Posts Tagged ‘postaday2011’

Party dresses from a designer who sparkles

In Philippine Star Column on November 18, 2011 at 7:28 am

The "Ross" disco diva dress

It’s funny how we are all connected. I’ve known designer Rosanna Ocampo for a really long time. Our fathers were good friends, I would play badminton with one of her brothers (sometimes he would let her tag along and play with us) and she married a childhood friend just early this year. It had never occurred to me that she would be a designer. In fact, when I told my mom that I had started buying dresses from her she said in shock, “What? That little girl is a designer now?!” Yes, that “little” girl had just come back from five formidable fashion years in Europe and had returned to make her own mark in the local design landscape.

I had not seen Ocampo in ages but about three years ago I was in the market for travel-friendly, yet stylish clothes and her name came up. As fate would have it, I bumped into her at an event and later that week found myself at her atelier, leaving with three delightful dresses. I felt her choice of prints was youthful and fun, and the fabrics she used were versatile. They were perfect to wear alone with sky-high heels or (due to her preference for thigh-skimming skirts) for layering in colder weather over tights and boots. The pieces traveled well, too: I just pretty much threw them in my bag and threw them on once I unpacked and I was good to go.

the Dali Cone dress

Nowadays, it’s pretty difficult to miss one of society’s fash pack in an Ocampo creation. She runs with a pretty stylish set, and knows how to have a good time, throwing back a cocktail or two (or three) and hitting some of Manila’s hottest nightspots with her husband and friends. She can definitely party hard, but unbeknownst to many, she works even harder. “I knew I wanted to be a designer since I was 13 or 14 and have been designing my own dresses ever since — I did my own prom and ball gown,” she shares. Even with this early passion for fashion she stayed dutiful daughter and completed her undergrad in the Philippines (finishing a business degree) and finally left for Milan to pursue her “true love” in 2003. During her studies she embraced la vita bella, completing a degree in fashion and textile design as well as a master’s in fashion promotion and had the opportunity to meet design deities such as Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli and Domenico Dolce. As if this wasn’t enough she went on to do a summer course in draping at the Paris American Academy and then worked for the Livia Gregoretti Showroom for a year and a half. Now, with all that under her belt, what’s a worldly girl to do? Come home and work harder than ever.

Metallic Jacko blazer on a Coco dress

Multi-print Warhol Cone dress

Manila may not be Milan but Ocampo has no complaints. Her collections are virtual sell-outs at every trunk show and her latest one, called Studio 54, is no exception. If you want to add some sparkle in your wardrobe then you can choose a high-shine jacket such as Ocampo’s favorite piece “The Jacko” that boasts a sequined lapel and metallic brocade or the “Ross” frock that coats you in liquid gold allowing you to shimmer with every shimmy. For the not so flashy, there are jumpsuits with just a hint of bling or dresses with multi-textural fabric and prints, allowing for some daring details without going overboard. During this particular trunk show I was happy to connect with my inner party girl, fantasizing about where I could wear the Vreeland minidress and dance the night away or meet up for a cocktail with my girlfriends in a monochromatic Minelli Block Fantasy shift.

I often teased Ocampo on her penchant to shorten the length of my skirt or deepen the neckline of my top and once she quipped back, “Because Kat, I never want you to forget to have fun.” A timely reminder. It is true, as we grow up, we condition ourselves into believing that certain things should no longer be done. Having fun, with who you are and what you wear, should definitely not be one of them. As I watched swirl after swirl of shiny fabric whisked off the racks and into another gleeful lady’s arms that day, I realized that, hey, we all deserve a chance to shine and a fabulous dress to wear while doing it.

Trump Cocktail Fantasy dress

Minelli Block Fantasy Dress

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For more on Rosanna Ocampo designs, go to or email or call 0910-7799330. All photos by EJAY LEUNG

SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated November 18, 2011

My battle with the pre-holiday bulge

In Philippine Star Column on November 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Tea-off the bulge with SlimDetox Forte

So how did you spend your last two long weekends? I found myself (not really) against my will indulging in new foodie finds in the colder climes up in Baguio. Piping-hot drinks were also greatly enjoyed while sitting al fresco bundled up in a sweater and boots as the sun settled in to sleep and the temperatures rose up to a blissful 16 degrees. All in all, it would have taken the discipline of a Navy Seal for me to have kept the calories at bay. Being so far away from my usual schedule of work and workout back in the metropolis, Baguio offered me a respite, a little time to disconnect from “DraManila” and to enjoy some quality time with friends and family. This of course (being the Philippines) involved food, drinks, and more food and drinks. Thankfully, I did arm myself with a subtle “weapon” to sip at night after a whole day of indulgence, a natural slimming tea called Slim Detox Forte.

