Dubai and I make a neat fit. We’ve been together for almost two decades now, after I moved here to pursue my childhood dreams of making extravagant womenswear.
In Paris or London, a lot of the fashion is understated. But in Dubai, a lot of the women are covered up during the day, with only designer bags and shoes suggesting the hidden drama underneath. In the evening, they want to really dress up – to be extravagant and daring. It’s a haven for haute couture, and it feels like a natural home for me.
I grew up on the Filipino island of Samar, and spent my youth obsessed with Audrey Hepburn and other glamorous actresses in classic Hollywood films. I moved to Dubai in 1997 to work for Ghanati, one of the biggest couture labels then, and after a stint studying fashion at London’s Central Saint Martins College, I started my own label in 2003.
Since then, things have gone well. After establishing my lavish brand in Dubai, with an early focus on wedding gowns, I made my debut on America’s Next Top Model in 2011, the same year that I won a breakthrough award at the WGSN Global Fashion Awards in New York. That was the year I penetrated the Hollywood scene. Since then I’ve launched my own fragrance, Impalpable Dream, and last month presented my Autumn/Winter 2016 collection, “A Dream Come True”, at Paris Haute Couture Week.
People are often surprised when I describe myself as very shy. I’m scared of meeting the big stars. I was once asked backstage to meet J-Lo, who had been wearing one of my dresses, but I couldn’t. I just didn’t know what to say.
As for my national identity, I’m a very proud Filipino, but I don’t need to push it in everyone’s faces. Designers are recognized for their talent, and not for their nationality. Inside, I still feel like the boy from the Philippines who is living his dream.