designer who is known for her trademark hook-and-eye closure. Her first foray into the industry started when she was still in college. “There was a time in college when they had a fair and she sold her own creations, which were one-of-a-kind tank tops, and she called these Tip Tops,” remembers Ito. “Her tank tops were sold out and girls were still ordering from her even after the fair.”

But Tippi wasn’t serious about it until she joined the Young Designers Paris Competition and won. From there, she and her husband opened Prêt-a-Party and launched a book on fashion design entitled “Not By the Book.”

“It’s fun, but there’s also a level of stress involved,” relates Tippi. “Because the better you do, the more you have to outdo yourself.”

Ito, on the other hand, is more of an entrepreneur. Together, the couple creates the perfect partnership: Tippi designs the clothes, while Ito manages the business side of Prêt-a-Party.

“We get along,” says Ito. “Plus, we’re good friends. We disagree on certain things, but when it comes to the things that matter, we try to talk about them and solve the problem.” Another thing that’s unique about the couple is that they don’t conform to the standard.

“We don’t have a template like at this certain age, we have to have kids,” Tippi explains. It’s amusing to think that the couple entitled their book on fashion design “Not By the Book”, for their relationship mirrors the title so well. Ito and Tippi do things “Not By the Book,” and eventually they have more fun with their marriage because they treat it as an adventure.

On their Differences

He said: We’re really opposites. She’s organized and neat. I’m messy. She designs and creates the clothes, while I handle the retail side of Prêt-a-Party.

She said: We’re opposites in most ways. His family is into the crazy-gimik scene. They’re the type who would go up to Baguio at 2 a.m. just because they feel like going. My family is different. We’re maayos. We’re the type that sleeps at 11 p.m. and we like everything in its place. I’m super daldal, and he’s quiet. But personality-wise, he’s more extroverted than I am.

On Travelling

He said: Even up to now, when we have free time, we’d go travel. We don’t plan things. Most of the time kasi, you’ll never find time to do it. You’ll always have work, and something will always come up to keep you from taking a vacation. When we feel like it, bahala na. So if it’s time to go, then it’s time to go.

She said: We travel a lot, but one of our most memorable travels was the time we went to this island in Cebu. It was the first time that we went out of Manila together. I’m also from Cebu, and I got to show him where I spent the first few years of my life and where I spent my summers. I got to show him a side of me outside of San Agustin.

On Marriage

He said: Our marriage was disorganized. There was one time we both came home and found out we had no electricity because we both forgot to pay the bill. And I think it’s our being disorganized which makes our marriage work in its own weird way.

She said: When we first got married, it felt like we were just camping. We had gotten so used to doing things non-traditionally, so for example, when we’d run out of groceries, we’d simply decide to go out of town for the weekend after work. Our marriage was disorganized but it was a lot of fun.








Being A-Tippical

By Johanna D. Poblete, reporter

If you wanted to learn about Tippi Ocampo, naturally, you browse Her favorite fabric: denim (at least it was, in 2002). Her dream city: Rome, and so she got married at the heart of it in 1997. Her breakout in fashion design: Concours Internationale des Jeunes Createurs de Mode in Paris, circa 1999. Her famous creation: a multi-paneled gown connected piece by piece with a hook and eye — the pair became her symbol, prominently displayed on her calling card.

Some of designer Tippi Ocampo’s designs (photos below) were on a limited-run exhibit to mark the launch of her book (above).

One culls a comprehensive fact list online, including that this creator of fashion brands Lounge Lizard and Pret-a-party — alongside custom-made clothing under her own name — was inducted into the Fashion Design Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in 2000; she remains a board officer to this day. She was also one of 12 designers chosen to interpret the designs of Joe Salazar at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in 2003.

Still, Not By the Book: Fashioning Design, ought to tell you a few more things about the very open, often-described as “winsome” and “whimsical” designer-turned-author.

Launched on Nov. 24 and showcased during a week-long clothes exhibit curated by Ateneo Art Gallery’s Yael Buencamino, Not By the Book features her new collection of fantasy brought to life and pegged on the beloved hook-and-eye gown, dubbed “Stained Glass Lamp.” Each new gown is named after an atypical inspiration, like Jeepney, Shanty, Crumpled Paper, Trapo, Shattered Window, Cobweb, Butterfly and Cabbage.

