Upon walking into Stephanie Kienle-Gonzalez’s tastefully decorated apartment, all I could think was sometimes, it’s good to be Stephanie. Tuckedin an exclusive neighborhood with a stellar view of the city from thirty-plus stories above the ground. My photographer and I are led into the living room by one of their house staff, where we settle comfortably on the white leather couch, marveling at the interiors and the furniture. “Family business,” I remind him. Stephanie is after all the head of sales and maketing of Philux, one of the premier furniture manufacturers and retials in the country.
Minutes later, Stephanie emerges from the master bedroom, clad in a silk robe. We shake hands and quickly get to work. She leads me into her walk-in closet, (I basically had a mini-heart attack the second I walked in) and starts whipping out an impressive selection of clothes, accessories, bags, and shoes for the imminent photo shoot.
When it comes to dressing, striking a balance between sophistication and having fun is actually trickier than it sounds. Yet, Stephanie is a total ace at it. In fact, her wardrobe consists of pieces that belong to opposite ends of the fashion spectrum that would make Carrie Bradshaw proud. A minimalist suit jacket? Check. Animal prints, florals? Check. Fringe, feathers? Check. A denim jumpsuit? Check. Clearly, this woman is not afraid to break the rules and she looks damn well good doing it.
Following the photo shoot, I sat down with her for the standard one-on-one interview to see what it’s really like to step into her (designer) shoes these days.
What’s keeping you busy?
We have a showroom opening in Shangri-La at the Fort, a new concept called Philux home, which is something we’re quite excited about as we’re partnering with some local consignors for smaller accessories to complement our furniture. [We also have] other marketing campaigns that we’re working on for later this year. So, that’s taking up a big, big chunk of my time. The first half of the year was also busy because I [attended] lot of weddings, which was something that was really fun—and surprisingly, all around the world! I ended up going to Colombia, France, and Palawan. It was definitely a fun and love-filled first half of the year. I’m also busy being a mom—I guess that’s a full-time job as well.
Describe your approach to style
I think it’s very linked to my daily activity or what I have to do for the day. I try my best to dress appropriately for the occasion. There are days when I’m in the factory, at least three times a week, and I need to dress down, wear something easy and flexible, but then sometimes I meet clients later in the afternoon. So I just need to just find a way to wear something that I can dress up with a nice pair of shoes later on in the afternoon. It also depends on my mood. I’m not the type that thinks too much about an outfit unless I go traveling. That’s when I put a little bit more thought into it because you know, you need to consider the weather and the occasion as well.
Do you have any style rules you follow?
I think always go with your gut feeling and feel free to break the rules sometimes. A couple of years ago I probably would’ve told myself I’d never wear print on print, and nowadays , I’d do it sometimes, you know? I think that your style evolves as you evolve as a person, so there shouldn’t be any strict rules that you’ll impose on yourself forever. You’ll never know. But one thing I know is that jeans and a white polo shirt will never go out of style.
What are your shopping habits?
They are…inconsistent! But they exist! I enjoy shopping but I have fewer and fewer hours in the day left for shopping. I don’t have much time for it nowadays. I enjoy shopping more when I travel. It’s something [else when] you stumble upon a piece instead of searching for it online. I think there’s something more spontaneous and fun about it.
Would you say you’re an impulse shopper?
I don’t know if it’s impulse, but if it’s something that I fall in love with right away, then why not? If they’re more investment pieces, then obviously you spend a bit more time thinking about whether it’s something that’ll stay in your closet [and will] use for a long time.
What was the last best thing that you bought?
Will it count if it’s something for my daughter? (Laughs) It’s so funny, shopping, a lot of times, is a very selfish thing. But as a mom, when I walk around, I don’t only think of myself. I think about [my daughter], and my hubby, and I also think for the home. I think the latest thing I got excited about was a cute pair of shoes for [my daughter] Andrea, and beautiful throw pillows for our home.
How about the worst—something you regretted buying?
The latest one? I’m not gonna mention what it is, but a lot of times it’s driven by peer pressure or when someone says, “Oh, it’s really nice on you, it looks really good,” and you’re put in that position where you think you want it, but realize that it was just a superfluous buy. At the end of the day, you just have to know who you are, and say, “This is not me—and this is me,’ and decide from there.
Which brand is your latest discovery?
My latest discovery is something I don’t want to share! (Laughs) It’s a brand from Melbourne, which I absolutely love and it’s not here [in the Philippines] yet. So, that’s to be disclosed at another time!
