CIAO BELLA! – Nine Lives by Mikko Mahinay

I remembered I once told a friend that being out of style these days is simply impossible– with the surge of offshore brands settling in our homeland turf, with the existing & established local brands that do not fall short of impressive design and quality that can compete and battle it out on sales; and even SME’s such as online shops or even tiangge’s who have (to some extent, annoying when they tag you and 100 other people you don’t know of) used Facebook and Instagram as a communication tool with even lower prices. During high school, I recall that I’d excitingly use savings from my daily meal allowance only during

trips to Manila just so I could shop there- which was then the only retail mecca in the Philippines to get better clothing back in the heyday. Even the access to outfit inspirations in the era of globalization has become viable with the help of LookBook, Pinterest, and heck even Google and Instagram (thank God for the internet) rivaling and further adding a much farther mileage, and even daily sartorial updates putting behind the days when we would have to wait for a month or more to see which pieces were out through only television, movies and magazines as the mediums to showcase them.


How the fashion scene has grown and is a far cry of what was once a privilege to those who were eager to shell out cash for clothing.

Don’t get me wrong- this surge of retail capitalism could be overwhelming and the shopping habit has become a challenge, both mentally and financially, with the visibility of highly-commercialized ready-to-wear. A trick I’ve learned in personal style that doesn’t put the cold hard cash I’ve lost several hours of sleep to waste is to understand where it’s supposed to go and how to go over the tempting trends: opting timeless wardrobe staples from more pricier brands, but if you really want to look more contemporary than classic by buying that silk bomber so hot one season ago (but apparently became a hit in the Philippines just recently) or any other piece that you see Kylie and Kendall wear or frequently see up on your mobile phone screens that make you double tap their photos because they’re so #onfleek- the secret is to opt for the more affordable alternative. That way, when the trend of ruffled off the shoulder tops, pastel-hued camisoles and even chokers (I recall a friend wearing a $50 choker from Zara, and my most immediate response was “Isn’t that just a piece of ribbonette that cost 10 cents a meter?”) it isn’t so painful to be disposed of once it’s no longer flavor of the month.

One of the brands I’ve recently collaborated with, Ciao Bella, is a homegrown brand that has a plethora of apparel targeted for ladies ages 13-40 years old and ranging options from t-shirts, dresses, blouses, skirts and shorts and even corporate wear to resort luxe pieces. To my surprise, and in complete honesty, the items can actually compete with most ready-to-wear lines (In my entire career as both a photographer and as a stylist, I’ve never had this many options to choose from and with the entire liberty of creative direction) and with prices as low as PhP 300, which isn’t too bad if you just want to join the bandwagon for what is “hot at the moment” or those scenarios when you need a new dress for some social event or whatsoever (and end up buying something you wouldn’t even want to wear and be photographed in more than once) but without entirely compromising quality making retail therapy cost-effective and somewhat, justifiable.

Conclusively, the most intelligent way to look stylish these days isn’t expensive- or do you need to be predictable by being becoming too classic & safe and deprive yourself of lavishing in the latest must-have pieces (as dictated by e-commerce newsletters, social media, personalities and the whole she-bangs) and you simply just need to educate yourself where your money goes, and how to cheat on style every now & then.

 Photography & Styling // Mikko Mahinay

Models // Camille Montesines & Donna Dahilan

Hair & Make-up // Keith Bryan Asok

Wardrobe // all from Ciao Bella

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