I remember, while growing up, when slimming teas were quite popular among the older set, I would see canisters in the pantry being served up after meals or late at night for my mom and aunts to mix in with their hot water in order for them to purge out whatever they ate when they took a trip to the bathroom. In later years, it was discovered that one popular brand was really more of a laxative and had some damaging side effects if used too much and too often. The result, after a long time, often abusive usage of the tea (combining it with other medication), was damaging gastrointestinal side effects and in more extreme cases irregular heartbeats and electrolyte imbalances in the body. It is worthy to note that taking any kind of slimming tea, even mine, should be under advice from a doctor because there are some ingredients that one may be allergic to.

Senna leaves, for example, is one of the components of Slim Detox and according to my new favorite health-oriented website,, senna (also known as Cassia Senna) has been used as a laxative, both cathartic and purgative but should be used modestly and under supervision. It is effective for constipation, but should only be taken in small doses and not for more than two weeks straight or else it can cause lazy bowel syndrome or even chronic diarrhea. To also quote the website: “According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, senna leaf, also called Fan Xie Ye, helps to clear away heat accumulated in the large intestine, helping rid the body of stagnant food that has accumulated in the organs.” In other words, it is a good ingredient for cleansing of the body but again, it should be taken in moderation. The other components of this particular tea is green tea, which is known to help increase metabolism by helping burn more calories throughout the day as well as improving our body’s ability to burn fat through fat oxidation.

Licorice root is also used in the tea and after some research I found that it is has been used in both Eastern and Western medicine to treat a variety of illnesses ranging from the common code to liver disease. This herb (glycyrrhiza glabra) according to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s findings has long been valued as a demulcent (soothing, coating agent) and expectorant (rids phlegm and mucous from the respiratory tract). In one human study (according to the website) there are indications that certain preparations of this herb can help reduce body fat. More studies need to be done and again it is cautioned that too much intake of licorice root (as it is 50 times sweeter than sugar) may raise blood levels. Lastly, there is lemon, which allows for the body’s improved absorption of the nutrients in the tea.

Slim Detox is best used when you know you’re going to have a full-on food fest and you just don’t want to go to bed feeling bloated and miserable. It also helps when you are traveling and are subject to rich foods and a change in timetable that your body may not be used to. It certainly helped me keep the bloating down when I was abroad this year. I was also very happy to note that in spite of my all-out eating in Baguio over the weekend, I didn’t put on weight and my clothes weren’t stretched to any new limits. Although there are no messy “accidents” from taking the tea like one would experience with other over-the-counter oil-eliminating drugs, it would be prudent to take this tea when you have easy access to a bathroom. In other words don’t take it right when you’re about to get into a car; wait until you get home or to your hotel room before you seep the teabag for three to five minutes and enjoy its slightly sweet flavor.

As we welcome the holidays and the flood of invitations to eat out or eat (a lot) in, it’s a relief to know that when too much of a good thing is a bad thing, we can just sit back and enjoy some (slim) tea time.

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SlimDetox Forte Slimming Tea is sold at The Skin and Laser Clinic at P550/box good for two weeks. Call 403-3245 or 0917-52102222 for more info.

Fashion fantasy and when to not ‘be’ yourself

In Philippine Star Column on October 28, 2011 at 2:19 am

Facial mask anyone?

If you have been caught up in the fashion show frenzy this October then maybe you have had your share of “oooh”s, “aaaah”s, and “WTH-was–that?!” moments like I have after witnessing models gliding down in either design dreams or nightmares. When something overly dramatic passed by, all I could think of was the spirit of Halloween and how this would be a great addition to any costume party if accessorized with a pair of fangs or “I’m the undead” makeup. If spending on couture to win a Scariest Costume instead of Best Dressed isn’t your thing then start your own costume drama at a shop that really specializes in dressing you to not look like you. Options include online site Lucky Doll Store which specializes in sexy (think Mean Girls’ The Plastics at Halloween) rentals, there is, of course, good old reliable Camp Suki which is still the country’s largest resource for costume and formal wear rental and relatively new player in the market, Skitzo.

Drag queen: Skitzo co-owner Cheska Yupangco as the Queen of Hearts

Skitzo has been around for just over a year and is located inside The Collective compound in Makati. The store specializes mainly in costumes, which you can buy ready-to-wear off the rack or already packaged in grab-and-go bags. Have something special in mind? Then have it made to your liking, all you need is a visual peg for reference, and this includes accessories such as a hat, a “weapon,” horns, cape — you name it, and it can be done. If you’ve already got a costume but just need a few extra touches like a mask, goofy glasses, false eyelashes, special effect makeup, wigs in different colors, textures and lengths and even a wig “holder” for your hair (no pins necessary) then feel free to scour the shelves in this store. A friend of mine got a Thor hammer that actually simulates the sound of thunder when you shake it. In terms of add-ons, top sellers are the Storm Trooper masks, a variety of crowns (that would fit any drama queen) and, of course, the ubiquitous Angry Bird beanie. If you believe Halloween is for kids and opt not to play dress-up this season you may want to check out some of their adult-themed toys and trinkets that would spice up a bachelorette or a more (ahem) racy bridal shower.

