September 2022

Filipino Identity Anchors Vogue Philippines’ First-Ever Cover Shoot

LEBY LE MORIA patchwork dress. Sharif Hamza

Fashion director, Pam Quiñones, discusses the concept behind the shoot and how The Maiden Issue reinterprets what it means to be Filipino through fashion.

Luzon. Visayas. Mindanao. These three main islands couldn’t be more different. To the untrained eye, their cities, natural wonders, and peoples all make up the fragmented narrative of what it means to be Filipino. But they also make up its tapestry.

For Vogue Philippines’ maiden issue, the team harnessed the allure of the “Pearl of the Orient” through a week-long journey through the country’s three main islands. With Sharif Hamza, a British Filipino-Egyptian photographer, and Chloe Magno, a half-Filipino and half-American model, at the helm of this issue’s lead story, Vogue Philippines delves deeper into what it means to be Filipino. 

Fashion and identity are woven throughout the entire journey. From renowned labels like Rajo Laurel to cool kid brands like Ha.Mu, the designers within the first issue bring a unique perspective of the Philippines to the international stage. What they’ve discovered is the true essence of the Philippines. We sit with Pam Quiñones, Vogue Philippines’ Fashion Director, to learn more about the cover shoot and the esteemed designers found within the feature. 

Tell us about the Pearl of the Orient concept for the cover shoot.

The story is the Filipino people as islanders and voyagers. These were the key words we were working with from the very beginning of the issue. It was only natural that we would translate this idea into the actual cover story. It represented us as Filipino people, connected by the three main islands. We wanted the cover shoot to feel like a journey for the audience. In order to do this, we had the creative team go through a journey themselves, so that it felt very authentic to the Philippines, known as the Pearl of the Orient. We put so much focus on the idea of the pearl as our starting point for the fashion story, incorporating its many facets. From this main idea, we set out to create a fashion board that comprised rounded shapes, quasi-curved edges, sculptural silhouettes, soft-graceful movements, and sea-inspired textures. These were all the visual elements we felt related to the idea of “pearl,” without having to show the pearls themselves.

Throughout the shoot, there was a story within a story. Initially, we wanted to do different stories for the cover. The main story would be the Pearl of the Orient with islanders and voyagers, while Halo-Halo was only meant to be a supplementary story that follows the journey and gives the emotion of happiness and joy from someone who comes from the Philippines, yet feels like an outlier. This individual would be coming from somewhere else, coming into our land, and feeling the joy and happiness of being in the Philippines.

This idea encapsulated the idea of “halo-halo” where all the elements are fun. This led to the idea of Chloe moving around different areas and towns, experiencing everyday Filipino activities and truly connecting to her surroundings. We wanted the Halo-Halo concept to be more colorful, more relatable, more casual, and just really fun. It was supposed to be a separate story from the cover story. However, as we were moving through the week-long shoot day by day, it just made sense. This was a proper journey—I personally haven’t done a shoot this long. As we were going along, we felt the feeling, emotion, and energy of “halo-halo.” It felt quite important to have it within the main fashion story because it says a lot about who we are as Filipinos. We wanted to share this element by merging both stories into one big journey of a cover story.

How did you approach choosing the designers?

The majority of the Filipino designers we chose are from across the board. We have established designers such as Lesley Mobo, Puey Quiñones, Michael Cinco, Ivarluski Aseron, Rajo Laurel, and Martin Bautista. We also have young and really cool designers such as Ha.Mu. Being from Mindanao, I wanted to find someone from the region to create a piece. His name is Mark Suralta Pabon, and I was very happy he was able to create a piece for us. Majority of the Filipino designers we approached were ones we knew could articulate the mood board, which they did fantastically. These are people I’ve worked with before—I knew they had the aesthetic and capability to be able to create something for the cover story. With the time frame given, there was a big challenge of time pressure. One of the things we wanted to do is put importance on archival pieces, garments that come from the past that could be exciting again. We wanted to be able to bring forth the idea that something vintage from 20 years ago could still be desirable. We have a Jeannie Goulbourn circular hoop skirt from 2005, made out of natural silk. It was was really interesting to see something from 2005 from our personal archives on our cover story. We also had international designers like the late Issey Miyake, who was able to support us with many looks. Sadly, we only shot one.

We also have Balmain, Louis Vuitton, SUNWOO, Noir Kei Ninomiya, Comme Des Garçons, and we also wanted to be able to support the Ukrainian fashion industry. We wanted to introduce them to the Filipino market, so we connected with a designer named J’amemme. There were also many names that were on our roster, but weren’t photographed including Maticevski. With the international brands, we wanted to make sure they were represented and blended in with our local designers. This elaborates on the idea of the insider and the outlier, coming from the Pearl of the Orient concept. Even with our designers, the concept shone through.

