Shoe designer and LGBTQIA rights advocate Brian Tenorio died July 27 at age 42. He had been battling colon cancer for close to a year.
After graduating from the Ateneo de Manila University, Tenorio took up further studies at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He launched his own shoe brand Tenorio Manila upon his return, and much later started the coffee venture Kape Tayo.
In 2009, he launched a locally made, designer casket line called Lux Mortem for Manila’s upscale funeral parlors while he was at Pratt.
“I don’t believe in stamping a label onto an inferior product and selling it at higher margins,” Tenorio said in a Lifestyle interview at the time. “There is some value to being new in the industry. You don’t tend to do things the same way.”
When he was starting out, Tenorio would join group fashion shows like Metro Magazine’s “Metrowear,” in the accessories segment. The magazine’s former editor Melanie Cuevas remembers him as “a true professional and a kind soul.”
“He was the person who always had ideas—as seen in the ventures he had gotten into over the years (as a designer, working with the Asian Development Bank, teaching jobs, among others). He was an advocate of promoting local long before brands started doing the same. He wanted to revive the shoe industry in his hometown, Marikina,” Cuevas said.
Writer Giselle Kasilag was Tenorio’s classmate at the Asian Institute of Management’s Managing the Arts Program in 2002. “He was always so generous with his ideas and so positive about facing challenges. He was very profound yet so down-to-earth,” Kasilag said.
“During one session on finance and accounting where the class was asked to come up with a concept for a business, we decided on designer fish balls and called it Tenorium. It got a lot of laughs especially from the older members of the class (which included Andrea Veneracion and Joey Ayala!) and made accounting a lot more fun for all of us struggling with numbers.
“He always had a kind word and an encouraging smile. There’s really no one like him. His passing is such a loss.”
Fashion designer Louis Claparols said that Tenorio was one of the first designers he collaborated with, as a newbie, in editorial shoots and fashion shows. “He was very delightful to work with. He seemed masungit (ill-tempered) but he really was a nice guy.”
The two lost touch after Claparols went on hiatus, but they would occasionally say hi and hello on Facebook.
“My fondest memory of him was when we were in a van on the way back to Makati after a meeting,” said Claparols. “A Madonna song came on the radio and he began singing the chorus, then we all followed. I said to myself, ‘This guy is gonna be my friend.’”