A fabulous second chance for Puey Quiñones

IN THE early 2000s, life seemed perfect for fashion designer Puey Quiñones. A favored fashion designer of both celebrities and old-money vanguards, he sat near the top of the fashion heap during this time. His clothes were seen on television, newspapers, and magazines. But then he lay low for a while starting in 2011, before slowly coming back out of hibernation. At a show of his first collection at Rustan’s Makati, on Nov. 8, not only was he seen again, but he was bigger than before.

He was tapped as a guest designer for the 2014 edition of America’s Next Top Model. At the time he was already designing for global celebrities — his outfit was featured in singer Katy Perry’s music video for her 2013 hit “Dark Horse.” Asked about other global celebrities he has designed for, he thought for a moment and said, “Nicki Minaj,” as in the rapper and pop star.

In 2015, Mr. Quiñones’ name began to really buzz again when he assumed creative leadership of US-based bridal brand Cocomelody. Now, he has his own store in Los Angeles (where he moved during his hiatus). In 2019 he was getting ready to launch a collection on the New York Fashion Week runway, but the lockdowns of 2020 scotched that. “Hopefully, next year, we can,” he told BusinessWorld in an interview. He’s very busy: he told us that he was set to leave the country the next day for a meeting in Taipei. This while he said he had some collections on display in Kuwait.

For this collection with Rustan’s, he’s stoking a long-held dream.

Mr. Quiñones shot to fame in 2001 when he was part of the group that joined the Young Designers Competition in Paris (where he was a finalist). Designers like Dennis Lustico and Lulu Tan-Gan took him under his wing. “It’s my dream come true to be in Rustan’s,” he told BusinessWorld. Despite his long career in fashion, this is his first time to design a collection for the luxury department store. “I had a chance to talk to Donnie Tantoco (President of Rustan Commercial Corp.). We — you know — started it.”

At his fashion show at Rustan’s Makati, we saw a collection that celebrated “volume and versatility,” as the designer said. “A lot of texture,” he added. These included flared skirts under a terno top, a yellow blouse that flounced away from the body left and right and then back, and several styles of voluminous skirts, from bubble-hemmed to A-line. We saw a pleated top with the pleats forming a high collar rising to the ears, and a silver brocade set with a long back gathered up to the calves — like an 18th-century robe à la polonaise.

Of particular interest was a line of black dresses with white piping. With the right manipulation of ribbons attached to the dress, one can wear the dress four ways. This was demonstrated by having four models coming out with the same dress, then the dress tied and retied to show how it works.

The skill it took to make the collection shows the designer deserved to make it in the big leagues. His prize was displayed prominently on his new labels that mentioned his new place of work: Los Angeles.

Why did he move there in the first place? According to an article in Tatler Asia (“The Rise, Fall, & Rise of Puey Quiñones,” 2019), he had been commissioned to design for a wedding in 2011. According to the story, a photo was posted on Twitter of a jacket to be used in the wedding which showed two labels: one was from one of his brands, and the other was from a local department store. Mr. Quiñones apologized, but it wasn’t quite the same anymore.

In any case, what followed was a redemption story: the year after that mishap, a documentary was released in 2012 called The World’s Most Fashionable Prison (though Mr. Quiñones said that he worked on that in 2007). In the film he was shown teaching inmates how to make clothes. “It focuses on the inmates that I taught,” he said with some pride of the documentary.

Asked to recount the 2011 story in his own words, he declined. “I don’t want to bring that up.” He did say, “For me, the past is past. I think everyone has to move on. I don’t live in that house anymore. It’s a new home, it’s a new me.”

He softened up a bit when we asked him about the idea of second chances. “Everybody makes mistakes. As long as you stand up for it, and be brave enough to accept and change for good. It makes us more human. Humility is very important.”

He makes a good point: everybody makes mistakes, from people high-born and low. Asked how people can bounce back after making mistakes, he said, “Own it.”

“You’ll be fabulous more than ever,” he said, and our eyes darted to the rack of clothes bearing the Los Angeles address. He added, “Just do good things.” — Joseph L. Garcia


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