Vania Romoff’s “WOMAN” concluded BYS Fashion Week with a 40-piece outdoor runway show at BGC for Sunday merienda.
1. This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush
Vania Romoff had an unlikely show venue for BYS Fashion Week 2023–De Jesus Oval in Bonifacio Global City. Extensive Google Maps-ing was needed. Imagine this on your phone screen: a circular path, encasing a mound of grass. Residential buildings on one curve, roads in and out on the other. On the weekends it’s typically closed off for food fairs or to give kids space to play. On this Sunday in particular, it’s closed off for a runway show.
De Jesus Oval is accessed through a larger green space, so kids and their babysitters, dogs and their dogsitters, runners and their Airpods all weave through a crowd that has arrived in chiffon tops with butterfly terno sleeves; bow assemblages in the form of a dress or a top; tiered taffeta skirts and diaphanous babydoll dresses; polkadotted prints on roomy drapes and ruching. These are all signature elements of Vania Romoff. Not just the clothes–but even the idea of everyday life surrounding her elevated fashion.
The designer’s ready-to-wear is one of the most accessible in the local market in terms of availability–boutiques in two centrally located malls, a bustling e-commerce store, a personal shopper program on Whatsapp–perhaps also one of the reasons why the Vania Romoff brand is tied so closely to a woman’s life. It would not be remiss to say there is a Vania Romoff outfit for every occasion: an empire-cut jersey set for weekend brunch but also for a packed travel itinerary; a shirred and smocked halter top for date night but also for a special work launch; a bluntly cut strapless dress with a similarly ellipsoidal train for a Hamilton show but also for a birthday party; a full lace modern Filipiñiana mini dress for a wedding but also for a ballet; and of course, the abovementioned chiffon top with butterfly terno sleeves, known colloquially as the Camisa, for pretty much anything.
2. BON VOYAGE ORGANISATION – A4 – Love Soup by Disque Pointe
They are all for the same woman, but they are also for different women. One thinks of the Telfar paradox: not for you–for everyone, as the website screams in bold uppercase. There is no singular Vania Romoff woman, because Vania Romoff’s experiences translated into her design are that of all women. (The Barbie paradox as articulated by America Ferrera’s character in the recent film also comes to mind, but that’s a rabbit hole too deep for the search engines to fathom at the moment.)
Maybe the front row of women who have carved out own niches was proof enough: Natalia Zobel, of Siargao hospitality villa Inara; Anne Curtis, global style star and Vogue Philippines cover girl; Bea Soriano, mother of 2 with an eye for both business and style; Roxanne Farillas, an entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with; Nicole Concepcion, known to have as much fun in her food & beverage pursuits as she does in fashion and social media. The Vania Romoff brand has always self-described as feminine and romantic–now it also reaches to the different complexities of being a woman. The good with the bad, the bad with the good, or at least a way to strike balance despite it all.
In the Vania Romoff design ethos, this includes taking girlhood elements—bows, babydoll cuts, trapeze shapes, polkadots–and turning them into elegant, feminine, romantic pieces. This image of style and fashion from her experiences as a young girl translate til this day in long-form autobiography. “Growing up, I distinctively remember being dressed in smocked pieces and my childhood photo albums are filled with photos of me in scarves tied as bow tops and voluminous organdy dresses. These elements feel almost intrinsic to me and I try to do it in a way that feels right by me, [like] smocked but sheer, a bit of skin. Bows that accentuate sleeker silhouettes and silk organdy done in modern cuts.”
It helps of course that her biggest fan is her own daughter, Emilia, who sat front row–on the floor–with the other children who came for the show. “My daughter Emilia is to me like a mirror. She reminds me of why I do what I do and raising her has always kept me in check. I have become more self possessed and calm as I continuously try to become the kind of woman she would want to look up to.”
When asked about Emilia’s most pressing questions regarding girlhood, Romoff sends emoticons of laughter and tears regaling, “‘Mama, what if I have a boyfriend and he’s Harry Styles?‘”
3. No More I Love You by Annie Lennox
This complexity reared its head even in the show’s styling direction. For example, the decision to have the 40+ looks go down a runway with the models in a flat shoe or at the very most a low heel. The show’s fashion stylist MJ Benitez obliged to Romoff’s vision: “There’s a cool effortlessness when you pair dresses typically labeled as ‘occasion wear’ with a simple flat or a low heel. We didn’t want the looks to feel stuffy or intimidating—an everyday sandal grounds the looks, literally and figuratively. All shoes are made custom for the show.”
