Fashion

Before Studio Süg, Bea Constantino’s First Love Was Dancing

Bea Constatino wears a traditional Tausug ensemble. Photographed by Phillip Enriquez, makeup by Iven Sescon, hair by Pau Tahil, styled by Mir Tawasil

In dance or in fashion, Bea Constantino’s pursuits is a journey of self-discovery that defines the formation of creative identity.

The Victoria jacket, one of Studio Süg’s staple pieces, came to Bea Constantino in a dream. “I had a dream about a colorful jacket with appliques, texture, and beading at the back,” Constantino shares with Vogue Philippines. Named after her mother, the jacket was launched in 2016, and she credits the piece as the design that “launched the brand.” Since then, the jacket has had various iterations. But still, Constantino shares, she gets monthly inquiries about it.

It is a rare thing to know the key to your success, let alone for it to come in a dream. And yet, it’s a dream that Constantino never dreamed of when she was younger. Decades ago, before she began working in the fashion industry, Constantino was pursuing a different ambition: to become a professional dancer.

Photographed by Andrew Apuya, courtesy of Bea Constantino

Her interest in dancing was piqued by her aunt, who had taken her to see ballet shows. At the age of six, she began taking dance classes and it made her feel at home. “I didn’t have many friends when I was younger, but when I was in the dance studio, it made me feel like I belonged there,” she shares.

Dancing, she says, made her feel the “most beautiful and graceful.” Fueled with her passion for the craft, Constantino continued to pursue it during her college years at De La Salle University. Eventually, Constantino would be a scholar at the Steps Dance Studio, where she received the opportunity to perform at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. “Some people say that if you’ve performed at the CCP Grand Theater, you’ve kind of made it,” she says. Determined to step onto bigger stages, she flew to New York to pursue her dream of dancing on Broadway.

At the time, it was all or nothing for Constantino. “That was the only option; I had no other career in mind,” she says. So when she was hit with personal obstacles that led her to fly back to the Philippines, Constantino was devastated. “I was so lost because if I wasn’t dancing, I didn’t know what else I could do,” she shares.

Bea Constantino training at Steps Dance Studio in 2002. Courtesy of Bea Constantino

Although she didn’t know it back then, bidding farewell to dancing was a redirection for another life purpose. A year and a half after moving back to the Philippines, she accepted a job offer as a stylist for a teen magazine, although she didn’t consider herself to be a “fashionista.” “To be honest, I was in dire need of a job at the time,” she says. “It’s not like I was kikay (girly) when I was young.” It wasn’t her plan, but Constantino discovered passion for her new job. “I fell in love with it,” she says. “The fashion industry is my home. And it’s been like that for the past 20 years.”

Constantino discovered a deeper longing for self-discovery and purpose with this newfound passion. “I just woke up one day and was like, ‘Maybe I want to contribute something more to my community.’ I wanted to share a message, wanted to tell stories,” she says. This desire led her right back to her family’s roots in Zamboanga and Sulu, where she would find the inspiration for her clothing label, Studio Süg (formerly known as Herman & Co).

“I wasn’t expecting it to get the support that it did,” she says. When the brand was launching the Victoria jacket, Constantino participated at a fair in a local mall. “On the first day of the fair, I sold zero,” she shares. “The second day, it sold out. I thought, ‘Maybe we have something here.’” Originally, she had thought that it was something she could do in her free time, but the regular inquiries made her think otherwise.

Bea Constantino with Tausug weavers from Maimbung, Sulu. Courtesy of Bea Constantino

As the brand gained recognition, Constantino felt that she had to choose between her two passions: being a stylist or a creative director. Digging deeper within herself, she realized that the real struggle was not choosing between the two but forming her own creative identity. After this realization, she felt free to explore her passions. “Why do I have to define myself as a stylist, creative director, or brand owner? I can do it all,” she shares.

In fact, she steps back on the stage once again. Every five years, the Steps Dance Studio invites its alumni to perform again, which Constantino is eager to do for the 30th anniversary this year. “I want to perform again. It might be my last time because I’m 41 and I don’t know how long my body can still do all the kicks and turns,” she says.

She shares that, looking back, she appreciates the wide-eyed innocence of her younger self. It allowed her to embrace the new chapters of her life, even if it meant temporarily saying goodbye to old passions. “At the time, it was all like, ‘Oh my gosh, new friends! New environment! A new chance to start fresh!” she says. It seems that at every turn in life, Constantino will carry the same attitude with her passions.

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