What is the role that women play in society? In the recent “She For She” forum organized by the French embassy in the Philippines, this was the topic discussed along with gender equality and women’s empowerment. Together with many other inspiring women speakers and industry friends (Jeannie Javelosa, Rocio Olbes-Ressano, Hindi Weber-Tantoco and Maica Teves) in the day-long forum moderated by Aurélie Salvaire who founded ShiftBalance, I was invited to give a short talk on my work as a fashion designer along with Lyka Gonzalez (filmmaker), Hannah Morales (photographer) and Liza Diño (chairperson of the Film Development Council of the Philippines) for our segment on “Arts & Creation”. Sharing a transcript (of the first talk I ever gave in public!) below 🙂 :
“Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Tippi Ocampo and I’m a fashion designer. What I’ll be talking about today is about fashion. Now fashion often gets a bad rap for being frivolous, shallow, too focused on consumption…and a lot of that is true. But what I love about fashion, what I’m passionate about, is not the glamour or the fabulousness of it… it is its abilitiy to transform people.
When I was very young, I was given a free hand in dressing myself. And I realized, even at a young age, that what I wore affected how I felt. So when I put on my favorite denim overalls, I would feel adventurous and energetic and would spend the day biking around the village or skating around the neighborhood. When I put on my favorite gingham dress, I would feel quite soft and dreamy and would settle in playing with my tea sets or reading a book.
As I got older, I began experimenting and customizing my clothes. In college I would cut up and paint my jeans, collage and patchwork my t-shirts and dye my sneakers, depending on my mood. I would often use my clothes to enhance or change the way I felt, to help me get out of a funk when I was lethargic, or to boost my spirits on a grey day.
When I became a fashion designer, I noticed this ability to transform people extended to others. Backstage in one of my first fashion shows, I met a few of the young models who seemed rather shy, withdrawn and meek. But after dressing them, and making them up, they were suddenly transformed, confident, emboldened…and wow! Did they own that catwalk.
Also, many times when I first meet a bride-to-be, they are young girls filled with fantasies and armed with countless Pinterest boards. But through the process of collaborating on their wedding ensemble, on the day they put on their dream dress or pantsuit, and walk down the aisle, they have blossomed into the woman they dreamed to be, at least on that day.
So as I witnessed these transformations happening over and over, I realized that what I loved most about fashion wasn’t just the clothes, but its ability “to fashion”, or to shape with the use of our choices, our dreams, our imagination. And I realized that these changes didn’t only have to last the length of a runway, or a walk down the aisle, or even a night’s event. These changes had the potential to last much, much longer and that we could actually FASHION OUR LIFE.
Because the same principles that we use in choosing our clothes, and what feels right for us, can be used in a broader sense. When we allow ourselves to experiment and try on different styles, we break out of conformity and open up to new things, not only with our personal style but with our lifestyle as well.
When we start dressing to express ourselves instead of trying to impress others, we transform not only our look, but more importantly, our outlook.
And in the same way that we custom-fit and have our clothes custom-designed for us, we begin to do the same with the things we choose to do—becoming less interested in doing things to fit in, but instead mindfully choosing, seeking out and creating things that specifically fit us.
Through the years I’ve learned that as we begin to trust ourselves in the smaller things, it becomes easier to trust ourselves in the bigger things. So I think fashion is a wonderful, fun tool in showing us how to live our lives not by chance, not by default…but in our own fashion, and by our own design.