Many Filipinas aspire to make it big in international modeling, but it has taken one male model to repeat what Anna Bayle achieved on the runways of Paris and New York in the 1980s.
Paolo Roldan, the subject of a recent feature on Vogue.com, continues to make waves in the United States and Europe, where he’s a regular on the runways of Givenchy, Giorgio Armani and 3.1 Phillip Lim.
He’s among the world’s top male models, and possibly the first male supermodel of Filipino descent.
At the Fall 2016 Menswear Collections, the baldheaded Roldan walked for Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Ports 1961. He also had the coveted honor of opening and closing Armani’s Menswear Spring 2016 collection in June, aside from walking for Givenchy, Michael Bastian, among others.
His current ad campaigns include Gap x GQ and the clothing brands Todd Snyder and Tatras.
In the buff
On his first year as a professional model, Roldan walked exclusively for Givenchy’s Fall 2010 collection, and starred in a campaign for the brand, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.
That same year, the 6-foot-2 Filipino-Canadian also posed for Alas and Piggott in the buff for French Vogue, catapulting the then-unknown to modeling stardom.
With various magazine covers and editorials now under his belt, Roldan, who’s in his late 30s, may be the only other Filipino model after Bayle—considered the first Asian supermodel—who can claim to have worked with the top fashion houses and industry professionals.
In her prime, the Filipina posed for the likes of Helmut Newton, Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindberg, Arthur Elgort, Peter Beard, and Thierry Mugler, among others, and first made her name on the runways of Paris, where she was muse to some of the top European designers.
“Paolo has a very strong look with his shaved head, long and lean body frame, and distinctly Asian eyes,” says Noel Manapat, who styled Roldan for his Bench campaigns. “This, coupled with his professionalism and knowledge of fashion, makes him a model that would stand generations.”
The stylist adds, “In our first shoot with him for Bench Body, one of our locations was a rooftop on a winter month. So obviously, he had to wear underwear in the coldest conditions, but he did what he had to do.”
Roldan migrated with his family to Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto in Canada, when he was nine.
The Roldans come from Navotas. The young Paolo grew up in Quezon City, and in 1999 returned to the Philippines in a bid for a career in basketball, a dream that was ended by a knee injury.
He returned to Canada and worked as fashion buyer for a menswear store.
On a buying trip to New York, his exotic good looks caught the eye of the late David Bosman, founder of Boss Models, who’s credited for popularizing the concept of male supermodels in the 1990s.
Roldan came onto the scene just when the fashion and luxury industries shifted their focus on the Asian market, with China becoming the biggest consumer of luxury goods. Consumers want to see the products they’re buying on people who look like them, thus the rise in popularity of Asian models.
In interviews, Roldan speaks of his pride for his Filipino roots. He’s invariably identified in articles as Filipino.
In 2013, he was in the Philippines to walk for the Bench Body show. The dark-skinned, avowed gym rat also shot a billboard campaign for the homegrown fashion retailer. His campaign for Bench has appeared on the pages of Monocle.
The Vogue feature on Jan. 25 lauds the Filipino model’s offbeat off-duty style—his penchant for mixing vintage with contemporary pieces, his choice footwear (boots), and his propensity for wearing jewelry.
Manapat also took note of the model’s “striking and strong sense of style… that only he could seem to put together.”
A cousin of the model, according to Manapat, also relayed a story that underscored Roldan’s natural love for fashion: Back in the day, “It was okay for Paolo to eat sardines from the can, but he would spend money to buy a nice designer shirt.”
Roldan, a self-described fashion junkie, has also been vocal about his dream of having his own clothing brand.
He likes to sketch and design, a creative family trait. It must be in his genes—the late couturier Aureo Alonzo was a great-uncle.