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The Louis Vuitton Capucines And The Art Of Redefining Femininity

Seven women, seven stories of emerging from the lockdown

With its architectural integrity and sleek gravitas, it is easy to assume that the Louis Vuitton Capucines, like perhaps the Alma or the Speedy that came before it, is an ancient archival style. But though it is named as a tribute to the Rue Des Capucines, where Louis Vuitton opened its first shop all the way back in 1854, the Capucines is most definitely a 21st century bag. First launched with a campaign starring Michelle Williams in 2013, the Capucines has become a singular sensation, associated with LV brand ambassadors such as Emma Stone and Alicia Vikander, as well, who are known for their bold artistic movies and prodigious talent.

And with its distinct rhombus shape and graceful arc of a top handle, it makes the perfect blank canvas for contemporary artists. Last year, LV launched the Arty Capucines, a unique meeting of contemporary art, fashion, and striking artisanal craftsmanship. Spanning the global art scene, this limited-edition collection featured bags by Sam Fullers, Urs Fishcher, Nicolas Hlobo, Alex Israel, Tschabalala Self, and Jonas Wood. This year’s edition of Arty Capucines is just as international with works by Beatriz Milhares, Henry Taylor, Jean Michel Otoniel, Josh Smith, Liu Wei, and Zhao Zhao.

Just as the Capucines honors tradition but revels in the dynamic of the future, for this special feature for Metro Society, the magazine and Louis Vuitton Philippines chose to focus on women who have embraced their roles as nurturers and pillars of the family, but also seeking vibrant, storied and colorful paths of their own. Whether it is forging their own businesses, crafting an esthetic path, advocating for women’s crafts, these women don’t let anything stop them… whether that is a pandemic or old-fashioned notions of what womanhood can be. Each woman in this special portfolio is living proof that while the past is a deep and moving inspiration, we all look and move and surge on, always upwards and onwards, towards an ever brighter and always bolder future.

Seven Women, Seven Stories Of Emerging From The Lockdown

At our first real shoot in months, the excitement and energy are palpable. With a fun and friendly atmosphere somewhere between a school homecoming and a ladies brunch, everyone is happy to be surrounded by chic clothes and fantastic leather goods. Juana and Charmaine compliment each other’s looks and reminisce about the time both their kids were in a musical performance. Shirley greets the Louis Vuitton team, happy to see them after a memorable trip to Paris and Prague last year. EIC Raul Manzano is happy and thankful that these seven women have agreed to do the shoot, and he happily catches up with everyone and the spirit of camaraderie is infectious. For a minute, it might seem easy to pretend that the pandemic is behind us. But it’s not.

So many of the homebound activities that became obsessive hobbies for many stuck at home, from plant parenting to baking to artistic endeavors, all point to the deeply human need to feel in control. And also to nurture and nourish the inner self. We all may have been blindsided by the COVID-19 situation, but we didn’t have to be paralyzed or defeated by it. As K-pop supergroup BTS reminded us all; life goes on. And these women are beautiful and shining lights who show us that life really does go on, with style and grace.

Steph Kienle Gonzalez

A self-described “Type A” personality, multi-hyphenate Steph thrived on doing, doing, doing. “As a Type A personality, I was really all about being productive, whether it was at work or here at home. Always a long list of things to do, things to accomplish. And I learned that you need time for yourself and that it’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to take an afternoon off. And as you take that time for yourself, and be more introspective, you emerge a lot stronger. I really took the time to mediate. Connection now is so much more meaningful.”


Even her beauty rituals now have a sense of fun. “I discovered the gua sha. And I feel as if I’m just playing with it and so, of course, my daughters got into it as well. They also see it as play time and the three of us have so much fun with it!”

One silver lining that Steph has observed that came with the lockdown is an awareness that gratitude for the little things is actually a big deal. “I’ve realized that happiness is homemade. If I can create fun moments with my girls or date night with my husband, I can still keep that spontaneity, keep that excitement. And even for the holidays, though the celebrations will be pared down, the spirit of joy will still come from intimate moments with your nearest and dearest. We’ve made plans to finally meet up with my parents, we’ve figured out the quarantining and everything, and just having that plan of being all complete as a family is enough.”


Of what changed about her during quarantine, she pauses and confesses, “I think the biggest change is that my self-worth is no longer tied up with my productivity. We do this thing now, before dinner, and we ask the girls what they’re grateful for and it’s just lovely. It’s so wonderful to hear that they really appreciate all the little things we do together.”

