Paloma Urquijo Zobel is all about cowboy boots and island dresses
Paloma Urquijo Zobel is officially an island girl.
“Since December, I’ve been permanently based in El Nido,” she says, “with occasional trips to Manila for meetings or family functions.”
Paloma, who helms her own clothing label Piopio, is in Palawan to develop both her brand and Kalye Artisano, “a pilot concept aimed at empowering the trade of local craftsmanship and knowledge.”
Piopio, her brainchild, is a local label known for their use of heritage weaves.
“We are growing Piopio and slowly transitioning into more of a lifestyle brand,” she says. “I know that the term ‘lifestyle brand’ can be redundant, but it best describes how I want to promote and encompass a way of life and certain values. It’s not just about the final product, it’s about promoting Filipino craft and artistry, helping communities and educating people about the importance of craftsmanship.”
Kalye Artisano, which her mother Bea Zobel Jr. conceived, is an extension of that vision.
“That’s why Kalye Artisano fit so well into the plan; it was an opportunity to continue to build this cultural community I had created through Piopio into a more literal community!”
Paloma felt that the physical space was a crucial part of the experience. “It has to be functional and respect the environment it is in.”
Paloma adds, “Kalye Artisano was created for the locals and visitors alike. We want visitors to immerse themselves in the local community and we want the locals to share their knowledge and products with the visitors.”
Since moving to Palawan, she’s found a whole new way to commune with nature and the environment—which also includes learning to dress for an island setting.
How have you transitioned to life in Palawan?
To be honest, it has been a challenge. People think that life in Palawan comes with this romantic connotation of glitz and glamour, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s been an incredibly humbling and grounding experience for me.
I live 10 minutes from the Lio development where the infrastructure is still minimal. Water is a problem and so is electricity, basic utilities that I once took for granted. Your priorities change and you start to become more aware and more in touch with what you are doing. In the city, I feel I’m more on a sort of autopilot setting. But the landscape of El Nido is absolutely breathtaking and you can’t replace the feeling of being surrounded by beautiful limestone cliffs and the sea.
What’s your wardrobe selection process like?
I like things that stand out. It’s not a cry for attention, but a fun way to present myself. I also have a not-so-secret obsession with Americana and cowboys so my most prized possessions are my collection of cowboy boots and crazy jeans. Something you would see me in more often if the weather permitted.
Do you have a uniform, now that you’re most often in Palawan?
Vintage band T-shirts, jean shorts, black bathing suits and sneakers.
What’s your creative process like when it comes to designing a collection?
We are constantly discovering new techniques and weaves around the country, which we then apply to our pieces. We source fabrics first and then design the pieces around the fabrics, and not the other way around, in order to make sure we highlight the craftsmanship.
Abel Iloko or inabel is still at the heart of our collections, but we have fun mixing up the colors and designs and finding new ways to wear our local weaves. We also try to implement a zero waste policy so we find ways to use our leftover fabrics, which is why a lot of our pieces feature patchwork.
Since these are tribal weaves, with plenty of traditions associated with them, how do you modernize them while still honoring their heritage?
A big challenge for us has been a lot of discussion recently surrounding culture appropriation. My aim for Piopio is to shine a light on Filipino culture, and promote traditional textiles. Our process began with a trips to Baguio, Sagada and Banaue, where we spent time with the communities, learning about their fabrics, traditions and lifestyles.
Our challenge daily is to stay as truthful to our culture and traditions without offending anyone, but still making our pieces relevant and more accessible to a new generation. We truly feel that by allowing these textiles to take on more current shapes and forms, we are helping them to be enjoyed and shared by more individuals than would be otherwise. We repurpose these textiles in the spirit of respect, and in an effort to keep our traditions alive and more relatable, while supporting our artisans.
What’s up with the next Piopio collection?
A few fun collaborations with local designers coming up and a fun new grungy streetwear collection.
You said a store is coming up soon. Where will it be? And will the set-up be similar to the pop-ups you’ve held in the past?
It will be in Manila, a physical manifestation of the brand. Kubo by Piopio will open its doors by September. Coming soon.
What other labels inspire you?
When it comes to fashion, all the other brands that are working towards a similar cause such as Anthill and Filip+Inna. For non-fashion-related, I’m obsessed with companies like Airbnb and IDEO. I’m extremely inspired by companies that keep finding ways to innovate and stay relevant.
Take us through your beauty regimen. What steps and products do you use?
I barely use makeup but I am obsessed with beauty and health products. My essentials are a good face wash, some sort of hydration. Right now I’m using Damdam Paradise mist, Playa hair oil, Lulu Organics hand sanitizer. I always carry lavender and tea tree essential oils to help me calm down before bed and I’ve also started to apply small amounts of frankincense essential oil on my face before sleeping. I read it somewhere, so I thought I would give it a try. My most essential product I can’t ever live without is my Bond No. 9 Bleecker St. perfume. I never leave the house without it.
What have you learned from your mother that resonates with you now?
Respect the process and never stop learning.
What do you admire most about your mother’s style?
She always looks impeccable. A sort of effortless, timeless chic. I think she inherited it from my grandmother—the gene must have been diluted a bit by the time it reached me.
Growing up in a fashionable family—your sister, Monica, also has an enviable style—how did you develop your own definition of elegance?
My style evolves depending on what I’m reading, listening to or where I am. I have a clear image of the aesthetic I like to portray and I make sure to ask my mother if my outfit is okay every time I leave the house—just like every other grown woman on this planet.
What’s luxury to you?
Attention to detail.
When it comes to fashion, what’s the one rule you live by?
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