PIPOL: How Nadine Lustre’s stylist started, thrived in the business
Joanna Garcia was in high school when Multiply was the hip social network for Filipino millennials. Much like Facebook today, Multiply allowed uploading photos in bulk, to create albums of “barkada” hangouts or vanity snaps.
But Joanna found another, more productive use for her Multiply account — online selling. Her albums were not just for personal updates; they also became a catalog of sorts, where a photo of an outfit was captioned with its price.
The move wasn’t out of financial need, or to set out as a young entrepreneur. It was more of a hobby for Joanna, an outlet for her then-budding interest in fashion.
Drawn to “branded” clothes at the time, Joanna had to settle for what closely resembled them instead, as what was left of her allowance as a student wasn’t nearly enough to buy signature pieces.
“Bumibili ako ng clothes sa ukay-ukay… Nagsasama-sama ako ng iba-ibang pieces together to create a look, tapos nabebenta ko siya nang mas mahal. Na-realize ko na, ‘Wow, sobrang na-e-enjoy ko ‘to,’” she recalls.
Joanna wasn’t aware of it then, but matching colors, patterns, and cuts to form a cohesive outfit partly comprised what would become her profession years later — a fashion stylist to celebrities.
“I've always wanted to work in fashion, but I didn't know where to start, or what to be,” she says.
After graduating from college, Joanna applied for teaching jobs — she had a degree in Education — but also sent her resume to different fashion brands and one celebrity stylist.
“Hindi ko pa talaga alam kung ano 'yung gusto kong gawin, so sabi ko, ‘I'll just go with what feels right for me.’ And that felt right for me,” she says.
Joanna eventually landed a job under Rex Atienza, co-founder of styling services company StyeList, Inc. She credits him as her mentor, from whom she “learned the ropes and ins and outs of the business.”
As a neophyte stylist, Joanna was assigned to cater to several clients, which meant keeping up with the pace of each star’s everday commitments.
She illustrates: “Imagine, isang artista, 'yung schedule no'n, sobrang packed na. What if pagsabay-sabayin mo 'tong mga artistang 'to, tapos ipagsama-sama mo 'yung five-day schedule nila?”
Sourcing outfits and bringing them to each client were spread throughout the day, sometimes until late. Down time came sparingly, and Joanna had to start the next day at 3 a.m., having been assigned to a morning show host at one point.
“Actually, my boss would make me go home early — ‘Sige, pahinga ka na after.’ But I would insist on joining the other shoots that day, because I really, really wanted to learn... Gusto ko talaga 'tong industry na ‘to, so ‘yon, kinaya ko siya!” she says.
During her time with Atienza, Joanna styled the likes of Luis Manzano, Billy Crawford, Marian Rivera, Maja Salvador, and Amy Perez.
After four years as an assistant stylist, Joanna sought new opportunities. In 2015, she sent Viva Artists Agency an e-mail offering to style its talents.
She got a reply sooner than she had anticipated, and only weeks later came face to face with her first client as a solo stylist— Nadine Lustre, one of Viva’s rising stars at the time.
Lustre, now a bona fide superstar, had just started her debut teleserye, ABS-CBN’s “On the Wings of Love,” with her onscreen partner and now-boyfriend James Reid.
“Doon actually nag-start na dumami pa 'yung mga pagsasamahan namin,” says Joanna, who to this day, remains Lustre’s stylist.
She describes Lustre as a “free spirit and a risk-taker” — evident in her unique and sometimes revealing sartorial choices, which pull away from traditional expectations of a leading lady identified with a “love team.”
“Ang daming nakapansin ng style evolution niya, kasi that was the time na she was like a sweet girl, evolving into a fashion-forward lady,” she says.
Joanna’s celebrity clients also now include James Reid, Yassi Pressman, Coleen Garcia, Kylie Verzosa, Mari Jasmine, and Maureen Wroblewitz, among others.
Carrying still what she learned from Atienza, Joanna considers herself a “technical” stylist, taking careful consideration of the cuts, colors, and fit of an outfit.
Those are on top of coming up with a look that melds different and sometimes contrasting demands, from the artist, her management, and an external party such as a brand which the artist is endorsing. An additional layer is whether the styling is for an event, a TV commercial, or a role in a teleserye.
“Dapat confident and comfortable ang artista,” Joanna says of her foremest rule in styling. “Kasi, kung hindi siya komportable sa suot niya, hindi siya makakapagtrabaho nang maayos. For example, we're preparing for a ball or a big event — dapat she’ll feel more confident and happy, na parang, ‘Ay, ang ganda ko!’”
This is especially true for big formal functions, such as the highly anticipated ABS-CBN Ball, Joanna points out. For the September 29 event, regarded as the biggest gathering of stars in local showbiz, Joanna is styling both Yassi Pressman and Yam Concepcion.
She explains that finalizing a star’s look for a grand event is a long process of collaboration, often involving a big “glam team.”
“Hindi lang kasi ‘yun about the dress, e. It’s also about the makeup, it’s also about the hair. Minsan, it’s about the little details like the clutch, the nails. ‘Yung lahat na ‘yan, napag-uusapan namin lahat ‘yan,” she says.
Expected to be seen by millions through social media, the ABS-CBN Ball, for Joanna, is the latest big opportunity to showcase her capability as a fashion stylist.
Her work is no longer confined to a Multiply album of styled ukay-ukay finds; it now goes far and wide in the age of “viral,” on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — with no less than primetime stars donning her taste.
“You're only as good as your last work,” Joanna says. “Ngayon, sa sobrang dami nang stylists, puwedeng today, meron kang trabaho, puwedeng bukas, wala ka na. So kailangan, kung anuman ang gagawin mo today, ibigay mo na 'yung best mo.”