The Dubai-based Filipino couturier has become synonymous with grandiosity.
It’s been a busy month for Michael Cinco, filled with accolades and achievements. The Dubai-based designer is fresh from debuting his collection at New York Fashion Week and receiving a Global Award at the 12th annual TOFA (The Outstanding Filipinos in America) Awards.
The TOFA event, which was co-founded in 2011 by Elton Lugay, was also attended by Mayor Eric Adams (the first sitting New York City mayor to come to the occasion). Previous recipients include multi-award-winning singer and actress Lea Salonga and hit comedian Jo Koy. “I share this award with my parents who struggled financially and sacrificed a lot of their life yet still supported me to achieve my dreams,” Cinco said in his acceptance speech.
Born in Catbalogan in Samar, Cinco grew up dreaming about dressing the stars of the silver screen such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Today, those cinematic inspirations have turned into fairy-tale gowns with elegant and fantastical elements, from gold embroidery to thousands of hand-applied Swarovski crystals.
His designs—some of which take up to 500 hours to complete—have been seen on A-list celebrities all over the world. When he isn’t dressing some of the biggest acts in the world like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez, he’s dressing fashion legends like Naomi Campbell. He’s also known to have quite the royal clientele, dressing Indian and Arab princesses.
The designer admits that he still has a few stars on his bucket list. “Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift are one of the few stars that I would like to dress up,” Cinco tells Vogue Philippines. “I could imagine some of the chiffon and soft lace pieces from my collection will definitely look good on both of them.”
Unity and solidarity
In 2016, Cinco broke barriers for Filipinos as the first designer from the Philippines to show at Paris Fashion Week. This year, he’s in the Big Apple showcasing his Spring/Summer 2023 collection called “The Impalpable Dream of Monet” at New York Fashion Week. His show was co-produced by the TOFA’s Lugay and Erik Rosete of Art Hearts Fashion.
Cinco says this collection was one of the most challenging he’s ever done. He received confirmation for his slot in NYFW in early August, meaning he had less than a month to complete all 37 of his looks. Thankfully, he pulled it off with the help of his trusted team of artisans.
Upon seeing Cinco’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection, its name becomes more understandable. Abstract florals and beads that look awash with water or air will remind viewers of the Impressionist master of Giverny. Of the pieces, he says he was inspired by “the colors and hues of the paintings of Monet’s impressionism that are mostly focused on textures, light, and brushstrokes in dreamy [gardens] and flowers.” He adds, “It’s all about ultra-feminine women who are strong and independent but still elegant and ethereal.”
Cinco also tapped two Filipino shoe designers for the show, Jojo Bragais and Doreen Odvina. “These two amazing designers have been supporting me ever since so it’s time for me to showcase also their collection in New York Fashion Week to support them and show to the world that we have a lot of creative talents in the Philippines,” he says.
The collection starts with sparkling blue and green dresses and flowing robes and is followed by suits ranging from aquatic hues to flower reds. Afterward, a rush of lively floral day dresses and sheer gowns. For the finale, Cinco reinvents the classic black gown with his signature volumes and hand-embellishments.
This collection comes as a monumental feat of representation, just as the United States still reels from several years of anti-Asian rhetoric and hate crimes. Though communities across the country are still fighting for justice and equality, the designer calls for unity and solidarity.
Cinco believes even his presence at New York Fashion Week is a stand on its own. “Fashion is borderless,” he says. “We don’t discriminate people [on] their race or color of their skin.”