Let’s start with a backstory on my relationship with fashion and beauty.
Growing up, I never really cared about style. My photos as an awkward teenager prove this fact, immortalizing the cringe-worthy outfits and oily brace face I rocked throughout high school and college. From a small Montessori school where the only “fashion” I can get away with were my black shoes to UPLB where the staples were t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops, I just never really needed to put a lot of thought into how I presented myself to others. At the time, I already considered Havaianas fasyon and sometimes went to 7:00 a.m. classes in my pambahay. I even went through most of those years skin care- and makeup-free.
My parents, being straight-edge corporate employees, didn’t care about trends. They bought clothes because they were a necessity, not because they were pretty. My mom didn’t encourage makeup, either. “You don’t need those Tretorns even if everyone’s wearing them,” or “You don’t need makeup, you’re still young!” they would say. They never bought into any hype, only indulging my siblings and I every now and then (probably when they can’t stand our whining anymore).
Enter my first job as an Editorial Assistant at Chalk. I kid you not, I still wore puruntong shorts and flip flops to the office until I realized they weren’t going to fly. Of course, I had to look the part of a magazine writer and editor! Thankfully, as I worked my way up the staff box of the college lifestyle title, I immersed myself and was exposed to so much fashion and beauty. It was a crash course on all things style, if you will. With fashion and beauty editors, stylists, and makeup artists as my mentors, I learned all about brands – local and international, high to low, best and worst, you name it. At first, it pressured me to fit in; eventually, about eight years, it inspired me to just grow into my own.
Two years, total of 10, and a career change later, I’m still not the most stylish of them all – I don’t think I’ll ever be – but I can now say with confidence that I’ve grown out of the awkward I’m-still-figuring-out-my-look phase. It took a while, but I’d like to think it’s over. (Praise be!)
Through many hits and misses, I’ve also developed a strong opinion on what’s worth spending my hard-earned money on. I’ve recently begun to practice a “Local First” mindset when it comes to shopping, thanks to my current job for a travel company. While I still have my favorite foreign brands, I do look for more “local secrets and hidden gems” now, choosing to splurge in support of Filipino companies and entrepreneurs as my way of mindfully spending moolah. It’s pretty awesome that I get to find unique products that don’t look like everyone else’s, too. The goal is to pay more attention to what small businesses and Filipino entrepreneurs have to offer whenever possible.
If you’re on the lookout for local, too, here’s a list of my recommended and wish-listed homegrown brands!
I don’t wear t-shirts, jeans, and flip flops anymore, but most of the tees left in my closet are either concert merch or Nick Automatic. A Cebu-based streetwear brand I discovered from friends, the brand has grown from their signature doodle-like prints to eye-catching logo tees as well as a full line of hoodies, caps, and more. Available at The No Good Crew, 2/F Wharf Plaza, Aurora Blvd., Quezon City. To shop online, log on to nickautomatic.me.
My go-to for trendy pieces that don’t break the bank, Copper’s collections always have something for every kind of girl. A lot of pieces get sold out quickly, so I make it a point to look out for fresh drops monthly. Tip: If you like a particular item, snag it the first time you see it. With Copper, think “buy now or cry later.”
One of my favorite local designers, RJ Santos, is amazing at translating art and pop culture into clothing. After buying my first Randolf piece (a Grace Coddington cropped button-down shirt), I’ve always been on the lookout for what he designs next. RJ has also successfully shown collections in Amazon Tokyo Fashion Week, proving just how amazing his work is! Shop online at randolfclothing.com.
Anyone who knows me knows I wear black all the time, and I only play around with “color” if I really like certain pieces of clothing. Most of my exceptions in the past year have come from Meraki Bowy, a brand that speaks to the romantic in me with their beautiful neutrals and feminine cuts. These are the tops I reach for when I do get tired of or can’t wear black. Shop online at merakibowy.com.
I initially learned of this swimwear brand as a magazine editor, and I’ve consistently bought new pieces when I do need to hit the beach. It’s so easy to shop even if it’s a primarily online brand because items are true to size. If you still prefer to fit it before buying, though, Eighth Mermaid is also consigned in select store locations. Available at Retail Lab, R2 Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City.
Since I started hoarding local beauty brands, the biggest standout for me has been Beach Born. I first tried their Bam Balm, which worked wonders on my often chapped lips, and I’ve so far gone through bottles of their Witch Hazel Wash, Witch Hazel Healing Toner, and bars of shampoo and conditioner. They’ve all been super worth it. Shop online at beachborn.ph.
Simoy ng Haraya
Possibly the most low-key brand on this list, I discovered Simoy ng Haraya’s fragrances while randomly browsing in Common Room where they’re consigned. I immediately bought bottles of Yakap and Alon, and have since given other scents as gifts. Available at Common Room, R2 Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City. Shop online at simoyngharaya.com.
Stuff By Serena
Since discovering their tanning oil, I’ve never used anything else to get my morena glow on. Their Badera Jumpsuit is also a staple in my beach bag. I love how they support the zero-waste lifestyle and create ocean-safe products that allow me (in a small way) to do my part for the environment. Available at Hey Kessy!, UG/F, New Wing, Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa City.
Another go-to for locally produced beauty staples, Human Nature has the gentlest formulations and widest range of natural beauty products I know. My sister swears by their personal care line, and I share her love for them. On rotation in my vanity table right now is their 100% Natural Body Butter in Berry Bliss because I can’t live without lotion. The best thing about it is I can easily find them in groceries and supermarkets! Shop online at humanheartnature.com.
Happy Skin Cosmetics
I’ve tried many local makeup brands, but Happy Skin is still my No. 1. for their amazing formulas and gorgeous packaging. Since they first launched with a few products to the multi-line beauty brand they are today, I’ve stuck with them and still have a lot of favorites including the Shut Up & Kiss Me Moisturizing Matte Lippies and the Skin Perfecting Super Absorbent Charcoal Blotting Sheets. I’ve always been a huge fan of founders Rissa Mananquil-Trillo and Jacqe Yuengtian-Gutierrez, too! #FilipinaPride
There are still many more I know I haven’t tried, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them all. This list isn’t going to stay this short for long, that’s for sure!