The rise of local designers such as Michael Cinco, Monique Lhuillier, and Veejay Floresca has proven that Filipino designs have what it takes to go global. Artistry is ingrained in the Filipino gene, so it’s only natural that the country has its own fashion brands with the allure to bring in serious stylistas.
Manileños love to indulge in retail therapy — pair that with a day of brunching or checking out some of Manila’s food parks, and you’re bound to have good times ahead. Next time you’re out shopping, keep an eye out for these Filipino brands that are bringing our domestic fashion scene to the next level.
The tropical heat is unforgiving to those draped in thick fabrics, so this brand — which uses light, breathable material — is ideal for those who want to travel all over the island without suffering from the heat. Carla Sison founded the brand after moving back to the Philippines from Europe, where she faced a problem all too common for women — she had nothing to wear.
She told fashion website Preview: “I moved here a year and a half ago from Berlin, with almost nothing suitable to the city heat and the beach. I needed to overhaul my wardrobe but found it really difficult to buy clothes that suited my style. I think from there I noticed a gap in the market and honed in on what I wanted for here.”
Check out their terno inspired tops. Similar to the traditional dress made for women, their modernized version comes with delicate butterfly sleeves that make any wearer stand out.
Los Angeles’ fashion is said to be the inspiration for this indie hit, the city where its founder, Anika Martinez, spent several years before coming home to the Philippines.
Although its roots originate from overseas, Anika’s clothes blend seamlessly in Southeast Asia’s metropolis. Martinez told Sassy Manila that there are only three types of women who wear her brand: a fuss-free feminine, a playful sophisticate, or a casual-cool advocate.
She said about her collection: “I love to create ‘elevated essentials,’ pieces that every woman should own in their closet and could wear all year round on heavy rotation; i.e., a crepe camisole with interesting side tie details or a deep-V tank with an X-strap detail. I love to keep things simple, yet significant.”
Bayo has been making waves since the 1990s, and is considered a must-have in the local fashion scene. The label, known for its girlish, preppy vibe, started out as an atelier in Makati before it entered the ready-to-wear market.
With mostly timeless, classic designs, Bayo has established a foothold in the country thanks to its celebrity endorsers, most notably Broadway star Lea Salonga and UN World Food Program ambassador KC Concepcion. Now on its 26th year, the company has launched a year-long campaign called Fashion Fiesta, featuring “wearable, classic, versatile pieces” which “reinvent the aesthetics of each Philippine festival.”
Boom Sason Quick Custom RTW
Italian-educated designer Sason’s maillots and bikinis have long been a favorite of Filipino celebrities, so her decision to establish an RTW arm was met with positive reception.
Don’t fret, though — the designer says that she does not just make her suits with the celeb body type in mind. In an interview with FemaleNetwork, she said: “I want them [women] to understand [that] I make swimwear and clothes for all shapes and sizes because I want them to feel empowered. I want them to really love whatever body they’re in.”
Sason’s online store ships worldwide; to purchase, all you need to do is complete an order form and send her team your measurements. You’ll be resort-ready in no time.
Street fashion is almost de rigueur in this country, which makes a brand like Copper particularly visible. The label is super popular, earning mentions in fashion sites and shopping blogs across the nation.
Started by a group of flight attendants, Copper sells belted culottes, pinstriped pants, denim skirts, and wrap tops, among others. If you’re planning to attend a hip concert or music fest, this is a good place to find pieces that will complete your #OOTD.
We always have that one dress we bought years ago that seems to never go out of style. Four Cranes aims to deliver such pieces by staying true to the classics. It eschews bold prints by sticking to a tried-and-tested formula: minimalist clothes in simple structures using lightweight fabrics.
Owned by sisters Jam and Janine Sanciangco, Four Cranes is the epitome of #locallove — it works with local craftsmen, with materials sourced within the Philippines. Try this one on for size if you want something stylish and effortless, while remaining true to its Pinoy roots.
With stores across the country, Jakarta, and South Korea, as well as shipping options to Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Harlan+Holden has become one of the more successful Filipino brands to emerge recently.
Owned by former public relations maven Mia San Agustin and Eman Pineda, it offers clothes with a relaxed style and comfy fit. Think corporate outfits using feminine, free-flowing fabrics.
San Agustin explained the brand’s aesthetic in an interview with Preview: “[We] make sure our clothes can be worn over and over, that they can be easily mixed and matched, that it is a go-to for travel and packing, that it does not require dry-cleaning, nor prone to creases. So our starting point are these ‘lifestyle guidelines’ and we develop each piece with the aim to answer the criteria listed above.”
