Puey Quiñones: Lessons in revival, hope, and creativity  | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Puey Quiñones
Filipino fashion designer Puey Quiñones shared reflections and advice at a talk in iAcademy

From humble beginnings to the heights of fashion, designer Puey Quiñones overcame a career-threatening scandal to emerge as an inspiring voice of creativity


In the fast-paced world of fashion, few names command as much attention as Puey Quiñones.

Celebrated for his innovative yet elegant couture, his creations have graced the closets of both celebrities and society ladies.

Starting in the early 2000s, Quiñones quickly found himself perched near the pinnacle of fashion. But just as in any good story, he found himself at the center of a climactic blunder that nearly cost him his career. 

For a time, it seemed like the fashion world was about to lose one of its brightest stars. But fashion, much like life, has a way of surprising us. Just when he was on the brink of giving up, Quiñones was handed an unexpected second chance that reaffirmed his status as a designer in Manila and catapulted him onto the international stage. 

On May 22, Quiñones held a talk in the halls of iAcademy in Makati City where he shared his career journey of ‘defining and redefining your brand.’ In true Quiñones fashion, he reminded us all that setbacks are a setup for a comeback, and that the fabric of our lives is often woven with threads of opportunity.


The early days of Puey Quiñones

From a young age, Quiñones knew he wanted to shine. “I was hesitant to tell my boss I was interested in what he does as a fashion designer,” he confessed. “Growing up with very humble beginnings, fashion, to me, was only for rich kids. I didn’t even know what fashion was. I grew up in a small town; we didn’t even have TV.”

As the only son among four children, Quiñones initially took up political science but didn’t finish his college years. With a policeman father and a high school teacher mother, Quiñones was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, his passion lay elsewhere.

Quiñones’ interest in design sparked in high school while working with designer Dennis Lustico. “I was sewing, cleaning, cooking, and I’d ask for the retasos (scrap of cloth) so I could drape them around the mannequin and sew them,” he shared. “I even left my sketches on his desk, hoping he’d notice. I didn’t want him to think I was too ambitious or that this wasn’t for me.” 

Puey Quiñones
Quiñones reflects, “The journey of a fashion designer is not easy; there will always be ups and downs and it’s a continuous journey. But it’s how you stand up and how you will face it.”

His dedication caught Lustico’s attention, leading him then to Bergamo, a bespoke men’s apparel brand. There, he launched his first collection and was soon hired as an in-house designer. At Bergamo, Quiñones designed intricate barong Tagalog embroidery and introduced new cuts using piña, reinventing designs for the “modern man.” 

READ: Puey Quiñones made his Met Gala debut—next, a Manila comeback 

In 2002, Quiñones’s career took a remarkable turn when he became a finalist in the Mega Young Designers Competition. His talent caught the eye of TingTing Cojuangco, a politician and socialite who was a judge at the event. She became his first major client and crucial supporter, helping him establish his atelier in Salcedo Village, Makati City.

With Cojuangco’s endorsement, Quiñones transitioned from limited resources to running his own design studio. This backing introduced him to a high-profile clientele in Filipino society, including First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, Kris Aquino, Boy Abunda, KC Concepcion, and many others.


The fallout that shook the fashion world

At the height of his career, Quiñones found himself entangled in a scandal that shook the fashion world. He was caught re-tagging a department store garment as his own creation, a move that led to significant professional and personal setbacks. 

The controversy left his reputation in tatters, compelling him to take a step back and reconsider his path in the industry. “I lost everyone,” he confessed. “I can only count with my fingers the friends who stayed.” “I lost a lot of clients, money, and projects… brides canceled their orders and asked for refunds. I had so many debts.” 

READ: Puey Quiñones– from runway to redemption 

“The journey of a fashion designer is not easy; there will always be ups and downs and it’s a continuous journey. But it’s how you stand up and how you will face it,” he reflected. His advice to those facing similar challenges? “Take a break and reconnect with your roots. Accept your mistakes and believe in yourself; it makes it easier to come back… Surrender and pray.”


Time abroad

After leaving the Philippines, Quiñones moved to Los Angeles, where he still serves as the creative director for the global bridal company CocoMelody and is the CEO of his eponymous label in Los Angeles.

He also runs Q Bridal, a boutique specializing in wedding gowns, and heads I Curate International, serving clients like Philippine Airlines, Kamiseta, DepEd, and the Presidential Security Group, among others. 

Ever savvy, Quiñones made sure to elevate his work to grace the runways of Paris Fashion Week S/S 2023 and Los Angeles Fashion Week 2022, with his portfolio to date including collaborations with Katutubo Fair, Rustan’s, Diagold, and that groundbreaking collection at Malacañang’s Goldenberg Palace, which officially opened up the cultural space and brought the designer’s work back into the public consciousness.

Puey Quiñones
“Each city is different. My clients from Manila are different from those residing from Los Angeles. Each set of clients requires different silhouettes, materiality or fabric, and finishes,” Quiñones said.

Quiñones reinvented his atelier with a creative twist. With the support of a friend who recognized his culinary talent, Quiñones transformed his atelier into a unique private dining experience. By day, it functioned as a fashion studio, and by night, it turned into an exclusive dining venue where he invited friends to enjoy his refined take on Samar cuisine.

“I needed more time to face the fashion industry,” Quiñones reflected, indicating the period’s importance in his gradual re-entry into the fashion world. 


Quiñones’ redemption and branding reinvention

After a year of culinary and hosting ventures, Quiñones returned to the fashion world, stepping back into the spotlight as a mentor for the Mega Young Designers Competition. This pivotal role marked the beginning of a new chapter in his career, leading to numerous recognitions and accomplishments, including mentoring young, aspiring designers and sharing his invaluable industry insights while continuing to create accolades for his innovative designs that blended traditional Filipino elements with modern aesthetics. 

Puey Quiñones
Through these lessons, Quiñones eventually worked through his difficult experiences that led him back to success. “Learn and master in adapting to change; stay relevant and competitive. Evolve, reinvent your brand.”

He sought a stronger presence in both local and international fashion scenes, showcasing his collections at various fashion weeks and events abroad while continuing to collaborate with high-profile clients and celebrities, which eventually led to praise in the media and fashion magazines.

At iAcademy, Quiñones shared some tidbits of advice on the importance of branding: “Branding connects the company or an individual to its consumer and audience. It’s more than just the design of clothes; it’s a form of expression or a lifestyle. A strong brand has a clear mission and consistent visual identity… it creates individuality… a story they tell, not just the product.”

“Fashion is real business—more than creating beautiful clothes you need to understand your data, your market and demographics.

Through these lessons, Quiñones eventually worked through his difficult experiences that led him back to success. “Learn and master in adapting to change; stay relevant and competitive. Evolve, reinvent your brand.”

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