At 117 Aguirre St., in Legazpi Village, you’ll find Carla Sison. Almost every day, except for Mondays—her salon day—she’ll be here, manning her store Tropa, located in an airy second-floor space in an old building.
Tropa, her brainchild, is a store reminiscent of the shops I encountered on a trip a couple of years back in Silverlake in Los Angeles. Cool, laid-back, rigidly curated while seemingly loosely assembled, Tropa primarily carries local brands, like Eairth, and Carla’s own line, Áraw.
Áraw is an approximation of Carla’s style: louche basics, sexy but not obvious, with a heavy propensity for linen. Lots of linen. I’ve purchased a boxy shirt and a slim, long-ish skirt with a slit that ran up to mid thigh—both linen. It’s a fabric that works in Manila weather.
When not wearing her own label, she’s often in thrifted finds discovered at regular haunts in Makati Cinema Square or Malate, and sneakers. Her philosophy is evident from the easy lines of her wardrobe essentials, manifested in the clothes she wears daily and the special pieces she invests in.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Opening Tropa. I’m able to work with my friends to create a unique environment in the Philippines that represents what we’re doing now.
When you’re not designing/running shop, what occupies you?
I watch NBA religiously, try random exercises on Guava Pass and try to get to the beach or pool as much as possible.
You also collaborate with local brands like Eairth. What’s the appeal of a brand like Eairth?
I love brands like Eairth because they have a different take on “made in the Philippines.” It’s contemporary and ethnic at the same. It’s dyed with local ingredients, feels really raw and each piece is unique.
What brands do you currently love?
Carl Jan Cruz. His work and attention to detail is exquisite. The whole execution from the styling, branding, marketing is really his own. He’s making waves and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Toqa is such a fun take on tropical. I love its sport resort theme. Its fashion show during the Manila Biennale was so fresh and young.
I’m also obsessed with everything Vivien Ramsey, especially the coming AW18 collection. She made winter clothes so bright and exciting to wear. The shearling jacket and checkered pants are a dream.
Jacquemus has somehow made slinky clothes really playful and still respectable for ‘fashion girls’ to wear. It’s distinctly French with a breath of fresh air, which is what I would want to do with Áraw.
And Acne Studios, because those Swedes can do no wrong. It’s just weird and wonderful. They also make great use of color.
How would you define your brand for people not familiar with your work?
Áraw is a vintage-inspired line of tropical staples made in the Philippines for the Philippines. Simple but flattering to accentuate natural beauty.
Who is the girl or guy you’re designing for?
Áraw customers are stylish but not trendy. They are natural, creative, cultured. Áraw is built around basics, and the best thing about basics is that you can add your own quirks and personality to the look. When designing, I just want to make clothes that are comfortable, flattering and ageless… From there you can do with it what you wish.
What does the majority of your wardrobe look like?
It looks like a candy shop. It’s pretty much all Áraw and Áraw samples. I’ve tried things in a number of colorways, too.
How would you describe your style?
Never polished, always simple and thrown together. Menswear-influenced, so always comfortable.
Where can you often be found shopping?
Ukay-ukay in Makati Cinema Square and Malate. My wardrobe is half ukay and items from Tropa. Uniqlo for basics. Univers or Archives when I need to treat myself. I also like old sportswear, so you can find me at the outlets in Nuvali looking for older models of sneakers.
Most unexpected thing you’ve purchased?
The Jacquemus mismatch-shaped heels. I’m a very practical shopper, and though they’re low and comfortable, they’re quite special, so I can’t wear them everyday.
What will you be wearing over the summer?
Áraw. I wear it layered in winter, too.
Do you have a daily uniform? Something you turn to regularly?
Jumpsuits, for sure. They’re so easy. One and done!
Where will you be this summer?
I love a European summer, so probably around Italy and the Mediterranean.
Ideal summer vacation destinations?
Tiny islands around Italy for food and friends. Also Siargao as much as possible. The community vibe is like no other. People are a major factor.
And what will you be packing for your summer trip?
All linen everything. Apart from the obvious, I’ll be taking my Matteau swimsuits, Eairth silky underpinnings and shorts, NB 990 sneakers, floppy hat, Tropa leather visor, Pranca and Nami accessories, Katana Caban Circle bag.
Take us through your beauty regimen. What do you use daily?
I pretty much use exclusively Aesop products. The Fabulous face wash, Bitter Orange toner, Mandarin moisturizer and Parsley Seed Oil when I’m traveling and my skin gets really dry.
I can see from your Instagram you tan regularly. Two questions: What do you tan with? And where do you get your swimsuits?
I usually just use natural coconut oil. My current rotation of suits are mostly from Australia consisting of Matteau, Bamba, Scorpio and, of course, Tropa.
How do you indulge yourself?
I travel quite regularly so I usually just indulge when I’m on vacation. I like to go to the salon on Mondays, my day-off, for general upkeep.
For people who want to dress like you—stylish yet laid-back—what advice would you give?
Less is more. Don’t try too hard. Keep it simple. Always be comfortable. If your outfit is loud, tone down the makeup and accessories and vice versa. Invest in special pieces.