Department stores also have costume options but seem more stocked for kids and infants although you can get a few items for adults at places like Toy Kingdom and some high-quality colored wigs at SM. Remember that creative dressing is not only relegated to Halloween with party season coming up and we Pinoys seem to be fond of themes. I recently attended a party where guests were asked to come in TV characters from US shows which had me audience to a gaggle of Gossip Girls, Big Bang Theorists and a couple of Mad Men. So if you’re feeling down, say yes to that party invite and go dress up and be someone new for a little while.

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For more Soul Train, go to

Costume central

Where to go for the instant Halloween costume.

Sonia Lee’s Costume Central

Contact: 664-6033 /0917-5216828

Disguise Costume

Gilmore Avenue, Quezon City

Contact: 439-2625

Camp Suki

88 4th Street, New Manila, Quezon City ?

Contact: 725-0819

Lucky Doll store

Skitzo Manila

Unit M at The Collective, 7274 Malugay St., San Antonio, Makati City

Contact: 577-3836

SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated October 28, 2011

A new hair haven at Elevation Salon

In Philippine Star Column on October 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Welcome to hair Heaven

Every girl and guy needs a fallback beauty haven. Salons are aplenty in the metro and more and more of them are offering newer more dramatic results-oriented treatments in order to become enticing to new customers or to keep the regulars happy and loyal. Elevation is not really a new kid on the block but was recently revamped and restructured last September. Formerly known as Philippe’s Salon on Pasong Tamo Extension in Makati, it still has the same spacious interiors and high-end amenities that the previous salon was known for but now with the added bonus of one-of-a-kind hair treatments. The first of which is a natural coloring system that uses free-hand technique rather than the usual foil spread and wrap movement (which sometimes makes you look like a human Christmas ornament). The treatment called Balayage is more natural and is patronized by coif-conscious women and surprisingly, a lot of male clientele. It is a modern coloring technique where sections of the hair are painted, creating highlights and lowlights. Since this technique is more precise, there is added dimension to the color, with the bonus of it looking more naturally grown in and multi-tonal. So far, it is only offered in Elevation and has garnered a steady following.

Retro future: The renovated salon space

Jazzed-up salon interiors

With the weather being as it is, one never knows the frizz-ability of one’s hair when they waking up. Keratin Complex Treatments are fast growing in popularity and even if they are also offered in other salons, you can get four types under Elevation’s expert hands. The first being the most natural, aptly called the Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment. This uses a specially formulated revitalizing and rejuvenating treatment that reduces up to 95 percent of frizz and curl. It infuses natural keratin deep into the cuticle, the keratin further bonded into the cuticle via the heat of the flatiron to relax the hair’s sub-cuticle layer. For more extreme cases of frizz without the harshness of getting a rebonding treatment, there is the Intense RX Repair Therapy, which uses Ionic Keratin Protein Restructuring Serum. This helps rebuild the hair’s tensile strength, returning elasticity and reducing breakage. If you’ve had one too many blowouts, or bad perms this one’s for you. It is best for instantly repairing damaged, over-processed, over-highlighted and over-relaxed hair. In other words, if you’ve “over” done anything to your hair, then this is what you need. A longer treatment with longer-term results is the Keratin Replenisher Infusion Therapy. After infusing keratin protein into the hair’s cuticle, it leaves your beloved mane with a soft and silky finish. The deep-penetrating action replenishes the hair and closes the cuticle to entrap nourishment. This can also serve as a follow-up treatment to the Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment as it helps the hair’s health and longevity.

Hang out after a blow-out

Don’t have a lot of time to indulge in a time-consuming treatment? Then zip in for the Express Blow-Out. This is a one-hour service that incorporates a unique formulation called Trionic Keratin Protein and a Co-polymer delivery system that reduces frizz, curl and styling time. It makes your ’do very wash and wear, perfect for many of those who are professional multi-taskers. My hair is baby fine in texture but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fall victim to some frizz and days of zero cooperation with my brush and blowdryer. Settling in for a Keratin treatment is a treat in itself, even if I rarely have anything past a shampoo and blowdry done, I’m pretty sure that being outdoors a lot and traveling are also play culprits in diminishing my hair’s health. We all need our neighborhood salon, a place we can come to unwind while we are being fussed over and we leave feeling just that much more pampered and prettified. As trivial as it seems there is nothing like a good hair day, for many days.