What was the overall goal of the Pearl of the Orient shoot?

I think it’s really that—to be able to communicate this idea of the Filipino people being islanders and voyagers and experiencing our journey. Not only that, but showing them what being Filipino means. It’s mainly about the notion of Filipino identity from both the insiders and the outliers—essentially Filipinos with a global perspective. That concept was encapsulated by our cover girl, Chloe Magno, and our photographer, Sharif Hamza. Both of them are Filipinos who are very much connected to their roots and very much interested with what’s going on in the Philippines. Not only that, but their lens goes beyond that. They have a wider lens on things because their perspective is very global. I felt like the blend of all of these elements made the whole story. Even as a fashion magazine, the cover story felt like it was much bigger than fashion. The actual star of the story was Filipino identity.

For these designers, was there a particular quality that they all shared?

Yes. Although they share more than one, these Filipino designers are very much connected to the Philippines and continue their narrative of Filipino identity within their brand.

In your opinion, how are they shaping the future of Philippine fashion?

I honestly think there’s a silent revolution that began when these young Filipino designers started to create their ready-to-wear brands. These labels are global in their perspective—from their sales and marketing to their social media approach. Although they are considered international in perspective, they are very much rooted in their Filipino-ness and collective identity, always finding ways to explore how to communicate and discover what it means to be Filipino. With every collection, there’s an ongoing narrative of Filipino identity that goes beyond the usual archetypes of say—a terno. We’re talking about designers being inspired by everyday Filipino objects, words, songs, and fabric. These designers are reinterpreting Filipino identity in fascinating ways. It’s quite exciting to see collection after collection from each of them. I believe that’s the future—being able to articulate and define what Filipino fashion identity means.

What makes these designers unique?

The fashion designers are quite different because their business structures are focused on custom and made to order pieces. Their identity is embedded in their unique design principles, techniques, and so on. However, what stood out the most was their communication. There was an overarching theme of questioning their own identity. For example, take the Halo-Halo bag—a play on the northern Luzon fabrics found here in the Philippines. It’s created in a way that is Filipino, yet not. It’s a suggestion of a Filipino idea. Take Araw as well. The Filipino identity comes from the fact that their aesthetic is very tropical, handcrafted by Filipino artisans. They are all different in a way, but there is this ongoing questioning of their Filipino identity which is very apparent if you follow their brands.

Do you think that emerging brands questioning their Filipino identity is a reflection of the times?

Definitely. There is a big move towards hyper-localization as a global trend. I feel that designers are always trying to find something unique to create, to produce, and to show. I believe to be truly original is to know oneself, and I think that’s what everyone is challenged with. But challenged in a very exciting way, because a lot of our young designers are starting to feel that this is [uncharted] territory. It’s very exciting to flesh out different facets and narratives of what it means to be Filipino. Although I’ve been in this industry for almost twenty years, I’m only seeing this in the past five to eight years. There’s really this movement to reconnect, reunite with your roots, and really be proud of what is Filipino—beyond the usual fashion element of piña and terno that we’re known for. So beyond that, there are so many other things that could potentially mean Filipino fashion identity. When people ask what the Filipino aesthetic and identity is, it’s quite difficult to articulate. We have a feeling of what it is, but you just can’t articulate it. Due to social media, we are becoming more open-minded and we are beginning to create a global perspective. We are starting to look at things with wide eyes. With this move towards hyper-localization, Filipino designers are already primed for it. We are very much aware of what is happening globally and now it’s our time to really get to know who we are and what we can do. From this outwardly way of looking at things, we can now look more inwards.

This is also a personal journey for me in fashion that I can really connect to. I feel that I’m starting to become really in tune with what my personal style is and this is because it’s very much connected to me being a Filipino. This journey is the same with fashion brands. It’s essential to get to a point where we can identify and define what Filipino fashion identity is. [What] does it look like? How does it feel? And I think the goal is, and this is such a claim, but I think Vogue will be the thesis that will answer that question.

How did you put your spin on it?

As a stylist, I am very wary of things that could date easily. I lean towards things that are timeless, and potentially could be timeless. My spin on it was making sure that this image could still be relevant ten years from now. In 2032, it could still run and be printed in Vogue. That usually informs my styling aesthetic. I always make sure what I create is timeless, graceful, and feels very desirable.

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