What type of clothing do you invest in?
I used to have fun and invest in beautiful high heels, and I still enjoy that. But I realized, given my schedule and my day-to-day activities, I wear my day shoes more than my eveningwear shoes. I’ve been shifting that and investing in nicer day shoes, with a lower heel, not as sexy but still something stylish and chic that I can dress up and [is] functional, that can just take me [from] day to night.
Clothes that you scrimp on?
I scrimp on basics. I don’t know why! Because I always say, “A white shirt is a white shirt,” and I can wear it a lot of different ways. But more and more, comfort and material is important to me. Just recently, my motto has been “Buy fewer, but better,” and really pay attention to material and comfort because I notice that the pieces that I’m not as comfortable in, I tend to wear less.
Who are your favorite local and international designers?
I have a couple of [local] designers who have become good friends of mine in the industry. Rajo Laurel is one of them, Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguezis another one, I’m a big fan of Bea Valdes as well—I love her embellished clutches. So many designers! I don’t have enough time or events to explore all of them and I wish, eventually, I would be able to. In terms of international, I don’t really have a particular one. I’m a visual person, so I don’t necessarily go to particular designers, I prefer just looking at different pieces then falling in love with a particular piece and be like, “Oh, it’s from this designer.’ I don’t shop in the way wherein I look for designers first—it’s more of like the piece that’ll speak out to me the most.
Nowadays, thanks―or no thanks―to social media, you really get to see so much out there. It’s actually really overwhelming, the amount of information you see, so you can discover new labels really quickly, and that’s what’s nice. I feel like I don’t always have to go to a particular one. Sometimes you just stumble upon it online or you see it in a store, or you see it walking the streets during travel and that’s really how I like finding pieces.
Do you have any style inspirations?
My inspirations for fashion tend to come from the home first. Pretty funny, because that’s what I’m really inspired by. I’m inspired by spaces, so I follow a lot of interior designers and things like that, and based on the space I like, I see the person and then eventually discover something new. It’s mostly space-oriented I would have to say. I like Kelly Wearstler―she’s always fun, [also] Victoria Hagan. If you wanna do something really extravagant, you have Muriel Brandolini—that’s more the print on print, Sex and the City feel, Jeffrey Alan Marks for a more laidback feel. It really depends on the occasion I think, and the space inspiration.
But for fashion designers, I do love the aesthetic of you know, classic―Oscar dela Renta, Marchesa for its very embellished and very romantic feel. But there are days when I just wanna go very minimalist and keep it clean with a suit by Theory. It really depends on how I feel and the mood. But I love classic pieces, but definitely with a touch of feminine.
What is the best style advice you’ve ever received from your mom?
Oh, don’t look like a Christmas tree! (Laughs) My mom is a woman that is really very beautiful inside and out. She has managed, with age, to become morE simple and yet more elegant. She’s an inspiration to me and I hope I can be [like] that one day. Her motto is “Be who you are.” It’s nice to have fun. I’m a person who likes to have fun with clothes, and I enjoy the leopard print and the feathers from time to time. But I still keep it within ‘me’ parameters, with just that little pop. At the end of the day, I like staying classic and true to myself.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Traveling. Traveling is really something I work hard for! As a mom, traveling with my daughter is a soul-enriching activity. It’s good quality bonding, time for yourself, and time to meditate. The older I get, the more I feel like this world and its pace just increases and increases and responsibilities do so as well. And so, travel is just our time to breathe, [be at] a normal pace, and [enjoy] nice home-cooked food, local cuisines, and nature.
If you had a signature styling trick, what would it be?
Have a few go-to tops and dresses that are no-fail. When you feel ugly, you’re PMS-ing, and you’re just not feeling good at all, you have those pieces that you know, no matter what, you’ll feel beautiful in. Just put a smile on your face and it makes you even more beautiful, I think.
Here, I prefer going to [designer] ateliers, but I don’t shop much in Manila. I love Joseph―I love the materials, the trousers and everything. The other shops I really go to [are when] I travel.
Favorite vacation spot?
South Africa. It’s our retirement plan! (Laughs) It’s just a very close place to our hearts. And it’s the only place with no signal sometimes! That’s how we spent New Year’s last year. No signal for two days, and it was just really good.
Favorite dish and restaurant?
I’m a big fan of Thai food. I love People’s Palace; that’s always a go-to. I don’t go there enough but their catfish salad is amazing. My mom’s adobo is amazing. And [I always love] a good sushi place.