The book is a window into her mind and creative process, categorized as inspiration, imitation, reflection, aspiration, creation (or “fantasy and reality colliding”), execution, vision and finally fashion [redefined]. In 35 or so pages, some of it handwritten text and others sketches, Ms. Ocampo explores how fashion “can be a bright spark that both lights up a moment and fires up a whole generation can reshape and recreate not just a person’s look, but even more significantly, their outlook.”

If all else fails, there’s always the cutout doll and the actual designs to play with in the back-pages. Calling on the ever-obliging designer at her boutique in Merville Park, Parañaque would also likely provide the answer to a point-blank question, as below.

BW: This is called Not By the Book, what exactly does that mean? Is it linear, the creation process?

TO: It’s not really linear. I just sort of follow my own particular process. I think everybody has their own particular process, and it’s mostly about what your process is.

BW: Why is it important for people to be brought into the creative process?

TO: Everything is basically creative, whether it’s business or what.

BW: Even accounting?

TO: Numbers are creative. It’s a matter of perspective. You can see something as basically building blocks or something that can create something else. Or you can just see it for what it is, and not see the potential of something.

BW: You can almost see the streetscape in this book. Why is that?

TO: That’s how I entertain myself when I design, I kind of pick up elements from things I see around. And the first gown that I ever did, which was how I entered fashion, was this hook-and-eye gown which was inspired from grills and lamps and things like that Every designer has a different source of inspiration and a different way of seeing things, and it just seemed like a fun way to show where I was coming from.

BW: Why so Filipino, all of a sudden?

TO: It’s never really been sudden, it’s always been where I take my inspiration. You can’t help but absorb what you see around you everyday. And it’s really up to you how you translate it into something. That’s kind of what I talk about in the book, you can never really tell what will trigger an inspiration, sometimes you see something, like even crumpled paper, and you say hey, that’s a nice texture, and you can do something like that.

BW: These are all made from new materials, even the Trapo gown?

TO: I used the principle that they are like little bits. Being in fashion, I have a lot of scrap [cloth]. And so normally what people do, they patch it together and make a trapo. It was always something that interested me. You can always look at it and say, trapo [just rags]. The juxtaposition is interesting, and sometimes the colors are kind of funky, it just makes an interesting visual.

BW: Shanty, doorknobs, broken windows — something can be created from a destroyed element?

TO: Inspiration can be taken from basically anywhere, it doesn’t necessarily have to be angst-y and broken, it doesn’t have to be glamourous, but it can just strike you, and when it does, you just run with it and see where it takes you. Sometimes it’s the color, or sometimes it’s how the light hits something, and then you get inspired, and then you can make something.

BW: From inspiration to execution — which is the danger zone?

TO: It’s always execution. If I try something and it doesn’t work the first time around, I set it aside [or put it to rest]. Some of these ideas I’ve had but never executed, I never really could figure out how to flesh it out, but I have a little drawer of ideas. You think of something, an old idea is mixed in, and you get a new collection. Nothing is wasted, not fabric or ideas. It just takes an open mind, not judging whether something is trash or beautiful, allowing your imagination to be open.

BW: Fashion is becoming more localized?

TO: It’s always local for me. I can’t help but have a local perspective because I’m local. It’s not strictly one or the other, for me, it’s more of a personal thing.

BW: Do you think we should revive or restyle or remake our national costume, the barong, the terno?

TO: I always do, because I don’t see it as a costume. Ideally, I wanted it to be something that’s worn so it’s something that naturally evolves with how people really wear clothes, I don’t really make a conscious effort. I do feel that if you wear it and you own it, then it’s not really [a costume].

BW: What is the principle of fashion that you subscribe to?

TO: I kind of like the idea of fashion as a verb, something that shapes, something active, as opposed to following a trend. Not at all [political] You can decide if you want fashion to be in a separate room, or you can be part of where you are. I like letting what’s happening around shape what I’m doing as well.

[In the book, she notes, “Life and art are locked in mutual admiration because life will always imitate art and art will always imitate life. Both are expressions of the creative process and are constantly, progressively at work.”]

BW: By putting this book out, you’re trying to change people’s outlook, that they could become more imaginative, more creative?

TO: Hopefully. That’s kind of what I believe, that people are intrinsically [creative]. Hopefully they do — it’s not really the purpose of the book, but if that comes about, then great.


“Not by the Book” Fashioning Design by Tippi Ocampo is P950 and is available online at (delivery within the Philippines is free) or through text at 0915-7100357.  It will soon be available in specialty bookstores.



