On the heels of celebrating her 10th year in the industry, fashion maven Rosanna Ocampo talks about her love of designing clothes, never taking fashion too seriously, and her gentle evolution into becoming the woman she is today
Rosanna Ocampo’s first foray into the world of fashion design was when, as a little girl, she would accompany her mom to buy various fabrics, which the latter would then have made into clothes. As early as when she was in the 7th grade, Rosanna dabbled in designing her own clothes. “In high school, for my sophomore night, junior and senior proms, I actually wore my own designs. I was not exposed to any designers because I preferred to sketch what I wanted then have our seamstress sew it.”
Spreading Her Wings
“For college, I wanted to study fashion design and go abroad, as my siblings had. But my father told me I should study business first. So the deal was after four years of college, if I still wanted to, I could go abroad to study fashion. I earned my business degree from the University of Asia and the Pacific, then I left for Italy.” During the eight-month interim between finishing college and leaving, Rosanna consigned some of the pieces she designed to a small shop. She also applied to work at Tyler, and was asked to create a capsule collection, which she did.
“At that time, I told Eman Pineda [of Tyler] that I had not yet had any formal design training and many of the terms were foreign to me; but I just went for it, and that was the very first collection I ever made.” While in Italy, Rosanna was eager to learn whatever she could; and she immersed herself fully in the culture of her new home-country, becoming fluent in the language and taking up courses in four different schools. “I lived there for five years. I didn’t want to go home! But of course, I had to. And in between those years, I’d come home for Christmas to spend it with family.”
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Getting to Work
Things were quite different for this independent young woman when she came home in 2007. Her beloved father had passed on and she had a tough time adjusting to the new dynamic of living in Manila and having to depend on the family driver to get around. A lot of her friends from school were married and having kids by this time. “I was not ready for that yet, so I kept going out and meeting all kinds of people. The social scene had changed considerably while I was away. People I met told me they liked the clothes I wore, which I designed myself and had sewn by the mananahi, whose services my father maintained while I was away. Soon, I was accepting orders. Then, I opened up a shop.” Rosanna says that she initially did custom-made clothes, but about three years ago, there was an overwhelming demand for premium RTW or ready-to-wear tops, so those pieces now make up 80 percent of her business.
Rosanna shares that it’s very rare to see any of her work that is plain and devoid of texture. Her favorite design elements are those found in nature: leaves, birds and insects figure in many of her designs. She clarifies that her love of the outdoors and summertime fashion don’t mean she likes to dress down. Not one to take fashion too seriously, she likes to experiment with color and texture a lot. “I’m not a traditional kind of girl, whether at work or at home, and it shows in my designs. I would like my clients to have a lot of fun, feel confident and have a good time dressing up.”
A Natural Evolution
“I remember when I was first designing clothes 10 years ago, my dresses and skirts were so short! I can’t even wear those anymore, and it’s interesting to see how I’ve kind of grown up along with my clients. Now, the women I dress, of all shapes and sizes by the way, (Rosanna says there is a huge misconception that she only makes clothes to fit a certain frame) belong to the age range of about 32 to 55 years old. The reason I came up with the RTW line is because I dress up in jeans a lot more now, and I still want to wear my shorts because I’m so comfortable in them, but I match them with tops that have a dressy element to them, so I’m not too casual. My clients’ tastes, along with mine, have changed to accommodate the changes and priorities in our lives.”
Rosanna, who is mother to two kids, a three-year-old and six-year-old, says she hardly goes out anymore. “I go out mostly to support those who’ve been good to me and to my business. Even my husband asks me from time to time where the woman he married has gone, because I’d much rather stay at home now.” Taking a tip from the Italian way of living, she fully subscribes to their mindset of taking self-imposed breaks in order to recharge and come back ready to work hard. “In spite of it being our peak season, because we launched the most number of collections we’ve ever had, I went on a break a week early in December and had my staff take off too because we were all burnt out. Everyone needs time to unplug.”
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Friendships & Family
Rosanna reveals that the biggest thing to her are the friendships she’s made through the years. “It’s wonderful when people send notes thanking me for making them feel good in my clothes. They’re the ones who come and are shy, but after a few meetings, they open up and we become friends. It’s great because I’m integrated into the special moments in their lives.”
She believes this is a big part of loving herself, doing exactly what she loves. Making sure to carve out time in her day to indulge in running a favorite activity, Rosanna says, “I’m in the store at nine and out at five. I’m a mother first and foremost so I make sure I’m with my kids as much as I can. Once or twice a week, I do my run around the village and that really de-stresses me. I believe you need one outlet. I talk to people all day so I like to run alone.”
“I was brought up with family being everything. A meaningful life to me is having a stable home, with God in the center of it. It’s how I was raised and I’m lucky enough to have married someone who shares the same values. Life is tough, and without stability in the home, everything else becomes irrelevant.”
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