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For inquiries, call Elevation Salon at 830-3030 or 864-0658 or e-mail

SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated October 21, 2011

SLIM’S at 50-A voice of authority in a crowded arena

In Philippine Star Column on October 14, 2011 at 1:38 am

A dress by student Riza Bulawan

A passion for fashion is a term over-coined as of late. It is the war cry behind a deluge of fashion reality shows, runway fashion shows, fashion competitions and even fashion blogs that have become the chic police of our times. The rise in the technical aspects of design have also come about via education, with courses from vocational to full-fledged degrees now open for those who are not just hobbyists but who wish to earn from a life of design. No one knows this more than siblings Sandy and Mark Higgins, co-directors of Slim’s Fashion and Arts School which was founded by their mother Salvacion Lim-Higgins (nicknamed Slim) and her sister, Purificacion, half a century ago. “Ours is a culture of ‘making pagawa’  ordering bespoke clothing  which is a common practice across all levels of society,” says Sandy. “We also have a national obsession with beauty queens, models, socialites and movie stars.  All of this fuels a demand for fashion  creating work for designers and support staff.”

SLIM'S founders, Salvacion and her sister Purificacion Lim with a model

During the ‘60s the founding sisters also ran a successful atelier at the same time as the school, and perfected what was to be known as the “Slim’s Method” which came about from the technical proficiency developed and transcribed into formal lessons for the school. It is this proficiency that has produced design superstars both locally and abroad over the last five decades such as Joe Salazar, Oskar Peralta, Cesar Gaupo, Joey Samson, Michael Cinco, Ezra and Oliver Tolentino. Those based overseas, as in the case of Ezra, tend to look back at the school to hire assistants, perpetuating the opportunities for graduates who have now enhanced their talent and skills. “The majority of students who enroll at our school can’t draw beyond stick figures, or sew a stitch,” intimates Sandy. “The ‘Slim’s Method’ of teaching was designed to address that. Halfway through their courses, students are often amazed at what they can do…it’s a remarkable transformation.” Between the Higgins siblings, it is Mark who is more hands-on with the school. “Mark is very much my mother’s son, having inherited her sense of aesthetic, her sense of daring, and her rather exacting standards,” says Sandy.














SLIM's co-director Mark Higgins

After Mark gained his degree in Fine Arts he went to Parsons in New York and worked with his mom for several years in between his university days and immediately afterwards. Mark has also designed costumes for theater and ballet, and in the last decade has been painting, exhibiting his work in NY, Paris, Washington, Hong Kong and Tokyo. It is his direct involvement with the teachers, students and their work that has reignited the creative fire and public interest in Slim’s. In the recent Preview magazine’s Emerging Fashion Talent Awards two out of the five winners were Slim’s students, namely Riza Bulawan and Erika Adona. What makes the Slim’s education different? The directors believe that fashion enables people to cross economic barriers and in doing this has kept its tuition fees accessible to students from all demographics. “The great equalizer is talent,” says Sandy. “There are those who either cannot afford to do a four-year course, or those who don’t want to, who precisely need to learn some sort of vocation, in order to find their calling and earn a living.” Courses are also offered individually; fashion design for example is a full diploma course as is patternmaking/dressmaking. There are also short workshops to supplement, such as the business of fashion. The advantage in this method is that every student gets to choose exactly what he or she wants to learn. It is precisely because they get to choose what they what to learn that students have a greater chance in excelling. Lessons are both hands-on and practical, and strive to be relevant to the local industry.

Alumnus Cesar Gaupo and his wall sketch

“Our strength as Filipinos lies in our creativity and our artisanal abilities,” remarks Sandy “The Philippines is not, and never will be, a great manufacturing center. We can’t compete with countries like China and Vietnam. It’s not in our DNA. But what we do have is a large dose of creative talent, and a penchant for craftsmanship.” It is because of this that the Higgins siblings make it the school’s thrust to empower their students with extensive skills, their Fashion Design students begin their course with a foundation of fine arts, to give them a deeper sense of aesthetics, before ever drawing a single fashion sketch. Slim’s celebrates its foundation month this October, kicking off with an exhibition of current students’ works at the Slim’s Fashion and Arts School. The exhibit features “tribute walls” where some of the school’s illustrious alumni drew designs in the hallway walls. There were also framed sketches made by students which showed influences over and above just a “passion for fashion.” One sketch appeared to be a gown inspired by fans while another inspired by the feathers and wings of crows. The garment projects saw layers of fabric that defied gravity, clean, polished lines on corset-like tops, contrasting colors for any up and coming pop diva and of course elegant ensembles for a chic Cinderella on her way to the ball. Looking at the end product, it was pretty hard to imagine that most of the students weren’t already seasoned designers. Perhaps due to the unique mentoring style at the school, the students allowed their imagination to move them from their current reality into the limitless universe of true creation. “My mom never subscribed to the belief that ‘it can’t be done here.’ It isn’t just about what’s already been done, it’s about what we can and will, aim to do, as Filipinos,” intimates Sandy.

Here’s to our fashion futures.

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The student exhibit at Slim's

Slim’s Fashion and Arts School exhibit runs until Oct. 20. Watch for “Slim’s School at 50,” a fashion show to salute the achievements of Slim’s alumni through the last five decades. The lineup will include Oskar Peralta, Cesar Gaupo, Joe Salazar, Chito Vijandre, Ezra, Michael Cinco, Joey Samson, Martin Bautista, James Reyes, and a glimpse of the school’s new stars, on Oct. 29 at Philippine Fashion Week.