On the beauty front, the main objective was for makeup and hair to complement the clothing, not distract from it. It was also a fresh approach to BYS Cosmetics–known for makeup that prioritizes self-expression and statements, this restraint was a challenge to perfect base and find the best shades for a range of skin tones. Benitez expounds: “For makeup, I was inspired by minimalist ‘90s beauty — eyes are unlined with a wash of super soft browns on the lids while lips get subtle shine with a quick swipe of gloss.” Same went for hair—simple and fuss-free, models wore it slicked back and tied into a low bun to highlight the back details of the outfits.
4. Oceans by RX Y & Ólafur Arnolds
“It’s been half a decade since Vania and I worked on her last fashion show so it’s only natural for our sensibilities to grow and mature over the last few years,” continues Benitez of their shared perspective. Coming from that last runway show five years ago, which Benitez also styled, “this time around, we wanted the clothes to do all the talking so styling was pared back and kept to a minimum. Save for a few headbands on five sleek monochromatic outfits, chunky earrings in either gold or silver served as the only accessory for the show.”
In the last five years since that show, nothing has happened–except of course the uncertainties and curveballs of life. A pandemic, a daughter who has grown up a little older and developed her own style, a pair of twin boys named Elias and Leon. Romoff has expanded her brand to include VR Bridal, an e-commerce destination for readily on hand wedding needs; VR Footwear, including the slew of above mentioned shoes worn by all models; and even her retail forays, with another boutique on the way. There are many tides in between. Romoff bears them all, as a strong woman would.
“This collection is introspective and a deeply personal one. Its one of evolution and growth as a designer and as a 30-something-year-old woman,” the designer shares. “As I look back at all the change brought about by significant moments in my life, I find that at my core I remain to be the same romantic who always follows her heart. These days though, I have become more practical, more intuitive and self assured. As I designed this collection, I also found that I had clearer vision of who I was and my strengths as a designer. The process was one of self reflection.
“In my teens, It was about being brave. Brave enough to step outside my comfort zone and try new things. In my twenties, it was about understanding myself more and staying true to what feels right by me. In my thirties, it was about knowing what truly matters and being comfortable with the woman I have become. Similarly in design, in my teens I explored, experimented. In my twenties , I put myself out there and understood my strengths and worked on it. These days, I know what I do best, and I have deeper understanding of my craft.”
5. I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis
Xtina Superstar, who DJed at Romoff’s show and unknowingly provided the flow of this piece, followed up with an addition to the playlist. There’s something missing, she said, naming the song she played during curtain call, a direct foil to Annie Lennox’s No More I Love You mid-way through the show. The love no more and the love had, the good with the bad–and perhaps the ability to see through all of that dimension and complexity and turn it into an experience (or rather, a runway collection) that resonates with every woman. “The VR woman,” after all, Benitez concludes, “has an eye for beauty.”
“At this point in my life, being a woman means so many things,” Romoff shares, circling back to the idea of complexity and balance in being a woman. “The roles that I undertake daily, a mom, a wife, a designer—-it’s a reminder of a woman’s power and capacity to do it all. There are so many facets to being a woman, it’s impossible to define. As I created the collection, I considered this complexity and tried to translate it into an array of pieces that explored this notion. The collection uses different fabrications like tulle, taffeta, and silk organdy while working with different techniques like ruching and hand smocking. I imagined all my muses and clients wearing the pieces as is always my design process in creating a collection. So you’ll see a tailored shirt and skirt ensemble followed by a billowy tulle piece , a blush monotone coat and skirt ensemble followed by a mini gauze ensemble with floral appliqué. A silver skirt peeking underneath an oversized coat before an outing of organdy gown numbers. They’re all so different but I tried to translate it in a way that felt true to my design aesthetic. It’s never just one angle to it. Yes, it’s hyper feminine but it’s also sexy. Yes, it’s romantic but it’s also sleek. Yes, it’s soft, but it’s made to feel the woman wearing it feel strong. I always a try to strike a certain balance with the pieces I create.”