Roadmap to the designing mind
Exhibit and book illustrate the many byways of the creative process

Yonina Chan

In contemplating the creative processes concerning dress, Tippi Ocampo charts fashion’s largely subjective and often interchangeable steps in a fashion exhibit and inspirational design scrapbook, jointly titled Not by the Book.

(Photo by John Lacson)

Reflecting the inspirations of her most recent collection, the exhibit featured three separate tableaus showcasing three design concepts that Ocampo had touched on in previous collections but never quite fully explored. Working together with Ateneo Art Gallery managing curator Yael Buencamino, the exhibit, functioning at once as a fashion show and a kind of art exhibit, bridges Ocampo’s more conceptual inclinations with her typically wearable designs, with three whimsical fashion installations echoing the organic feel of old provincial gardens, the nostalgia of old houses, and the texture and character of Manila city side streets.

Each of the three tableaus featured a fantasy outfit as the central installation, surrounded by a number of wearable translations that echoed each of the original inspirations. Old provincial gardens took the shape of a nature-themed gown with a sheer skirt, under which floated live butterflies. Romantic cocktail dresses in lace and diaphanous fabrics further established the sense of fancy and play, while a purple and green multi-layered dress suggested the shape and soft petals of an imaginary garden flower in full bloom.

On the other hand, a backlit dress—resembling a lampshade of sorts—with Ocampo’s signature hook and eye designs and grillwork patching effectively translated the idea of old Filipino houses, with their wrought-iron gates and ornamental windows bars. Dresses with geometrical lace patches or subtle embroidery remarked a very feminine and rather abstracted Filipinina aesthetic and glamour.

Finally, city side streets are represented by a charming kitsch piece essentially inspired from common household rags. Starting with a colorful beaded top, the dress sections out into more rugged patching and texture as it goes on, ending in a quilted “trapo” train. The corresponding wearable pieces, of course, take off from the patchwork concept, with delicate layers or bold geometries communicating the vibrant textures and shapes found in the most unprofound, unglamorous side streets of Manila.

Ocampo’s “scrapbook” then supplements the ideas explored in the exhibit, fleshing out the creative progressions of her fashion designing and production processes. While not following a typically linear thread, Not by the Book examines in playful visuals the creative hops, skips and trips over the indefinable landscapes of inspirations and creative translation and communication. Similarly to Ocampo’s exhibit, the book offers an opportunity to see ideas and concepts as they are expounded upon and amplified by the designer, and laid out for anyone seeking simple but valuable insights and pieces of inspirations.

To order “Not by the Book,” go to For made to order inquiries, log on to



By Yael Buencamino
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:31:00 11/27/2008

SO who says trashy can’t be elegant? Or ugly can’t be beautiful?” asks Tippi Ocampo in her appropriately titled “Not by the Book: Fashioning Design.”

Indeed, the fabric cover, corset-like hook and eye-fasteners of this book, which force you to open it from behind, intimate a quirkiness readers will encounter throughout. The book takes us on a jaunty ride through Ocampo’s creative process.

The text is sparse, written alternately in handwritten script and book text, like a scrapbook. We feel privy to the inner workings of the designer’s mind. It is part picture book, part personal musing, part design philosophy.

“Where is inspiration found?” she poses. “I find it in the ruffled tiers of cabbage at the market, I glimpse it in the shining chrome and quilted seats of a jeepney.”

Visual delight

A visual delight that shows the images that have inspired her, the sketches turning inspiration to fashion and the dresses that they have become.

Not a recipe-like how-to-design book aspiring “Project Runway” participants are probably searching for (though there is a little section on how to make a lace shrug), but much more useful for those trying to find their own voice or style—a guide for seeing and appreciating the qualities of that which surrounds us.

Ocampo teaches the reader to see the world through fresh eyes and validates the everyday experiences and reflections of the individual as design inspiration. She gently suggests that we reevaluate our aesthetic judgments.

By showing how the corrugated metal sheeting of a shanty inspired her to create crinkled metallic dresses, she playfully pushes the limits of what we accept to be visually interesting and worthy of a designer’s attention.


It is the antithesis of makeover and design features that fill magazines and lifestyle channels, which dictate to the viewer what is beautiful and instruct them how to copy it, for a fraction of the cost.

This is about deciding for yourself what is beautiful and getting others to see it, too. The book makes clear that design for Ocampo is not about the glamour of couture, it is about reflecting and translating the aesthetic of the Filipino, as seen in the stuff that surrounds us, into fashion.

All throughout the little book (it’s only about 35 pages) with big ideas, the book’s designers Cynthia Bauzon Arre, Lizza Gutierrez and Chinggay Labrador ably combine the words and photos to forcefully convey Ocampo’s thoughts.