Kaayo Modern Mindanao
The Mindanao region has hogged international headlines for the past few decades due to various internal conflicts, but it deserves to be known for also being home to some of the country’s most talented artisans. Kaayo (meaning “kindness”) aims to showcase a different side of Mindanao by selling pieces using traditional weaves made by the region’s people.
Established in 2017 by Marga Montemayor Nograles and her mother Mary Ann Montemayor, Kaayo supports weavers from the T’boli tribe of South Cotabato, the Bagobo-Tagabawa of Mount Apo as well as Mindanao-based designers and sewers. It aims to marry “tradition and trends to come up with bespoke pieces that are truly Mindanao, bringing honor to the tribes and [to] Philippine culture.”
Describing itself as “hip, youthful, and active,” Kamiseta is one of the first local RTW brands that worked with foreign endorsers instead of Filipino celebrities. Their list includes some of Hollywood’s biggest names: from ’90s It Girl Alicia Silverstone and Kate Hudson to Katie Holmes and Natalie Portman.
Kamiseta (which means “shirt” in Filipino) comes up with designs that are targeted to women from 16 to 34 years old. Its designers also abide by what it refers to as the three Cs — cool, casual classics.
From plaids to florals, Kamiseta has a good selection of pieces suitable for women wanting to look put together in the unbearable tropical heat without going overboard.
With clothes that would make any young fashionista sit up and take notice, Neon Island is one of those local brands whose success is tied to its celebrity connections. One of its founders, Chi Gibbs, is the daughter of singer Janno Gibbs and actress Bing Loyzaga. At the same time, one of the brand’s more ardent supporters is actress Denise Laurel, Gibbs’ childhood friend.
Neon Island markets clothes marked by bright splashes of color and hand-drawn prints inspired by Filipino culture. The brand works with emerging designers and offers only limited collections, ranging from swimwear to sweaters. So, with these threads — perhaps you’ll never again live the horror of running into someone wearing the same outfit as you.
The brand even bills itself as the one to go to “when you start getting tired of H&M and Gap.” Oooooh, snap.
Owned by Paloma Urquijo Zobel, this homegrown label showcases pieces made of inabel (Ilocano handwoven looms), which were created in an artisan village in El Nido, Palawan that Zobel’s family owns called Kalye Artisano.
A member of one of the country’s most prominent families, Zobel went home to the country after pursuing her graduate degree in London buoyed by the resurgence in the interest for local crafts.
She tells Philippine Tatler: “Our long-term goal is to create a movement where traditional Filipino arts will be reinstated to a level of importance where they once were. Obviously this is a big aspiration but its something that keeps us motivated and working hard every day.”
Local lingerie brands are hard to come by. Given how important comfort and fit are in this category, it’s odd to see that we haven’t had more domestic labels popping up to tailor to Filipina body types. And that’s precisely why Sefra got started, and has attracted all the press attention it’s gotten since its establishment.
The label, which ships worldwide, sells see-through bralettes, panties, and teddies. They also offer accessories such as chokers and earrings.
Susto The Label
Previously offering cocktail dresses and formal wear, Susto now has entered public consciousness by offering “modern and edgy” pieces — flowing midi dresses, light blazers, clean-silhouetted jumpsuits, and the like.
Susto owes much of its success to Micah del Rosario, who took over the company from her mother and uncle right after her college graduation. In some ways, it’s not a surprising feat — she comes from a family of retailers, stylists, and makeup artists.
She aims to create products that can be worn for years to come. As she said to teen website Candy: “We draw inspiration from the classics and reinvent them to create fashion pieces that reflect the now, but are still forever wearable. We take pride in our aesthetic attention to detail in our tailoring and materials to develop pieces that are timeless and ideal.”
Two Chic Manila
It’s relatively pricier than other Filipino RTW brands, but Two Chic Manila delivers the pieces that are design-driven and far from minimalist. Case in point: their Amina Maxi Denim, a floor-grazing off-shoulder dress accented with white embroidery and the Mirella Corset Top, a figure-hugging orange gingham top with floral applique.
Two Chic was founded by sisters: one is TC Alvarez-Sibal, a former New York City-based designer for Natori who decided to return to the Philippines to establish her own label. Together with her sibling Ana Alvarez-Laygo, who manages the financial side of the business, Sibal established a brand that offers what they describe as “everyday luxury.”
Another brand riding the minimalist trend is Undo. Aside from the clean, flowy midi dresses and well-structured pants and blazers, check out some of their resort wear — the perfect attire if you ever find yourself decompressing in one of the country’s numerous Zen-like resorts. Pair your OOTD with one of their earrings and you’re Instagram-ready.
Owned by designer Kyla Zuñiga, Undo has shops in Quezon City and Makati, but if you’re currently based outside of the country, don’t fret — they ship worldwide too.