Juana Manahan-Yupangco

As an advocate for clean and healthy eating, Juana Manahan-Yupangco actually discovered a renewed sense of patience, self sufficiency and increased inspiration during the lockdown. “At the start of the year, all I really had planned was to launch my cookbook. That’s it. But since the printing had to be moved back for so many reasons, from the paper stock not arriving to all the shuffling from everything that happened (with ABS-CBN Publishing), I actually was able to take in more meetings and widen the scope and activities of Mesa ni Misis. Since we don’t have to deal with traffic and stuff, I could do so much more. I am not a patient person, but I learned [to be one]!”


Her newfound patience even worked its way into her beauty regimen. “Since we couldn’t make it to derma appointments and stuff, I actually finally committed to a skincare regimen." It all just started when a friend recommended this toner by the French company Biologique Recherche. Juana admits, "I remember telling her that it would sting, and I really didn’t see the difference. Again, I’m impatient. But [my friend] told me to be patient. And when I told her that I was loving the toner, she recommended the serum and the moisturizer and before I knew it, I woke up one morning and I had the whole line. But I’m happy. I’m also into this mini RF machine for the face and a hair helmet, which stimulates hair growth. I am just really loving all these beauty gadgets. I realized, ‘Oh, this can be done at home!’” She even became her own, one-woman glam team. “Since i had to do my Mesa ni Misis videos at home, I really learned how to do my own makeup and hair.” She asked photographer Paolo Pineda to teach her how to do the lighting for her own videos so in addition to the standard ring light, she now has professional lighting for her kitchen videos.

Of the biggest lessons brought by lockdown, “I really just learned to take things day by day. I mean, when you start to think, are we in this for the long haul? And there are no real answers… [it gets frustrating.] You are in charge of the peace in your own home. If keeping up with the news destroys that peace, then take a break from the news. I actually love having my husband home all the time, but if he gets on my nerves or the kids are fighting, I just bring it back to keeping the peace. A conscious effort to be more at peace really makes a difference. The early days of lockdown, I really organized stuff at home, and recognizing what’s essential just made everything feel lighter.”


She also learned that making that extra effort to put up her Christmas decor uplifted her family’s energy at home. “Normally, my family helps me out, plus my mom’s staff. But this year, it was just me and my driver! But wow, as soon as the tree was up, the energy just changed. It got everyone happier.”

Shirley Wong

Shirley admits that taking things slow did not come naturally to her. “It’s difficult but I’ve managed to get used to a slower pace at work. Suddenly having more chill moments at home, exploring my kitchen at last and baking and cooking was a new thing. Learning how to manage all the new work-from-home arrangements and having more time with Kevin made me more excited to start a family. Before, we took eating out for granted, but when restaurants began to open up, and we could do outdoor dining, being able to taste something new that didn't come from our kitchen became such a big deal!”


Shirley keeps her focus on the future. “Normally, I really like to decorate for Christmas, but now, since I do work from home, I don’t want to go all out since my background for work calls might be overwhelmed if I bring out all my decor. So we are now renovating our house in Tagaytay and I hope to be able to fix that up for Christmas.”

Reflecting on what changed for her during the pandemic, she says simply: “Just really cherishing every moment.”


Heart Evangelista-Escudero

While most families and couples were able to really bond with the advent of the lockdown, the opposite was true for Heart and her husband, Governor Chiz Escudero. “Of course, I always knew, but this quarantine really made me see just how large the scope of my husband’s job as a governor really is. At the start of the year, I thought that we would have more family time, but with the quarantine and the natural calamities, I know that his life is so much bigger than what we both want.”


The slowdown did make her learn the true meaning of hope. “We can still be very hopeful,” she says with conviction. “To look forward to the future. To realize that you have all this time that you can spend with your family. To really make time for yourself. And to know that this too shall pass.”

She has made new discoveries, as well. “I’ve become obsessed with home beauty gadgets—the lifting wands, the LED masks. Oh, and a whole lot of lip balms! Since I don’t wear as much as lipstick, now it’s all about lip balms!”


On a more serious note, she says, “This great pause; it shows us that the person who is literally in front of you is the one who matters.” And, on an even deeper level, it’s getting to know not just the people around you, but the person you can be. “We can all be bigger, we can be more than we ever thought we could. be. So create! Help out more people. As you spend more time with your family, think of the other families that you can reach out to. For me, even if I can’t be with my husband as much, I became a better wife.”

Charmaine Lagman

Charmaine exudes old world élan with a modern verve and this wonderful sense of balance also marked how she approached the uncertainties and worries of the quarantine. “Of course, there was fear at the beginning, but I am a mother, so I had to find that courage and hope from within. And to introduce little joys again to the family. Whereas before, I was so strict about the schedule, and getting everything done, I learned how to be a little easy on myself and my kids. Let them feel that joy of staying up late, and sleeping in a little. As for me, I still like to look good even when I’m at home. So instead of just being in home clothes, I brought out my summer dresses and wore them around the house. My husband or my daughter will ask, where are you going? And I’ll say, downstairs!”


