A small-town soul has graduated from curtains to couture, surpassing his own expectations along the way.
”Coming from a background of nothing, I constantly crave for beautiful things,” says Puey Quiñones, whose name in the Philippine fashion scene evokes draping mastery and quirky couture creations.
But Puey never thought he’d become a designer, saying, “My dream was to become a dancer, painter or teacher.” But his childhood entertainment in Samar province hinted otherwise. “I would take our house’s curtains and drape them on my sisters and myself!” he laughs. Little did he know that their playtime revelry with drapes would define, quite literally, the aesthetic and technique he’s known for.
Draping, for him, is therapeutic, and preferable to the limiting rigidity of patterns. Perhaps his lack of a formal fashion education also lends to his feeling-driven design approach. “I couldn’t afford to study in any fashion school,” he confesses, instead learning as an all-round assistant for fashion designer Dennis Lustico in Manila. “I made sure to learn something every day from his sewers – from doing buttonholes to finishing, sewing and pattern-making. And I would sketch everyday, putting my drawings on Dennis’s desk every night for him to see in the morning.” Lustico saw his potential and recommended him to Bergamo, a menswear shop specialising in suits and barongs. There he fell in love with piña (pineapple fabric), which became his trademark textile.
For his latest collection, Quiñones was inspired by penury, translating into beauty what the majority finds unlovely. “I was inspired by beggars. They fascinate me. We see them only in their dirty clothes, but I see beauty in them.” So off he went to create amorphous confections out of piña and brocade silk organza, swathing his mannequins in romanticised dreams of mendicant wear. Shades of Zoolander’s satirical Derelicte collection, perhaps, but the clothes are undeniably beautiful.
Remember his original dreams? In a sense, he’s all those things combined. His fluid, voluminously constructed designs have a terpsichorean element. Paint-bespattered fabrics have also become his trademark tribute to favorite artists Pollock and Klimt. And every Tuesday, he’s a fashion design mentor to 30-40 inmates in an outreach program in the maximum security prison in Muntinlupa. He knows the importance of giving back to a life that has blessed him greatly.