At the recent Met Gala in New York, “E! News” host Zuri Hall appeared in a fluffy pink number. That dress was by Puey Quiñones, the Filipino designer who made a name for himself fabricating unconventional clothing in the mid-’00s and then left Manila after a scandal involving a mislabeled suit.
Now based in Los Angeles, Quiñones helms Cocomelody, a bridalwear line, and his own eponymous label, which he launched May 21 in Manila
Quiñones, who’s in town to set up a showroom for his label, is likewise seeking to rehabilitate his reputation.
The designer debuted his new collection at the private room of Gallery by Chele at The Fort, with models Jasmine Maierhofer and Ann Umali swanning around in floor-sweeping confections, proving that Quiñones still likes a dramatic number.
He sat down with Inquirer Lifestyle to talk about rebuilding his business here and evolving as a designer.
Lifestyle: What was the reaction to your Met gala dress for Zuri Hall?
Quiñones: It wasn’t my first choice. I was hoping she would wear the one that was more dramatic. But she opted for the simple one because she would be interviewing other guests. She loved the dress, and the color fit the theme.
What do you have to say to people who question your return, knowing your history?
I have learned from my past and I would like to leave it behind. I have faced the consequences of my mistakes and I believe in second chances, like how I’ve forgiven people who have wronged me. I have also learned the art of not giving a f–k (laughs). As long as I am happy and I’m not hurting anyone. It is also important to move on.
There’s a marked evolution between the work you recently showed and what I saw the last time you were in Manila years ago. How would you describe this evolution? And how do you define maturity for yourself?
My evolution comes with a deeper understanding of the fashion industry. Making clothes is not just about art and expression. It comes hand-in-hand with business. Every time I make clothes now, I think of my market and understand what they want and what I can give them that I know they will like and fall in love with.
How does Los Angeles figure into your aesthetic now?
I live in the Los Angeles fashion district and it’s very dynamic, full of designers and fabric shops. There’s a lot of people on the street and that inspires me.
What is new and what is old in your new collection “Neo Baroque”?
My draping is inspired by the Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. And I mixed it with tailoring on the construction of the dress.
There’s an element of play and whimsy in the use of tulle, volume, color and print. Is this an attempt at addressing the stodgy formality of dressy events?
Dressing is all about having fun and feeling confident.
How do you think that Met Gala dress will impact your career?
It felt surreal, but I am not really counting on that for my career. All I want is to master my craft and let my work speak for itself. I’m very thankful for the exposure, but at the end of the day, it’s just part of my work.
You also dressed Kee Simone for the red-carpet premiere of her Netflix show, “Chambers.” Was that playful look your take on red carpet dressing?
I’m tired of looking at those celebs wearing the same silhouettes. Red carpet should be fun!
What do you think actresses should be wearing on the carpet?
Wearing dresses away from the body can be sexy, as well. It’s the confidence that will make you look sexy, not the dress.
Do you think there’s a right or wrong way to dress at these Hollywood events?
There’s no right or wrong. It is a form of expression, freedom and confidence.
You’re about to dress another pop star. Do you think the path to success for a designer today is via celebrity access?
Yes and no. Yes, because it’s the generation of social media and, let’s face it, our business is social media-driven nowadays. But no because creativity, taste and craftsmanship must come first.
How would you like to see your career grow in the next five years?
I want to open more stores globally and be the household name for bridal. Fingers crossed.
How do you differentiate the aesthetic of your own label PQ and Cocomelody bridal?
My own label is like the fantasy, and my bridal line is the reality. PQ speaks to women with confidence, strong and dynamic. Cocomelody women are conservative and classic.
Who inspires you today?
My boyfriend Paul Martinuea. He is a curator at the Getty Museum and he just did a book, “Icons of Styles: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911-2011.” He has vintage collections of Chanel, McQueen, Dior, Grés and other great designers, and he exposed me to the real world of haute couture. It inspired me to create even more beautiful pieces. And he is supportive of all my endeavors.
Who are the designers you look up to?
Hussein Chalayan is a genius! He is a fashion scientist. I like how his brain works. Nonconformist.
What do you look for when shopping for your own clothes?
I like comfort, I like basic for my clothing now. I try to be more invisible, that’s why I wear only black. I have changed! Every time I see my old photos, I cringe!
As a Filipino designer, what would make you happy to see in the local design industry?
Young designers mastering their craft and knowing their DNA more than posting on social media. That makes me happy.