For more information on Slim’s Fashion and Arts School, call 887-3390/92 or go to

SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated October 14, 2011

Clear your body and mind with breathing redux

In Philippine Star Column on September 30, 2011 at 10:48 am

Art of Living Teacher Denise Celdran going through some of the motions of Kriya breathing.

Inhale, exhale, inhale exhale. Breathing seems easy enough, in fact it’s probably the most essential thing that you do without even being aware that you’re doing it. The breath, that first gulp or air is an indication of life and your acceptance of it once you come into this world. So what happens as you grow older? You actually pay less and less attention to how you breathe (and sometimes what you breathe in) so that in times of stress, tension, emotional anxiety (or even excitement) you feel like the entire world has reduced you to a quivering, helpless mess. Okay, maybe a little melodramatic, but if you have ever been in a situation of heightened emotions, you probably have been this close to losing your mind or even your grip on reality, and this is primarily because you’ve actually forgotten how to breathe properly. This is the philosophy behind the practitioners of The Art of Living Foundation (AOL), a worldwide organization that promises you can achieve the life you truly desire by paying attention to how you breathe. It was that basic premise that got me to join one of their workshops recently, a three-day beginners course held after office hours at a private residence. Courses are held once a month and are normally about six days in length, but with my sked, the three-day course came as a godsend and I felt it was meant to be as my work-life balance was far from being balanced at that particular point in time. I’m not for any kind of medication and for me, most shrinks are a waste of money, so why not start with the basics and get the maximum impact of good ol’ oxygen.

Denise Celdran, founder and owner of Edgy Veggy is one of AOL’s teachers here in the Philippines and is a strong advocate of its benefits. In the last couple of years since she has practiced the breathing techniques regularly she has witnessed the stress and the often-destructive pull of worry (especially about the future) fall away. “There were many ideals and desires I would cling to before, and now, with just a breath, I detach,” she explained to me when I first asked her about the course. Timing is crucial in life and I actually learned about AOL over a year ago but despite regular invites and updates from Celdran I never got around to joining. Fast-forward to a couple of months ago when another crossroad in my personal and professional life resulted in anxiety attacks, a shorter temper and lots of blocks in my creative flow. I didn’t want to work, go out, but I forced myself to, and I was just looking for another way to find my center without having to fly off the handle to get it back. Divine timing came to my rescue, the three-day course was just around the corner and there was an opening, so I jumped in with both feet and a heart full of hope.

Proper oxidization for optimal body, mind and emotional stabiity

So what can one expect? The first lesson is not to get fixated on what you expect to happen and to just be in the present and be open to everything that is to be taught. There’s a little yoga to limber you up, which is jokingly referred to as “diesel yoga” since even the oldest participant (nearly 80 years old) is able to go through the poses, there’s meditation, there’s some sharing of insights and experiences, and a whole lot of breathing. Why is breathing so important (aside from the obvious, if you don’t breathe, you die)? Because it acts as a purifier, tranquilizer, and as an energizer. That probably didn’t make much sense, but it’s best explained that proper breathing gives you what your body needs, so if you need to detox, to relax or to get your mojo back, it all starts and ends with a breath. You go through a guided breathwork series which allows you to clear your body and mind with different inhale and exhale techniques; you’re also asked to sit in a way so that you get maximum oxidization. At the end of the first session many of the course participants already experienced a cleaning and a clearing on the physical level, a good start especially to those battling certain respiratory ailments and insomnia. I can only speak for myself so my personal experience was definitely a calming one — something I desperately needed at the time. I was also given a tool, something I could use whenever those sneaky little thoughts of doubt, worry and insecurity invaded my sanity via breathing exercises that could be done once a day, including an emergency shortcut (that could probably prevent a whole lot of road rage, since it could be done in a flash).

Others shared that with regular practice they developed glowing complexions (so yes, good breathing can make you better looking); just think of being able to achieve a deeper, more restful slumber for one. Some were able to control their appetites (kiss stress-eating goodbye) and most felt that they had reconnected with a lighter, more joyful part of themselves. Imagine all this with an inhale and exhale redux.

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For more information on Art of Living Courses call +63-917-848-4898 / 02-216-6139 or e-mail or visit 

SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated September 30, 2011 *Photo by Odin Nicolas

Get a custom-made closet of chic

In Philippine Star Column on September 16, 2011 at 2:27 am

A versatile black and white cape-The Alexandra

Have you ever moaned out loud, “I have nothing to wear!?” even if your closet is brimming with clothes, shoes and accessories? Perhaps it’s more precise to say, “I have nothing

(that looks perfect on me) to wear!” Sure, there are the malls, the retail shops we can run to when in a pinch, but the sizes are sometimes irregular and you also run the risk of looking like another panic buyer at a party. This was exactly the dilemma that Elthy Aguinaldo-Irasga experienced, prompting her to start her line of clothes Tinsley Manila back in 2005. “I started doing blouses for my mom and for myself because I couldn’t find clothes in styles that I wanted, that fit me perfectly. Everything was either too long, too tight in some areas and nothing fit me or my mom just right,” Irasga says. I could totally sympathize with Irasga’s frustration, being a rather in-between-sizes girl myself.

