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Fashion designer Puey Quiñones discourses on his history and future

By Rey Robes Ilagan
Images by Noel Pabalate

Puey Quiñones is back. After a long absence, the esteemed fashion designer, whose dramatic gowns and largerthan-life designs once ruled Manila fashion shows and red carpets, has returned to set up his new atelier and custommade bridal business called Coco Melody.


Puey Quiñones

The designer’s latest couture collection was a celebration of his undying love for fashion and craftsmanship, with an ode to longtime colleague and friend, Sari Yap. “My Mega Fashion Week collection was a tribute to her,” Puey said during an interview in his Makati abode. “I remember she visited Los Angeles back in 2018 and said she missed my aesthetic. We got to talk, and she suggested a show that went back to my DNA. And so I did.”

Filled with his signature avantgarde silhouettes and billowy yet structured draping, Puey’s collection is reminiscent of his offerings from seasons past, this time updated with a new inspiration. The designer’s longstanding style stemmed from a dramatically monastic aesthetic, which made him stand out from the rest. Coco Chanel once said, “In order to be irreplaceable, one must be different.” Indeed, no one has replaced Puey Quiñones’ vision of fashion, even among today’s generation of stellar designers.


Puey with Paul Martineau

Currently shuttling between Los Angeles and Manila in the past year, Puey has been traveling with life partner Paul Martineau, who also manages their business. During a recent trip, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle chatted with the designer about his new fashion collections and impending return to the limelight.

In your latest collection, what was your inspiration?

My inspiration was Paul Martineau’s book, Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography from 1911 – 2011. It’s a different era of photographs and different designers. If you noticed in my collection, it featured different silhouettes and materials as inspired by photographs from this book. I referenced Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, and Cecil Beaton.

How has your aesthetic evolved?

I have become more conscious about wearability. When I first started, I just wanted to create, create, create. I didn’t really think about the market. Moving to the US, I understood how fashion and business should always be combined, as you fully understand your market and, at the same time, put your own aesthetic.

I want to last in the industry. I want to be able to create something that will make the brand survive and at the same time put my name out there and still be identified as Puey Quiñones. Understanding that concept and direction has changed my design.

One of the more important things is the authenticity found in one’s work. If you solely just chase the market, there will be no soul in your designs. It will be empty. When you see a dress that a designer puts his heart and soul into, however, it will radiate.


Have you seen a change in the Filipino consumer since you came back?

I think that the Filipino clientele is now more open to silhouettes. Social media did help a lot. They’re more aware of the trends, which designer is in now, and the colors being used prominently. I also think that the Filipino taste has evolved. A lot of clients now have their own stylists, and that’s something different for me.

My only disappointment now is really this new norm of clients who just approach designers as basic working seamstresses. I mean, I’m a designer first of all.


Is sustainability something you incorporate into your own design?

My goal is to stay in the industry. That’s why I have to keep evolving as a designer and as a person. You always have to be creative, and always understand your market.

I believe that we are the visionaries. We don’t follow trends because we make them. I always tell my clients that maybe you don’t understand my creation now, but maybe you will in the future. I always want to create something that is new.

Sustainability is a good thing. There are clothes that are intended to be worn and treasured. Having quality fabric is a key to what I do. That’s why I often start with draping to see how the fabric flows and folds. And that dictates, to a degree, what the clothes will look like.

One of the more important things is the authenticity found in one’s work. If you just chase the market, there will be no soul in your designs. It will be empty. When you see a dress that a designer put his heart and soul into, however, it will radiate.


What can you say about young Filipino designers today?

I think as a designer, they have to master their craft before anything. I started from nothing as a designer. I also started as a designer without social media. We, our generation of designers, worked hard for whatever we have now because we had the talent and the vision. I hope that designers today master their craft, and forward their true artistic visions.

I know it’s all about marketing nowadays, and the more followers you have the more famous you become without actually identifying your DNA. I think this is what designers are forgetting. It’s not just what you see on social media.


How did Coco Melody start?

Coco Melody started in Los Angeles back in 2015. It was a small bridal boutique where I served as creative director. The market in LA is different. Brides are very busy, so when they go to the salon, they just want to see what you have available in your showroom and then turn it to their size. There isn’t much of designing.

There are different levels of bridal experience, either it’s very high with you being the only client, or low wherein you have racks and racks of gowns to choose from with just a salesperson attending to you. Coco Melody is somewhere in between. It gave the American market a luxury experience for a middle-priced gown.


Why setup Coco Melody in Manila?

We opened Coco Melody in Manila because I believe the wedding industry is big. I want to introduce a new way of finding the wedding gown of your dreams. Basically, in Manila, you meet with a designer one-on-one and start from there. But now we live in a generation where everyone is busy with no time to really go back and forth with the designer.

The brand is another avenue for clients to see a wide range of beautiful creations at a reasonable cost. At the same time, we are also offering that high-end experience where you meet with your designer. We also have in-house stylists who can give further consultations.


How does Coco Melody differ from other bridal shops?

Coco Melody isn’t off the rack since we still make the pieces. It takes about 60 days to make one. When it arrives we have to do the fitting and alterations. For more intricate designs, it takes 90 days and another seven days to ship. It’s very convenient for the bride and it’s easy. Our price range starts from $500 to $1500. It’s very reasonable.

What type of clientele are you looking for in Manila?

I think Coco Melody in Manila will be attracting working women aged 25 to 40. We cater to women who work in the corporate world and don’t have the time for a lot of back and forth with designers. This is why we are also open on the weekends. On weekdays, we are open until 10 p.m. | www.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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