Designer Profile

Designer Prince Padilla Reflects on Being Filipino and Pushing Boundaries in Fashion

Photo by Anz Hizon

“People ask me all the time what makes my work Filipino, and I think it’s as simple as me just saying, ‘I’m as Filipino as you are,’” Prince Padilla says. “I’m working exactly where you are, I have the same access to a lot of the things that you do, and I celebrate with you the things that we have there.” 

“I don’t do visual referencing full stop. For me, it’s more personal,” Prince Padilla, the winner of the recent Mega Young Designers Competition, says. “I tend to create things that I personally find visually appealing or visually seductive, things that I would want to add as an individual.”

Rina, Lukresia, and Jo Ann wear NOVEL deconstructed puffer dresses molded from deadstock fabric to complement the female form through ruching and quilting manipulations, MELITTA BAUMEISTER white quilt skirt. All wear Ivatan Tukap rope sandals.
Rina, Lukresia, and Jo Ann wear NOVEL deconstructed puffer dresses molded from deadstock fabric to complement the female form through ruching and quilting manipulations, MELITTA BAUMEISTER white quilt skirt. All wear Ivatan Tukap rope sandals. Photograph by Sharif Hamza.

Padilla’s journey as a designer is akin to a homecoming hero: after having grown up and lived in the United Kingdom, diversifying his interests and inspirations in Manchester and London, Padilla then chose to start a career as a designer in the Philippines, finding an opportunity not just in the place but also within its people. He then established his brand, Novel, in 2023. “The name of the brand is quite literal, but at the same time it carries a lot of weight,” Padilla says. “It holds an intention that has stayed with me from the very beginning,: which is to be able to help diversify the landscape that we are in here in the Philippines by offering refreshing takes on garment construction and materiality.” 

Padilla elaborated on his design philosophy, stating, “I always wanted to go by intention instead of doing a collection inspired by something. While it’s almost impossible to generate a completely new idea, what I do think is possible is for you to be able to go out there and create discoveries for yourself.”

Photo by Michael Macalos. Courtesy of Prince Padilla
Photo by Michael Macalos. Courtesy of Prince Padilla

While Padilla’s design career started and was nurtured overseas, he remains connected to his Filipino heritage. Rather than relying on overt visual references, he seeks to contribute to the Filipino landscape by offering fresh perspectives and pushing creative boundaries. According to him, the importance of individual expression and personal journey is vital in shaping one’s design identity as a designer. “People ask me all the time what makes my work Filipino, and I think it’s as simple as me just saying, ‘I’m as Filipino as you are,’” Padilla says. “I’m working exactly where you are, I have the same access to a lot of the things that you do, and I celebrate with you the things that we have there.” 

Padilla reflects that this sentiment is also reflective of his vision for his brand, saying, “I think if I came to this country [as a designer] referencing a lot of the things we know to be Filipino including a lot of the things that we have learned and we’ve been accustomed to reference as Filipino fashion designers, then it would actually go against the intention of the brand: which is to bring something new to the Filipino landscape.”  He expresses a desire to promote fashion education and foster critical discourse within the industry, as well as open dialogue and continuous innovation. “I think fashion criticism is very important for growth,” Padilla says. “I think for growth to happen, sometimes we do need to have more serious conversations about what’s happening and what’s not happening.” 

Photo by Michael Macalos. Courtesy of Prince Padilla

Looking ahead, Padilla envisions a future where his brand reaches a wider audience and inspires a new generation of creatives. “I think a lot of young designers are ready to be a lot more courageous in terms of what they make,” Padilla says. “I think for them it’s a personal journey in terms of who they are as individuals and how they’re able to reflect that in their work.”

In 2023, Prince Padilla’s work graced the print pages of Vogue Philippines for its anniversary issue. His designs utilizes silhouettes, textures, and movements that defy convention: allowing the wearers to interact with the garments. Through this balance between wearability and innovation, Padilla advocates for a modern approach to fashion that prioritizes intention. “I think wearability was definitely a consideration that we had to make because I also don’t believe in creating clothes purely for theater and performance aspects,” Padilla explains. “It’s reflective of the times where we’re now more conscious of the things we make and we have to be more accountable for them. We have to be able to imagine them in different places, with different people, in different situations.”

Photo by Michael Macalos. Courtesy of Prince Padilla
Photo by Michael Macalos. Courtesy of Prince Padilla

While Padilla’s designs do not directly reference, he emphasizes the importance of celebrating Filipino craft in his practice. “Craftsmanship and the romance of being able to create something by your hands is paramount to sustaining Novel,” Padilla says. With a team of three, Padilla is deeply involved in every step of the process, sourcing materials locally and prioritizing sustainability by using deadstock fabrics and minimizing the use of plastic hardware. Padilla expresses his eagerness to explore and celebrate Filipino craftsmanship further. “In the future, I want to explore and subvert weaving and indulge in more traditional Pinoy textiles,” Padilla says. “I will celebrate Filipino craftsmanship by celebrating and working with what this country has to offer, and the people who are here.”

Filipino culture is rich and vast: there are endless ways to inject it into any artist’s work. However, for designers like Prince Padilla, the Filipino essence lies in the passion to create and the relentless pursuit of innovation — woven through the inspiration, seeping through the process, within the final output itself. Prince Padilla seems to have encapsulated it simply: finding ways to become novel.

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