The Isabel Orange Tweed shift dress

















I decided to check out her online catalog and was attracted to many of the shift dressesand stylish tunics that I found. The website is pretty comprehensive, with a step-by-step guide on how to order, and even giving you flexibility in terms of color and fabric options. Even better, if online shopping is still unfamiliar or distrusted territory, you can call up and get them to come to you. Brilliant. Bright and early on a Saturday morning I welcomed two of Tinsley’s staff who showed up with catalogs, sample pieces and a whole load of swatches of fabrics and colors I could choose from. Most of their clients opt for bright and happy colors and prefer cotton (stretch cotton broadcloth, satinized twill, Italian cotton, Swiss cotton, cotton knit) and jersey, fabrics that move with the body. This was all music to my ears, since I tend to have a love affair with food and dieting, it is always a relief when your outfit has a little “give.”

The Emilia and sexy lacey dress

I also liked that the styles were pretty current, some had enough detail to be trendy but there were others that would be timeless enough to wear again and again. “It’s a very feminine label,” admits Irasga. “I like to think of it as a mix of Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly. It’s a very ‘ladies-who-lunch’ style, reminiscent of the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard.” After poring through Tinsley’s 2011 catalog, I could easily imagine Blair Waldorf or Lily Bass-esque characters sipping tea or cocktails in any of the outfits and thanking the dress deities that their prices weren’t of Fifth Avenue proportions!

What of that “same-dress-same-party” dilemma? Irasga assured me that pieces per style are limited to minimize this from happening. “We also tweak our styles to suit customers’ needs. We can add sleeves to those that are sleeveless. Change the cut, the neckline, the dress length. We can turn a certain dress style into a blouse and vice versa,” she adds.  I took advantage of this, ordering a dress but changing up the color combinations since I was told two other customers had already ordered something similar. I so loved the freedom being offered that I invited my mom to join me and she ended up with a dress that was to be converted into a top with the sleeves made more flattering for her body type. It was reminiscent of my high school days when a kustorera could come to your house and make something special for you only this time, the design brains behind the brand actually reads Vogue. Think about it, you are now able to stock up on pretty, feminine finery that fits just right — another thing to remove from your “best-stressed” list.

Cherry dress with beautiful riboon detail

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For more info, visit or e-mail Or call 0918-8080741.

SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated September 16, 2011

Great Ideas-a one stop online shop

In Philippine Star Column on August 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm

By the time you read this, it is very possible that the first strains of holiday jingles are being played in your near environment and the malls are slowly turning into Tinsel Town. This is the start of the often-loved and often-dreaded season of giving, and giving, and more giving. It may sound exaggerated but if you happen to really be friends with all of the people in your FB and Google Plus Circles, then a panic attack right after making your lists is inevitable. Mallrat I am not, but I do love giving gifts, hunting for veritable treasures for close friends and families. Nowadays though, combining work and the trials and tribulations of having a life outside of work results in an extremely lazy and sometimes uninspired gift-giving me. Thank goodness there are now options for people like me who want something special, unique but don’t have the energy to hit the shops like they used to do.

Great Ideas, a website created by Cay Rodriguez-Araneta, recently entered cyberspace with the mission of offering unique gift items and ways to package them differently. Their ideas are, of course, not just limited to St. Nick’s special day, but for other occasions such as birthdays, baptisms and even wedding favors. “I’ve always liked giving gifts and wrapping them really nice — each year with a different theme,” explains Araneta. “A couple of years ago, a friend of mine handed out cute bag charms as a way of saying thank you to the gals who treated her to a birthday lunch. This started a tradition,” she continues.

It was searching for the perfect giveaway that led her to the discovery of many unknown suppliers. Seeing the benefit in pooling all these resources, this former food stylist decided to create her one-stop online shop, and Great Ideas finally launched last Aug. 18. In selecting the items for her website, Araneta always weighs their practicality: each has to be something that she can also use for herself. Some of the best-selling items on the site are the Big Ol’ Reversible Bag and the art caddies which are usually ordered as giveaways for birthday parties and for weddings. Almost all of the gifts and the way they are packaged can be customized to fit the buyer’s needs. In fact, Araneta was reluctant to show photos of already-made packages in order to not limit one’s imagination in collaborating with her on the perfect gift and its presentation.

