What drew you to hat making?
I am fascinated by period clothing, especially clothes from the 1930s when people dressed well and completed their attire with the right accessories like matching purse, gloves and hats! I was working in interior architecture for almost 15 years and was burned out so I decided to take a break from it and explore millinery. I enrolled in millinery classes as well as draping and pattern making at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). Shortly after, I started working as a volunteer for a chamber ballet company in New York City. I constructed, repaired and then later designed costumes for holiday shows at Carnegie Hall. As you can see, I love working with my hands and construction. I have since gone back to interior architecture while still making hats. I design and build costumes when I have free time but it’s something I want to eventually do more of.
Why the move to New York? What were you working on in the Philippines before the move?
I worked as a draftsman in an architectural firm—I majored in architecture at UST—and was bored, so I started a clothing business. While it was fun designing for and running a clothing business, there was still a creative itch that had me yearning for more fulfilling challenges. When my eldest brother gave me a Parsons School of Design catalogue and said I should study Interior Design, that was a significant inflection point in my life. I knew that studying design, in one of the major epicenters of creativity, New York City, was my true calling. I moved to New York in September 1995 and started working in 1996. It’s been 23 years but every day still seems to be the first, overflowing with creative challenges and certainly opportunities. Manila is still home so I go home when work schedule will allow it. It’s a balancing act that can be tiring but I get the best of both worlds so there are no complaints.
Tell us about your plans for Arte Fino 2018.
I am excited about my Artefino 2108 collection because I am using indigenous buntal straw crafted by our very own talented women weavers. Some of the hats are dyed using indigo dye which we also produce in the Philippines. I always believed in Filipino craftmanship and I hope I can share what I’ve learned in New York and from my travels to make our products and design better and truly world-class. I will be bringing my #sumbrerobuntal Collection to New York soon. We are so talented it’s time to show off our work!