EXCLUSIVE: Filipina Designer Rosanna Ocampo Celebrates 10 Years In The Industry—Read About Her 'Colorful' Fashion Journey!
Some of life’s details fall into place almost effortlessly—there are certain things natural and innate in each one of us. The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. The moon comes out at night. Birds fly. Fish swim. Plants grow. And creators create.
At the age of 12, Rosanna Ocampo already knew her purpose. She was meant to create dresses—colorful ones. Dresses that would help women embrace their beauty. She knew this fact with certainty, and with a wisdom that not a lot of pre-pubescent kids had.
One wouldn’t be surprised why. From early on, Rosanna had already been exposed to fashion. Whenever she would visit her grandparents in New Manila, Rosanna and her mom would drop by Kamuning to have dresses custom-made. “My mom belonged to a generation where people really ‘made patahi’. Watching her choose fabrics and bring them to a mananahi was my first exposure [to fashion]. By the time I was in 6th grade, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” the designer shared.
In an exclusive interview with Metro.Style, it girl Rosanna Ocampo, who is celebrating her 10th anniversary in the industry, shared her colorful journey into becoming a veteran designer today. For your dose of fashion inspiration, scroll ahead!
The beginnings of Rosanna Ocampo
One of the first pieces she designed was her prom dress. “The theme of my prom was ‘60s, so we did the mod look. I designed a mini, metallic blue halter dress!” Rosanna beamed as she reminisced her beginnings. Realizing she enjoyed doing it, she whipped up a full-length bronze dress a year later for her high school graduation ball.
“I wanted to study fashion in college—but my dad didn’t allow me,” shared Rosanna, who was the youngest daughter in the family. That didn’t stop her from dreaming. Not only was she persistent—she was driven. She and her parents made a compromise: she can only pursue fashion after taking a business management degree in college. “During those years [in college], I felt like I was dying. I didn’t like what I was learning! Although I’m very thankful because I can apply accounting [to my business] today, but back then, it felt like torture.”
Hungry for fashion
Rosanna persisted. When she eventually graduated, her parents finally let her spread her wings—in 2003, she chose to soar. “I went to Milan to study. It was supposed to be for just one year, but I didn’t want to go home yet. I was so hungry to learn! I extended and extended, and I ended up going to four different schools.” In her five years in Europe, Rosanna learned the following: Introduction to Fashion and Textile Design in Istituto Europeo di Design, Technical Drawing in Istituto di Moda Burgo, and Draping in Paris. She also finished her Masters Degree in Istituto Marangoni.
But just like any journey, hers wasn’t always smooth-sailing. Aside from the language barrier, the Filipina fashion student sadly experienced racism. “There were only a few Asians then, and there were girls who weren’t really friendly towards us.” Always the fighter, Rosanna refused to be defeated. “I just learned to suck it up!”
Finding one’s trademark aesthetic
Ever the rebel, Rosanna does not conform to trends. “I follow more of what’s happening in my own life. My clothes are a reflection of who I’ve become the past 10 years.”
Her pieces encapsulate the different seasons she went through in life. When she flew back to Manila and started her atelier in 2008, Rosanna was single—and she liked to go out a lot. The clients who were drawn to her had the same lifestyle, so some of her first pieces focused on fun, flirty cocktail dresses with short hemlines. “I can’t even imagine wearing them anymore!” Rosanna laughed, looking back.
While Rosanna’s pieces today come in more sophisticated cuts, the designer retained the elements she believes truly encapsulates her style: pops of vibrant colors, feminine details, fun textures, and flirty (not sexy!) touches.”
Catering to the Ladies Who Lunch
“10 years ago, I would never have imagined myself going RTW—because I was very anti-RTW!” the designer-of-the-moment quipped.
It was not only until 2015 when Rosanna launched her first ready-to-wear collection—true to her words, her personal experiences led to making this bold move. “I was pregnant again at that time, and I already had my first child. I didn’t want to go out [and party] anymore,” she shared. “I was looking for dresses that look nice in the daytime, and I also wanted to wear jeans and still look dressy—but I couldn’t find anything.”
Rosanna found an opportunity to cater to the “ladies who lunch and travel.” For the designer, these women are those who aren’t fond of partying anymore, but still want to dress up. She launched her pilot RTW line during the rainy season, an off-month. “I was very surprised at how well it was received, and from then on, I tried creating tops again. It was such a huge hit, that the majority of our focus now is on RTW!”