If your inner Santa Claus has decided to turn into a Grinch this year due to budgetary restrictions, have no fear, Great Ideas takes your spending into consideration. “We have personalized paper products that start at P120 then we have wooden pieces in the P2,000 range. There are a lot of exciting things in between, though,” shares Araneta.

Getting the items after ordering online is a breeze. Take note that there is a lead time in the customization process on a per-item basis, but payment can be made via bank deposits and delivery options are also available for bulk orders. You can do all this with a simple phone call or through cyber communication, a good way to avoid the crush of holiday shoppers, not to mention traffic jams and parking problems.

Most of the items found on the site are not ones you would normally find at retail stores, so it makes choosing a special gift, at least for me, that much more fulfilling. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine someone wanting to tailor-fit an event just to accommodate a giveaway.

Stress is certainly a part of our lives, so finding sites like these, in my opinion, bring back the joy of discovery and nurture one’s imagination. One’s own creativity is further enhanced with the spirit of finding something truly special for the people in your lives. Even if it’s a gift en masse for your staff or your co-workers, the simple intention of exerting a little bit more effort in selecting something different, unique and still useful and practical further enhances the spirit of gift-giving. Find fulfillment as Araneta did when she witnessed the silly grin and glint in the eye of a satisfied customer once receiving the finished product. What a great idea she had, indeed.

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To find out more about Great Ideas visit: or call 0917-5342236 or e-mail

Shirt Tales – John and Peregrine: Saville Row-Inspired Menswear

In Philippine Star Column on August 18, 2011 at 11:57 pm

London bridged: John and Peregrine designers Juana Yupangco and Hanniel Fernandez are influenced by the tailoring and sihouettes of Saville Row and Jermyn Street.

Shirt Tales

by Katrina A. Holigores ((The Philippine Star) Updated August 19, 2011

A well-tailored shirt is a staple piece in any fashionista’s closet. Crisp lines, a good design structure, lovely fabric and you’ve got a veritable “top” that can be worn with anything and almost anywhere. I have a weakness for men’s shirts because I’ve found that if they fit well; I can wear them for a meeting or pack them for a trip abroad where dress codes can sometimes be misinterpreted. There is, in my opinion, a still limited selection of more playful designs in men’s shirts here in the country — I can go from rack to rack and just be flooded with a sea of blues, greens and whites that have the standard stripes, dots and occasional “edgy” detail, which leads to a rather ho-hum gift for myself or the man in my life. This is the same predicament that design and business partners Juana Yupangco and Hanniel Fernandez found themselves in when scouring retail stores in the metro. “The selection of menswear is so limited here that everyone ends up looking the same,” explains Yupangco. “This is an issue for men who want to express their uniqueness through their wardrobe, but don’t want to pay through the nose for it.” This same sentiment was shared by Fernandez (the pair spent a number of years studying in the UK) and thus they decided to collaborate on their own men’s line, called John and Peregrine, an anglicized play on their respective father’s first names.

For the sartorialist: Finally, finely-fitted shirts that cater to the discerning male fashionista.

I first came across their creations when I met Fernandez at an art exhibit. I admired the print and design of his shirt and was surprised when he said he had designed it, even though his background was in law. I was sent a sample to fit, and I loved the feel also; even if I didn’t have the lithe silhouette of menswear-wearing style icon Joan Bitagcol, it still flattered my shape and was so soft to the touch. “We use cottons, oxfords and linens,” shares Yupangco. “We choose fabrics that are comfortable for the weather here in the Philippines. Most international brands have the same stuff all over the world… one man in Hong Kong can have the exact same shirt in London. Our shirts are limited, so it’s special for the customer,” she concludes.

Limited edition styles makes you stand outShir

Although the two do not possess a formal design background, Yupangco (who also started Capolino, a clothing line for boys) took private classes on men’s patternmaking and sewing; while Fernandez, although trained as a lawyer, is a talented painter and artist. It is their combined talents plus mutual love for clothes that allowed them to create shirts with a strong aesthetic sensibility that are still wearable yet not easily found or copied.

Shirt materials are sourced from all over the world

The two also credit their years living in London as part of their design influence, admiring the shirt makers of Saville Row and Jermyn Street. They also personally hunt for fabric in different parts of the globe: cotton fabrics sourced from Japan, the United States and France. Their fathers’ dress sense also made an impact on them. Yupangco’s father had a wardrobe that ranged from colorful Hawaiian and Pucci printed shirts to bespoke Italian suits. Hernandez’s father, on the other hand, was more attened to British influences, having as his wardrobe staple custom-made suits from Saville Row and Jermyn Street. Even if John and Peregrine shirts are limited in their availability, they are still reasonably priced as the design partners wanted to create one-of-a-kind shirts that were still affordable. The shirts range from P3,000 to P5,000 depending on the material used, which is a steal when you consider the prices of imported brands that are not necessarily limited in production.

