As much as we hate to admit it, streetwear is a little bit of a boys' game. Brands like Off-White and Supreme were founded by men, and male influencers continue to make their mark in the scene. This is why Asia Coronel's presence is so refreshing—the Filipina designer created her own streetwear brand, Romances, and has started to dip her toes into high fashion via her namesake evening wear brand.
In an email interview with Cosmopolitan Philippines, Asia talked about common streetwear misconceptions, how she cultivated her brand, and where she's heading next.
On her streetwear brand, Romances:
When did you know that you wanted a career in fashion?
I've been sketching since I was in 7th grade, and that led me to my passion. I was never the academic type and was always more creative.
Have you always been interested in fashion design?
Yes, since I was a kid. My grandmother dressed me a lot and she inspired me. She taught me a lot about fabrics that was used when she was a kid, and that led me to be interested in fashion.
Where did you study fashion design?
I studied at the SoFA Design Institute.
What would your career be like if you decided not to pursue fashion?
I’d probably be in Operations 'cause I’m strict when it comes to work.
How can you describe your brand's aesthetic for people who are unfamiliar with it?
Imagine that my client would be someone like Kate Moss and a Bjork at the same time. She listens to jazz while sipping on Cabernet Sauvignon and loves independent fashion brands. She can pull off trousers and a slip dress and look so hot. She’s a cool girl. A baby doña as I would call it.
Are there female designers or personalities in streetwear you turn to for inspiration?
Jessie Andrews. I’m mind-blown by her entrepreneurial skills. Four successful brands at the same time? That’s my goal.
Do you have style icons who you look up to?
Paloma Elsesser, because she’s classy and street at the same time.
Can you tell us how you started to craft your own brand identity?
Honestly, I’ve had my fair share of identity crises, and surrounding myself with creative people helped a lot in creating my brand identity. Listening to '50s-'70s music really inspired my branding too.
International streetwear is very trend-based. Hype is crazy once a brand launches something out of the blue. Is streetwear culture in the Philippines similar?
Yes, the demand for local releases is surprisingly great. It means people are starting to know the difference between a mall brand and an independent brand—they tend to give value to independent brands, and that’s a big contribution to the community.
What are some common misconceptions about streetwear?
I honestly hate the S word. I didn’t grow up in the streets so I can’t really can’t say much. But, I would say that it’s really just a game. And it’s either you love it or hate it. Win or lose. You’re cool, another person is cool, and whatever, you move on. It really is just a game.
Do you have any dream collaborations you want to be a part of, with either a brand, model, or fellow designer?
I would like to work with Stussy Women's and models Gonna Bogdan and Paloma Elsesser.
How different is designing streetwear for women versus designing streetwear for men?
It’s not that different. Nowadays, girls like wearing big shirts and loose pants so it's been pretty unisex.
Do you see your brand going international soon, or would you rather it stay local?
I have been working on something international. Can’t jinx it yet, but I want to put my brand out there and say “Hey, Manila is cool too, y’know.”
Can you tell us what to expect from your next collection?
Relaxed workwear for the ladies. And more classy things for Asia Coronel.
On her evening wear brand, Asia Coronel:
Many already know you based on your streetwear brand, Romances. Can you tell us more about the evening wear brand you have lined up?
Basically Asia Coronel, The Brand is my feminine character/glamorous side. The brand stays unconventional, experimental, classy, yet formal—something my grandmother would love to see me in since she’s my fashion icon.
You described one of the gowns you posted recently as "anti-bride bridal." What does this mean for your brand's aesthetic?
It means that Asia Coronel, The Brand, is edgy, yet luxurious. A customer would know the latest fashion trends and she isn't traditional.
What do you think of how unconventional evening wear can be worn in a tropical country like the Philippines?
It just really depends on choosing the right fabrics, cuts, and silhouettes that fit with the climate and still manage to look great.
*Answers have been edited for clarity.
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