Superwoman @draivee was one 5 people that came to mind when I designed this collection - beautiful, stylish with substance, yes but even more so because of of their passion towards their respective advocacies. . . . Beauty Beyond Borders is a foundation spearheaded by The Aivee Group. Most people know Dr. Aivee Aguilar Teo as the founding doctor of The Aivee Clinic, who established the institution alongside her husband, @drzteo . Unbeknownst to most people, Dr. Aivee has been extending her scope of practice beyond the borders of her clinic doors. For the past fifteen years, Dr. Aivee has been holding regular charity clinics in Las Pinas where she attends to indigent patients for free. Along with a team of dermatologists, surgeons, and ENTs, they provide dermatological care and surgical procedures to those who need them. Moreover, she provides free medicine to those who are in need of supplementary skin care. By taking on the duty of leading these medical missions, she has undisputedly helped thousands of patients. . . . She is wearing the Bartlett trenchcoat in Whisky paired with deep teal lining. It is slim-fit, double breasted and waterproof. This is available also in Midnight with smoky marmalade. . Accepting pre-orders until October 1 for merchandise that will arrive from October 29. to November 5. #ROouterwear #RosannaX10 #usingMaccosmetics #WomeninRO
From being 100% custom-made for seven years, Rosanna’s line is now 70% ready-to-wear. It was an unexpected change in direction, but this is a journey the designer is excited to embark on. Just recently, she launched a travel essentials collection perfect for women-on-the-go—and there’s no stopping her from doing more. “Next year, we will have a three-month pop-up in Rockwell. I’m super nervous because I’ve never been in a mall—but I’m excited.”
Celebrating 10 Years of Feminine Fashion
A go-to for several society personalities like Dr. Aivee Teo, Jess Kienle, and Joey Mead King, Rosanna Ocampo has made her way to the top of her game, landing a slot as one of today’s top Filipino designers. “My 10th anniversary collection is all about the previous decade: the people who have been part of my journey, me embracing my sexuality and femininity, and romance—because I am so in love with my job.”
Rosanna believes that the best part of being a designer is forming friendships with her clients. “I’ve built relationships with them, especially during the first seven years when everything was custom-based. When you make their dresses, you get to know them. You get to eventually figure out what would look good on them.” For an extrovert like her, building friendships is easy. But to her, the bond she has with her her clients is beyond superficial. “It’s different when they come to you because they trust you. It’s something I will always be grateful for.”
Rosanna could still recall the highlights that made her career. In 2010, Paris Hilton came to the Philippines and wore her pantsuit. “I think my clothes evoke a lot of fun, and I’m so happy she decided to hand-select one of my pieces!”
Half a decade later, Rosanna was invited to the Metrowear stage to hold a fashion show together with fellow icons Charina Sarte, Sassa Jimenez, Maureen Disini, and Vania Romoff. “A really big milestone for any designer is to be chosen as a Metrowear designer. I will always be grateful for the support that Metro has given me since the very start.”
Finally, the designer shared that one unforgettable event was participating in Fashion Can Serve—a fundraising fashion show held for the benefit of I Can Serve Foundation. “My collection for this was inspired by light against dark—[a symbolism for] beauty against darkness. Everybody involved here worked towards the survivors and the prevention against cancer.”
Who wears Rosanna Ocampo?
A Rosanna Ocampo muse isn’t just someone confident in her own skin—she’s a woman playing multiple roles in society. “She could be a mom. Or she could be a mom with a full-time job. She could be someone who goes to school. She could be anything! She’s adventurous, and she’s not afraid of color.”
Her muses, Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi and Stephanie Kienle-Gonzalez, fit the description perfectly. “Throughout my pregnancy, she managed to make cute, flirtatious dresses [for] my big tummy, if that’s even possible!” quipped Stephanie Zubiri, whom she’s known ever since they were little. “She makes every woman happy and glam. Before, one would go to Rosanna to get a fun, short dress or sexy palazzo pant suit with lots of fun prints. But as she and her clientle evolved, her clothing also evolved. Now, there’s a lot more tailoring, and a lot more detail, luxury, and sophistication...A [Rosanna Ocampo] piece is very current, very now—it's meant for the occasion. It's an indulgement piece."
One of Stephanie Kienle’s favorite Rosanna Ocampo pieces is a sequined white dress, which she wore to the cocktail party before her wedding ceremony. “I have a wide range of pieces from different parts of my life!” she beamed, sharing that she’s been wearing Rosanna for almost a decade. “She dresses for the modern woman. Every time I wear her, I always feel confident, sexy, and ready to have a good time.”
The interior-savvy entrepreneur particularly likes Rosanna’s travel wear line. “I really love the new direction she’s been taking! She developed this small capsule travel wear collection, which I think is very different from what she’s known—but it’s a great way for her to expand and develop her brand. It shows her versatility. I was impressed by that collection because it was practical, functional, chic, and very Rosanna!”
Her fashion, her rules
Why do you like designing dresses, we asked the woman-of-the-hour. Rosanna—the very same 17-year-old who created her prom dress, the same woman who flew across the world to pursue her calling, and the same woman who’s made a huge impact the local fashion industry—replied without hesitation. “Because when you design, you create your own rules!”
Produced by Kate Paras-Santiago and Hershey Neri
Photography by Ronan Capili
Makeup by Carmel Rivadelo-Villongco