Through The Female Gaze: Inside Isabel Sandoval’s Vogue Cover Shoot

ANA LA O’ dress. Photographed by Kim Cam Jones for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

In this month’s cover story, actress and filmmaker Isabel Sandoval takes the spotlight in looks that evoke the feelings of her films: familiarity, honesty, and a glaring intimacy.

On a hot day in April on the set of her film Moonglow, director and lead actress Isabel Sandoval didn’t need a heavy hand to command the room.

Dressed in a cocktail-length, black-as-night evening gown with decadent silk gloves pulled up to her elbows, she paced between the working set to behind the director’s table with a slow, relaxed elegance, so calm that you wouldn’t think the crew was filming a scene so pivotal. In the space packed with extras and film crew, the smell of cigars would immediately transport you, in body and in feeling, to her envisioned 1970s Manila, enveloped in that “lyrical, poetic, and sensuous” atmosphere she had so meticulously built. The energy was palpable. But it wasn’t because it was fuelled by a sense of urgency, but rather, and so obviously to me, by a knowing trust: in her sole vision, and in the story that she was telling.

RICK OWENS top and skirt. Photographed by Kim Cam Jones for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

The two LED screens perched on the center table were fed footage from the working set’s Camera A and B. Isabel’s eyes would graze over every movement in her latest take with careful precision, from every slight upturn of the corners of her lips, every place her eyes would linger, to every soft inhale. To her own expressions or every potential miss in composition, she would come away with a set of notes, rising from her seat to position herself in front of the camera once more. The cycle would repeat for another six or seven takes before she would finally come back to one she was satisfied with. Her crew knew almost immediately then, without even needing a single word from their director. Their eyes spoke that they could tell, just by the hint of a smile that crept across her face.

ANA LA O’ dress. Photographed by Kim Cam Jones for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.
White vintage trench coat. Photographed by Kim Cam Jones for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

Isabel’s force is a quiet one, and she takes it with her on whatever set she’s on. During her Vogue Philippines cover shoot months prior, the switch from storyteller to spotlighted talent—letting go of the reins that come with starring as her own lead actress—came naturally. “Isabel was very respectful of the process,” says Vogue Philippines producer Anz Hizon. “Coming from a production background as well, she knows exactly how things are done. From the beginning, she made sure to let us know that she’s there as a model, and so we treated her as a model.” He continues, “As a director she is a commander of the whole shoot, the whole production. But here, she made sure to detach herself or get herself out of that zone and be fully present on the other end of the camera.”

In front of fellow filmmaker Kim Cam Jones’s lens, she moved with ease in sharply piqued archival Issey Miyake and Jacquemus separates and free-wheeled in gauzy Ana la O’ and Alaïa layers. There was a power and self-assuredness in each stance she assumed, even when she allowed herself a laugh or two. This was the intention behind the looks Vogue Philippines fashion director Pam Quiñones and fashion assistant Neil de Guzman assembled: a sartorial consideration of Isabel’s quiet confidence.

RICK OWENS tank dress, Archival YOHJI YAMAMOTO skirt, COPERNI boots. Photographed by Kim Cam Jones for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

“I was eyeing for looks that had a sense of familiarity and honesty, and a dose of sensuality and quiet force,” Pam explains. “For this I always go back to the 90s: the suggestion of Helmut Lang, the seemingly simple yet complex cuts of Jil Sander, and the drapes of Romeo Gigli. These are references that time and time again influence my work in portraits.”

Rick Owens’s structured skirt flows down into a molten hem, and Marissa Webb trousers, affixed with hook-and-eye closures on a contrasting waistband, are slipped into an archival Maison Margiela skirt. The columnar silhouettes build onto her height, translating her innate strength to a tangible form.

“Isabel loved dressing up and she welcomed every look like a pro,” Pam muses. For a shoot that held no hiccups throughout the process, it came about rather quickly, says Neil. “I found out Kim would be the photographer for the shoot two days before it took place. From there, Pam looped me in and shared her direction for the shoot, which was focused on a blend of archival designer pieces, along with a few items from local designers.” But even then, the turnaround wasn’t something that phased any one member of the team; its concept was simple and almost foolproof, only because it was just the type of undertaking that was born out of shared passions.

JACQUEMUS top, MARISSA WEBB trousers, Archival MARGIELA skirt. Photographed by Kim Cam Jones for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

“It began with a conversation with friend Kim Jones, an emerging filmmaker who is also a fan of Isabel’s work,” Pam expands. “We zoned in on the idea of timeless portraits through the female gaze. We wanted it to look raw, sensual, and intimate like her films.” The looks, and the feelings that she would emit wearing them before Kim’s lens, flowed seamlessly from there.

“Being at the shoot with Isabel and Kim was an incredible experience,” Neil says. “Both are highly collaborative. Isabel placed her trust in Kim’s vision, and there was a mutual respect and understanding between them.” Pam adds to the sentiment, “I think it’s wonderful to be able to share space and create images and tell stories with people you admire. There was an exchange of dynamic energy, a give and take of wisdom on navigating the creative space.”

“For Kim and Isabel,” she continues, “it looked like they were building a character in a film. For me, it was bringing to life that character through fashion.” When everyone on set is in the business of building worlds, it seems, the result can only ever be pure magic—the kind that transports you, in body and in feeling.

Vogue Philippines: June 2024 Issue

Photographs by KIM CAM JONES Fashion Director: PAM QUIÑONES. Styling by NEIL DE GUZMAN. Makeup: Gery Penaso. Hair: Dale Mallari. Talent: Isabel Sandoval. Producer: Anz Hizon. Nails: Extraordinail. Production Assistant: Bianca Zaragoza. Photographer’s Assistants: Anthony Ozarraga, Anton Mangone, Kitkat Pajaro, Lancer Salva, Rico Bonghanoy. Stylist’s assistant: Jilliane Santos.
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