For a lot of women, it’s all about finding the perfect fit. This is why most of us have custom-made pieces for every occasion—weddings, balls, formal ceremonies and more. But with the recent cancelation of most of these events, it can feel like fashion is also slowing down.
Fashion designers Vania Romoff and Martin Bautista beg to differ, though. They’re here to let us know that fashion isn’t just fancy clothes but self-empowerment, expression and a way of life.
In case you’re not familiar with Romoff, she’s one of the country’s most sought-after womenswear designers based in Manila. Romantic and chic, you can see her designs via her eponymous label Vania Romoff Studio where she offers both RTW and custom-made pieces. Just this October, she launched a footwear line with chic and effortless kitten heels.
Bautista himself is an extremely flexible designer, being able to craft beautiful pieces with the most unlikely fabrics like jersey. He’s since made a name for himself as a go-to designer for celebrities, with his pieces being worn by the likes of Kathryn Bernardo.
For both Romoff and Bautista, bridal wear is a source of pride. But since the pandemic stalled the Philippine fashion industry, business has been slower than usual. Still, who says we should stop putting a ring on it?
Vania: If it’s not a big wedding, it’s now a civil wedding. Less bongga. It’s becoming a trend. I don’t know if it’s the same for you.
Martin: There’s a bit of advantage for me. ’Yung mga naghahanap ng bridalwear [for big weddings], I feel like I’m not the top choice.
Vania: I would think you still are. For me, a bulk of the bridal designer market in the Philippines has always been geared towards the more ostentatious gowns. Like the bigger ball gowns kind. think [that] at least me and you are like this niche that actually cater to brides who are simpler.
You know what? It’s so funny because before… I get a mix of brides and entourage and guests attending these events. But nowadays, it’s all parang… I would say 90 percent brides. Parang ang daming kinakasal.
Alam mo ’yon? Like ’Ber season is event season for us, right? Now, I notice that our online [store]… Like there’s more traffic? Because before we would never really sell as much online, but now, because of what’s going on nga, parang people are more inclined to, you know—
Martin: They prefer something instant.
Vania: Yeah, everything instant. Also [with] going out and [doing] fittings, you get the dress right away. Syempre naman, [people are] more wary seeing other people or going to fittings. Are you accepting fittings in your studio?
Martin: Very few, very few.
Vania: Same naman, pero yeah naka-full personal protective equipment (PPE). Do you have a full staff also? Kami hindi na eh.
Martin: Ngayon ako lang humaharap. The other day nga, parang “nasaan na ’yung mga manang na nagsusukat?” sabi ng isa kong bride. Sabi ko, “Oh, it’s just me for now.”
Vania: ’Di ba para less exposure din for your manangs as well. For us, we have this whole protocol syempre—especially [for] our older clients.
Martin: Yeah! ’Yung iba naman game to go to the atelier, [while] the others parang do a Zoom consultation first.
Vania: We have Zoom measurement meetings and then we do [demonstrations] on a mannequin. Sort of like “this is how you take a bust measurement.” Pero iba pa rin, kasi it’s different if you really get to see the fit and everything.
Vania: You don’t know how far this is going to stretch out or how long this is going to be and that’s one of the things that actually makes me anxious. And I have a big team that’s counting on me, so I always try to plan ahead. Since March, we’ve only released one collection. And then we just released a few designs that [have] been sitting in our studio for a while. We held back, like on that collection, ’cause it wasn’t the right time to sell occasionwear. You know, at this point, there’s so much fear. But also at the same time, we have to move forward and that doesn’t mean that we stop dressing up. What do you think?
“As creatives, it’s natural for us to have a feel of what women will need six months from now.”
Martin: As creatives, it’s natural for us to have a feel of what women will need six months from now. That’s an advantage for us, especially in this pandemic. Parang we get a sense of what they are longing for. I feel like there’s a sense of pa-excitement for them to dress up again.
Vania: Tama na with the sweatpants; tama na with the sportswear.
Martin: Parang “Oh my God, na-eexcite ako mamili ng susuotin ko para lang mag-grocery.” So parang that’s a good starting point. What more for women who appreciate beautiful clothes? Like a fantasy for them. That gives me a sense of hope.
Vania: There was a time that it was all over my Instagram feed. It was the tie-dye and I just can’t get with it.
Martin: Kay Miuccia Prada lang ’yung tie-dye. Spring/Summer 2004.
Vania: ’Di ba? Ano pa ’yung something I can’t deal with anymore?
Martin: ’Yung mga brand logos, I feel like—
Vania: I was gonna say the same thing!
Martin: Parang ’di siya mamamatay. Okay sige, gawin niyo lang iyan… pero ang daming bumibili ng mga brands, so nagsusurvive ’yung mga brands.
Vania: But isn’t that more of a street culture thing? That’s a completely different part of the industry.
Martin: But the luxury brands… sinasakyan nila ’yung—
Vania: ’Yung logo mania! It’s very ’90s though, don’t you think?
Martin: Yeah, it is very ’90s.
Vania: Are those the prevalent trends? Ano ba ’yung trend na sobrang…?
Martin: Kasi sis, alam mo ‘yan, hindi natin pwede i-let go ang big sleeves… ang ruffles… ‘Di natin sila papakawalan. Forever na ‘yan. ‘Di pwede mawala.
Vania: ‘Di naman, that’s in our DNA. Ruffles will always be there.
“Kasi sis alam mo ’yan, hindi natin pwede i-let go ang big sleeves… ang ruffles… ’Di natin sila papakawalan. Forever na ’yan. ’Di pwede mawala.”
Martin: Sis, I have a question: What do you think about our local industry? How do you think everyone is trying to move on?
Vania: From what I’ve seen, people are still selling protective wear. But outside of the local fashion industry, I still see that things are moving.
Martin: For me, it’s the time to figure out what to release this holiday. Will people be [having] parties? May Noche Buena ba tayo?
Vania: For the local industry, I hope that it brings us closer together and that we all help each other through this. The local fashion industry is actually really small. The more we talk about how to work things out or how to help each other, the better we’ll come out of it.
Martin: We could be more united.
“The more we talk about how to work things out or how to help each other, the better we’ll come out of it.”
Story by Lia delos Reyes
Creative direction by Nimu Muallam
Art direction by Neal Alday and Tricia Guevara
Produced by Lia delos Reyes and Amrie Cruz
Video by Argyl Leones
Assisted by Nadine Halili, Zofiya Acosta, Alexa Cruz and Michael Yabut