A Tribute to Karencitta’s ‘Wonder’ Style and the New Local Labels to Love
Maria Clara whomvst? Our June cover shoot was where the “Cebuana” singer turned looks befitting the modern Filipina
For Wonder’s inaugural Pride and Independence feature, we invited award-winning recording artist Karencitta (known for ingeniously marrying together pop, hip-hop and––get this––bisaya) to appear on our cover.
It was high time, we thought, that Pinoy pride was interpreted differently. This time, an acknowledgment of the old school, a humble introduction of the new school and the healthy premise of challenging tradition. Karencitta did that with her music and on the set for Wonder’s June cover shoot. Captured by Andrea Beldua, this gave nods to Maria Clara, reimagining the feminine ideal. Makeup by Oriel Carbonilla was understated yet show-stopping. Hair by Brix Batalla was a lesson in finesse. The fashion, last but not least, was a liberal take on the Filipiñiana rebooted. It was all about easy-does-it dressing that embraced a little sensuality. (The modern-day Filipina can have it all if she wants it all, no?)
An unapologetic thigh-high slit here, the dynamic layering of sheer pieces there and power-dressing-meets-the-Barong-Tagalog somewhere in between, the most important of styling notes here was to ensure the “BamBamBam” singer flaunted looks by an all-Filipino designer lineup, too.
Don’t just get Karencitta’s look; get to know the promising local labels that brought her cover shoot style to life. Scroll through to get acquainted with the homegrown talents on the rise that give ‘Pride and Independence’ another meaning.
Fashion designer Steph Verano is as well-learned as they come. After completing her bachelor’s degree at the Ateneo de Manila University, she pursued a career in fashion by taking classes at the SoFA Design Institute and accomplishing certificate courses at Slim’s Fashion and Arts School. Further broadening her perspective, Verano continued her studies in ESMOD International in Paris and would later go on to intern with Leonard, Coralie Marabelle, La Prestic Ouiston and Vetements.
Today, Verano is laser-focused on establishing her eponymous label. “[Steph Verano is a] brand that tries to balance both the feminine and masculine. It’s subtly playful and slightly irreverent, partly experimental, partly traditional,” she shares. “I registered the business in August of 2017 but showcased a sort of trial and first collection in July of 2018 online. The brand is still in the process of establishing its roots, figuring out the market and building identity.”
Gray lapel skirt, STEPH VERANO, gray trainers, ADIDAS ORIGINALS. Photo Andrea Beldua
To date, Verano has already created two ready-to-wear collections along with a Gala collection (her most recent release) that focuses more on evening and occasion wear. “I’m trying to see whether there’s a demand abroad or if it’s better to try and cater to local tastes and inclinations,” she continues. While custom orders weren’t originally in the cards for the Steph Verano brand, this turned out to be something of an opportunity. “I initially intended to make pieces only as samples so that potential customers have an idea of what I can do and offer,” explains Verano. “But I’m totally game [for] all sorts of projects and collaborations.”
Shop Steph Verano through her official website. and follow her on Facebook and Instagram. Inquire, place an order or schedule an appointment at her studio in BF Homes, Parañaque City, through firstname.lastname@example.org.
A brand by another promising talent from SoFA Design Institute, O’EL was founded by Noelle Llave, who got her start in the industry in 2009 as a styling intern and, later on, a freelance fashion designer. “It was only in 2011 where I [began] designing accessories,” shares Llave, who originally took the Fashion Design and Merchandising track. “It was a gift of grace or, one would say, a happy accident.” It was through a commissioned collection that required custom accessories that O’EL was born.
Gray lapel skirt, STEPH VERANO, the ‘Dreamer’ clip-on earring, O’EL. Photo Andrea Beldua
What started out as a one-woman team has now bloomed into a full-fledged independent business, commissioning local suppliers in the process. “I launched my first collection For O’EL in August of 2016 and it consisted only of a few neckpieces and earrings,” says Llave. “My mom has since joined me as my business partner and our product mix now also consists of ladies’ handbags and a few home decors.”
At the heart of O’EL is innovation going hand-in-hand with a sense of fun and adventure. Llave says: “The O’EL woman is confident; she’s a forward thinker, a gamechanger, a woman who is not only fashion-savvy but also supports handmade products.”
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The youngest talent in the lineup, fresh graduate Emj Uson spent his last term as a fashion design student simultaneously assisting at cover shoots as a styling apprentice. “I actually started my design journey in high school. I was always into visual arts––painting and sketching crafts––and fashion came in the latter part of all that,” he says, always open to ideas that push creative boundaries. “I found a way to merge my love for arts and fashion, so it worked out well for me in the end.”
When it comes to his budding brand’s aesthetic, Emj points to eclecticism and maximalism (think: print-on-print and plenty of color combinations). In his opinion, you can never have too much. Still, individual items from his larger-than-life debut collection make for sound stand-alone starter pieces.
Purple slip dress, EMJ USON, the ‘Brave and Dreamer’ clip-on earring, O’EL, brown faux snakeskin flat, CHARLES & KEITH. Photo Andrea Beldua
Having just finished school, Emj shares that he’s only in the early stages of putting his brand together. There’s a lot that lies ahead. “I haven’t had a proper launch of my brand, but I have launched my emj.designs page on Instagram,” he goes on to say. My baby’s [and by that, he means his brand] not that old yet, but I hope it evolves in the same way a girl becomes a woman, maturing over time.”
At Manila Fashion Festival’s ninth season, Patrick Lazol emerged as one of the most exciting designers to watch out for. With inventive detailing and eclectic yet practical pieces, Lazol has since caught the attention of celebrity stylists whose clientele include the likes of Sarah Geronimo and Gabbi Garcia. The beginning of this budding fashion career was certainly unexpected, though.
“In 2013, I was sitting behind my desk, working as a certified public accountant, thinking about doing this same work for the next 10 years,” recounts Lazol. “I found myself in a predicament because [it wasn’t the future I wanted]. So I left my day job (which was a bold move that I don’t recommend), used my savings, studied fashion and graduated in 2014.” Five years later, he would end up teaching fashion design himself alongside working as a freelance fashion designer.
Green sculptured jacket, PATRICK LAZOL. Photo Andrea Beldua
While a seasoned designer, Lazol says his aesthetic is still a work in progress. “I’m continually developing this idea on how can I convey it,” he says, describing a couture and avant-garde mix as a jumping off point. “But I always go to the idea of a school girl––a little bit playful, trying to be eclectic and inspired by contrasting and hybrid of ideas.”
Apart from a ready-to-wear line, Patrick Lazol designs bespoke pieces. Get in touch with him through email at email@example.com for more details. Follow his Instagram accounts, @patricklazol and @lazolbespoke, for updates.
Photography Andrea Beldua
Art and Art Direction Alexandra Lara
Fashion Direction and Styling Nicole Blanco Ramos
Beauty Direction Cessi Treñas
Makeup Oriel Carbonilla
Hair Brix Batalla
Shot on Location at Chroma Studio