I’m an architect by day,” says Raise Vargas, cofounder of design firm Commonsense Studio. She works across multiple design spheres—from residential projects and retail shops to jewelry and accessories.
“Each collection is designed from a different state of mind,” she says. “Hence, my collections are so unexpected, the first one so different from the next. But they all share a minimal and sculptural aesthetic. Having a background in architecture, it’s about finding the balance between form and function, crazy and pragmatic, passion and business.”
Vargas’ functional-utilitarian style is reflected across her wardrobe—though her idea of functional isn’t necessarily spare. Soft, feminine silhouettes, gemstones and color play a large part in her looks.
“I live and breathe design,” Vargas says.
How would you define your style?
Functional/utilitarian, classic. Subtle details make all the difference such as the material, the cut, hardware. I’m not one for trends. I reuse a lot of my mom’s old stuff, my grandma’s shoes. I find it cool that I can still share clothes, shoes with my mom and grandma. I can still wear my things from about 10 years ago. Goes to show that timeless design can span generations. I like things that make you feel good, both literally and figuratively.
How would you say your style has evolved over the years?
I’m definitely more into comfortable clothing now, so that I can move around easily with the kids. Also, I shop for more classic, timeless pieces that will last through the years.
Has motherhood affected your way of dressing?
More comfy, appropriate clothing. But I always encourage my daughter to strive to be different and open to different styles.
What are the clothing labels you wear often?
I’m not big on labels. As long as something has good material, cut and fit, that works for me. I just recently discovered some awesome fashion brands in Australia: Bassike, Scanlan Theodore, Gorman. They’re luxe basics—that’s exactly what I’m into now.
How do you dress for every day?
Basics with a statement piece. It has to make me feel good.
I like to dress up for special occasions, because I hardly have time for myself these days. When I get the chance, I like elegant and simple things but with a touch of subversiveness. And of course, paired with a good set of minimal, understated jewelry. The jewelry does not steal the show, it should complement your natural beauty.
What kind of jewelry did you grow up wearing?
I grew up wearing jewelry passed down from my mother and my grandmother. These are jewelry from their childhood, travels and important parts of their lives.
You have an accessories brand, Sanxi. How did it start?
We grew up in a family of jewelry lovers. Every Saturday, we would go to my lola’s house to help her clean her jewelry. Trips abroad would never be complete without visiting jewelry stores and spending a good amount of time there. My grandmother taught us the beauty of timeless elegance. This love for jewelry, paired with my penchant for design and the entrepreneurial spirit in our blood, inspired my sisters and I to finally push through with this venture.
What’s the premise of the brand?
We make things we like and things we can’t find. It’s a brand made by women for women. We encourage self-expression, and join women in their journey to find themselves.
Who do you have in mind when designing?
Our clients and the artisans we work with. Working with artisans in Bulacan, we met with various hurdles. We have to take skill into consideration, as they make everything by hand. We have to push them to adhere to a better work ethic and quality. We also have to be very conscious of our relationships so as to empower them.
Who’s a dream client?
My grandmother, Virginia Syjuco. She has impeccable taste and style. Also, to get an 88-year-old to wear and rock my jewelry is a true test of style!
Who are the women who wear your pieces?
We make jewelry for the modern-day, independent woman. She wears many hats, is confident in her decisions, and does nothing with regret. Someone who appreciates good design and collects beautiful objects.
Who inspires you?
I am involved in creating memorable experiences. The most memorable consist of small moments of interaction that we often overlook. I find beauty in these moments—the way sunlight comes into the house, the combination of raw materials and luxurious ones.
In life, I am inspired by my family and my kids. Being a mom has changed my priorities. I’d like to be the mom my kids can be proud of.