Lean and sultry with full pouty lips, silky auburn hair (the mark of the Macasaet girls) and big cat’s eyes—this is the image Vida Montinola Macasaet leaves imprinted in your mind.
She was born simply this way, reed-thin with angular bone structure. And, as the more reserved one, somehow she didn’t quite fit the mold of the other Montinola girls—all raised in the sprawling family compound that occupied blocks of the old Forbes Park—who were known to be fun, attractive and pretty, always a lure for male visitors who often had difficulty choosing whom to pursue.
She owes her sense of style to her mother, Teresita. As a young girl, Vida would play “grown-up,” wearing her mother’s “muu-muus” and heels for hours on end.
“She was effortless in her manner of dressing,” Vida recalls her mother’s style, “and she sported short loose locks, unlike most women of her time who restricted themselves to buns!”
“I grew up with so much inspiration, which I drew from and which helped me become an artist.”
Her eldest sister Ria is the designer behind the R&Y Augousti brand, a house name at Barneys New York. Vida says Ria and her husband Yiouri were the first to use stingray and other skins in their furniture, bags and minaudiere lines.
“If there is anything Ria taught me, it is that a true artist stays true to his craft and fosters originality,” she says.
In the late ’80s, Vida enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, with a major in Children’s Wear Design. As a student, she modeled for the Fashion Photography class, worked as showroom model for Fashion Week and as dresser for Comme des Garçon fashion shows.
After her stint as designer of children’s wear in Outerstuff Company, she moved to Minneapolis and studied art history at the University of Minnesota. Working in an art gallery, she immersed herself in the art trade.
This served as her springboard to fashion accessory design. She handmade necklaces using self-learned techniques in hand-crochet, hand-knotting and embroidery.
In Manila, she managed the high-end Tomlinson Collection, which specialized in Chinese classical furniture, Southeast Asian home pieces and Tibetan furniture.
“I delved into and studied the history of China and immersed myself in Buddhism to understand the pieces, and to curate and conceptualize theme events and do visual merchandising,” she says.
Today, Vida concentrates on her line of accessories called camadiV, a limited collection with emphasis on beadwork and embroidery on clothes, bags, shoes and accessories.
“My signature piece is the beaded, velvet tie-cuff bracelet. I also created beaded obi belts with detachable coin purse with satin cord. I use semiprecious stones on my necklaces.”
She also finds the time to curate works of other artists and collaborate with other creative minds.
Vida’s hypersensitive nature once led to a period of depression, a time that saw her focusing on her craft as a way of expressing her feelings.
“Creating from scratch by hand-crocheting and knotting is very cathartic for me; when I am in the zone, I see the piece coming alive before my very eyes, almost like a surrender, wherein certain truths about life and the people I love are revealed to me. It brings me great joy and peace.”
Materials such as twisted silk cord, bone, horn, stone and coral are what she uses to create pieces.
It’s the process she enjoys. “It’s all about the process,” she says.
Simple but essential
Vida’s style is simple but essential. “I wear pieces that can be worn many ways. I wear the same pieces over and over until I invest in a few more. I have only three or four pairs of shoes that I wear throughout the year, until they are worn out. I can get ready in 15 minutes, tops. I use only under-eye concealer, loose face powder, mascara, and a dab of blush lipstick and lip balm. Less is more in all aspects of my life.
“I’m also a firm believer that you are what you eat, so no to meat and processed food. Taking lots of green, raw juice and doing yoga are part of my regimen. I will cook with three or five ingredients and whip up a tasty, healthy dish. I enjoy wine only if it’s a good bottle from my brother Bobby. I entertain only people whom I love and value the most, and very rarely do I even entertain, as my home is my sanctuary. My youngest sister Tessa keeps me on an even keel, nurturing a mother-and-child relationship.”
Indeed, what better way to create your own style than to curate your life until you are truly happy with how you have transformed yourself?