Looking at a John and Peregrine shirt is not enough. Although the unique pattern and detail may already be attractive to the eye, it’s how the shirt fits and feels that will turn even the more conservative dresser into a

Feel free to borrow his shirt!

convert. Fernandez shares his own experience: “I like the Liam, which is flesh-colored background and geometric patterns. I don’t normally wear prints, but I tried it on and it looked great.” Truth be told, I ended up getting Fernandez’s favorite and I’m taking it with me on holiday because it will go with almost everything else I’ve stuffed in my suitcase. With the advent of this new menswear line, you can now give the man in your life more style options — or, better yet, you can go and share a shirt.

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In order to view the collection or to make orders or inquiries call 0917-698-3829 or e-mail

A fat-converting hormone is new weight-loss secret

In Philippine Star Column on August 11, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Blame it on the hormones: If followed strictly, the HCG diet can result in a weight loss of two to three pounds a day.

The “ber” months are fast approaching and if the rainy weather has kept you covered up, you may not notice you’ve packed on a few pounds. Rainy weather or not, this columnist likes to eat, so rain or shine I never shun a lunch/merienda or dinner date and this has left me rather displeased with the image I see staring back from the mirror. My lifestyle is relatively active, but no amount of yoga or workout seems to match my food intake so rather than spend on a whole new wardrobe (which would just allow me to eat more) I decided to look into diet options. There were the more commercial choices, such as South Beach or the growing-in-popularity Cohen diet; but in the span of a week two friends turned me on to the benefits of the HCG Program and I took that as a sign to try something relatively new.

HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin and, yes, quite a mouthful to say, hence the shortened version which is easier to remember. Before I begin, a caveat: I am not a dietician, a doctor or a nutritionist by anyone’s standards; I simply did research on my own and HCG fell under the homeopathic way of losing weight. If, after reading this, you feel HCG is for you, take the time to do your own study, and definitely ask your doctor if this is something you can do. The regimen is definitely not easy, because aside from ingesting the drops sublingually (three times a day 10 to 15 minutes before each meal) you have to combine it with a 500-calorie-a-day diet. Yes, you read right: 500 calories a day and that’s it.

So how exactly does HCG work? As explained in the info sheet I got with my kit: “Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced in women during pregnancy. As soon as the new embryo starts to develop, the mother’s body begins releasing large amounts of HCG into the bloodstream. Current scientific philosophy believes that HCG helps maintain the pregnancy and the early growth of the fetus. By moving nutrients from the mother’s stored fat supply into the bloodstream, HCG helps ensure that the developing fetus always has an adequate food supply, even when the mother is eating too little.” In simple English, if you are keeping your calorie intake on a lower than normal level, HCG kicks in and uses your “abnormal” fat and converts it into energy. To quote the website: “In the 1950s, Dr. A.T.W. Simeons discovered that HCG can safely be used as a weight-loss aid in people who are not pregnant. It works for both women and men. He found that HCG moves about 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day of stored fat into the bloodstream where it becomes available for metabolism. With these additional nutrients in the bloodstream, a person can successfully stay on a very low-calorie diet without experiencing extreme fatigue, weakness, or hunger.”

Followed strictly, people can experience a dramatic weight loss of two to three pounds a day. Also, since HCG “grabs” from abnormal fat, you may soon kiss that double chin, potbelly or inner thigh jiggliness goodbye. A childhood friend of mine, who started the diet a month before I did, lost 43 pounds in under two months and good-naturedly joked that one of her chins disappeared. She was very strict, though, as the HCG diet recommends you remove all oil from your lifestyle; she even changed her oil-based cosmetics and refrained from getting massages. Other results weren’t too dramatic, in my case (and this is because I cheated quite often). I averaged about four to five pounds a week. I didn’t feel sluggish or weak (dizziness can also be a side effect in the beginning) but I did sigh and whine a lot while inputting my calorie count into my iTouch. (Oh, if you are going to do this, I would highly recommend you download the free app called Calorie Counter by My Fitness Pal which has relatively accurate calorie amounts and even includes some Filipino dishes like adobo and karekare.)

The program recommends you follow its four phases: Loading (right before), Core (during), Transition (as you are about to end) and the most important, Maintenance. These steps allow you to get into the habit of portioning and bring greater awareness of how much food your body really needs in order to function. You will be surprised at how little it does need; in fact, fluids are way more important (and I mean water and fresh juices, not sodas and coffee!).

It’s been almost three weeks since I finished my HCG regimen and even with two holiday jaunts, I have been able to keep my weight down although it is still a struggle not to go for seconds or thirds at hotel buffets. All in all, I was able to break my weight plateau and reawaken my sleepy metabolism. Plus the HCG kit, which is good for a month, cost me only P5,000, quite reasonable. Other friends have since jumped on the HCG bandwagon and each experience is different: the results are strongly dependent on whether you follow the caloric restrictions or not, there is no other excuse. If you’ve had a love/hate affair with your scale or are tired of crash diets, it may be time to give HCG a try.

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For inquiries and orders, text 0916-3267667 or email