Beneath the photo of a church’s stained-glass window and image of a saint, the text reads, “Vision is not a mirage. It is an image that is unwavering and that we see even with our eyes closed.”

Not quite what you would expect from a designer who makes dresses that look like ice-cream sundaes, but then again, the title told us that already.













Young Star

Not by the book: Tippi Ocampo’s guide to fashion and creativity
By Yvette Tan

Fashion designer Tippi Ocampo has always been known for her whimsical creations. A peek into her website,, reveals Tippi’s stylishly colorful world and hints at the advertising copywriter turned fashion designer’s love for the design process, as much as the finished works themselves.

Tippi, who owns and designs for retail brands Lounge Lizard and Pret-a-Party, as well as for her own made-to-order business, believes that design should be a purpose and not an afterthought. Working with Chinggay Labrador, Lizza Gutierrez and graphic artist Cynthia Bauzon, she has come up with Not by the Book, a cloth-bound book that charts the designer’s creative journey from inspiration to execution, using everyday Filipino sights as jump-off points to some of the designer’s more interesting pieces.

“It sort of debunks the idea that to come up with something beautiful, like in fashion, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something fabulous that inspires a creation. You can take from little everyday things around, depending on what strikes you. You can make it into a design and translate it into fashion,” Tippi says.

Not by the book

Tippi’s take on the creative process is interesting, as it debunks the notion that fashion — and creativity in general — needs to be nurtured in a glamorous setting. “Here, (fashion) is glamorized, and as much as I appreciate that, it’s also interesting to see that there are other avenues and other aspects of both fashion and design and even in my clothing,” Tippi says, “Whether it’s from the environment or the urban landscape, you can take inspiration from things you see offhand like… when you see a shanty house… its textures or the color of the rust and the way it’s put together can trigger inspiration and can result in something nice.”

Another point that Tippi wants to make is that everyday things that we take for granted can be sources of inspiration as well, such as a unique moth or fresh vegetables in a market stall, both of which she has used as inspiration for stylish pieces. “(I want the book) to make (people) see everyday things in a different way… (things like) a jeepney or a trapo… you can actually take something from Filipino things that are common and everyday,” Tippi says.

More than just looking at something, Tippi encourages people waiting for their creativity to spark to use all their senses, including the often neglected sense of touch. In fact, Not by the Book is a tactile experience on its own, starting with the cloth-bound cover and stitched-in title. Tippi also shares that design should be thought of as part of the end product, and not simply an add-on. “I think that design is not something that is given proper focus in our country. It’s just an add-on (here). For me, design has an intrinsic value. (If) you inject a sense of humor (or) a whimsical point of view, it will come across in what you end up designing.” A good example of where design is built in with function are buildings in Europe, which Tippi counts as one of the most inspiring places she’s been to. “I like how in Europe, they’re very respectful of their environment. They don’t just take something bongga and plunk it in the middle of something.”

She hopes to debunk one of the biggest myths that Filipinos believe about fashion and design: that it’s a terrain available to only a select few. “I honestly think that everyone has the capacity to hone (their creative side)… if they allow themselves to appreciate and practice it,” Tippi says, “It’s not a little elitist circle and it’s not only para sa sosyal. I think design should be available to everyone and they should recognize that it’s an important aspect of everyday life, not just for certain occasions or for certain people.”

Though Not by the Book deals with the creative process behind fashion, the principle behind it can be applied to other creative avenues as well. “Right now, we are focusing on fashion aficionados but… when you say design, it can cover things that are not fashion per se,” Tippi says. “The principles in (the book) are open to anyone in design in general, anyone interested in doing anything creative. It doesn’t have to be fashion related. The books touches on a different way of seeing and doing things.”

From inspiration to installation

The perfect example of the book’s principles come to life is the exhibit that accompanies its launch. Tippi describes the exhibit as “the book come to life.” And for Tippi Ocampo fans who can’t get enough, the designs in the exhibit will be available for purchase.

The exhibit can be viewed at the Greenbelt 3 lobby from Nov. 24 to 30, and is curated by Yael Buencamino, managing director of the Ateneo Art Gallery. “(The exhibit) is almost like a culmination of what you see as you go through the book,” Tippi explains.

Not by the Book will be launched on Nov. 24 at the Greenbelt 3 lobby at 6 p.m. It will be available for the duration of the exhibit and will be found in leading specialty bookstores afterwards.