She also took more time for self-care. “I really paid attention to healthy eating and exercise! Although with some balance, too. At the start of the pandemic, I realized that I hadn’t eaten Spam in more than a decade! So I thought, who knows what will happen next? Maybe i can allow myself to have some Span!” Though she did allow herself some junk food, her generally healthy habits even made her skin better! “Even if I couldn’t go to the dermatologist, my regular exercise and healthy eating really showed on my skin. So I got more religious with my skin care and all my creams, which I wasn’t before.”

She is looking forward to her US-based kids all coming home for Christmas. “Their request was for the beach so we will be going to El Nido for New Year!”


As for her own adventures, she quips: When they allowed it, I went back to my outdoor sports, tennis and golf. Now, when I drive my golf cart, it’s as exciting as a trip to New York!”

Rissa Mananquil-Trillo

If there’s anyone who knows about the art of the graceful transition, it’s Rissa. From teenage columnist and model to wife, mother, and beauty entrepreneur, she has moved from the different chapters of her life with equanimity, passion, and hard-won success. Thus, it comes as no surprise that she has not only weathered the demands of the lockdown but has come through with practical insights and true and gentle strength.

“This pandemic is probably the greatest challenge of our lifetime. There is no playbook to guide us on the right thing to do. Not everyone will be infected by the virus, but everyone will be affected by it. For entrepreneurs, we have to accept that business will not be the same. It’s not business as usual. It's business as best we can. It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of a global emergency, but one thing I realized is when you can’t control what's happening, pivot your mindset and challenge yourself instead to control how you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”


As a beauty entrepreneur, Rissa lives out self-care in both her professional and personal lives. “Self-care is the ability to know when your body, mind and spirit need to take a step back—it’s being kind to your entire self. And I can’t deny that a swipe of Happy Skin lippie and a winged eyeliner always work wonders to make me feel ready to face the day. Makeup is still so important for so many people at a time like this. I’ve gotten so many messages on social media from women working from home or even from frontliners telling me how they’ve turned to Happy Skin makeup for their well-being. Self-care products are so important now and beauty shopping will remain relevant because it empowers us to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally at this time. Fixing up, even just a little, gives us the sense of control amidst uncertain times and makes us all feel ‘normal’ even for a moment.”

For the upcoming holidays, Rissa is looking forward to new traditions that could continue even after COVID-19. She foresees that there will be virtual get-togethers, and that in the future, our ability to celebrate virtually could bridge a lot of gaps. She also suggests a new, more ‘selfish’ gift: “Reward yourself for the strength you’ve shown this 2020 and make it your personal reminder that you can overcome adversity.”


And of course, this pandemic has only meant more precious family time. “When everything feels so uncertain, everything that is important actually becomes clear. I feel very grateful for good health, the privilege of being able to work from home, and that in a crisis like this, I’m with my family. They are the most important people I want to be with at a time like this. One of the best things to come from this lockdown period is that I’ve been able to refocus and spend more time with my daughters Celestia and Audra. I love watching them grow up. The most precious gift is to see them closer than ever. I know that they will always be there for each other and at a time like this, it has never meant so much."

Pam Quiñones

Pam is vigorous and vibrant proof that time in isolation doesn’t dim nor diminish the essential self; in fact, the lockdown proved that she even became a stronger and more solid version of herself. “One of the biggest discoveries was how I didn’t really need much to make me happy! Intentional practices became the core of my day-to-day activities—from the food and clothes we time spent with friends and family… to nurturing relationships with people l work with. This helps me work through some physical, mental and psychological baggage. It’s quite liberating! Before the lockdown, I felt my circle was quite big! Then it became smaller and smaller as the months went on while the world was at a standstill. And that’s when I realized that it's okay. These are the people I choose to spend quality time with. Also, I realized that I’m a master troubleshooter...While most of my friends spent the first few months ‘staycationing,’ I was busy organizing things for my staff to do and launching a charity sale. Between the master class I ran for eight weeks and the benefit sale for frontliners, I didn't have time for Netflix till it was June!”


Another reward that she is looking forward to is going home this Christmas. “My family lives in Mindanao and I’ll definitely be with them for the holidays. Nothing says Christmas like an overstuffed belly from my mom’s Noche Buena feast! I’m looking forward to spending time with the rest of my family as I haven’t seen them in almost a year. Just being with them this season is enough.”


Pam’s big realization is her new love for her me time. “I’ve come to realize that I really enjoy my time at home, which is something that I couldn’t have known pre-lockdown when I was always running on a packed schedule. I’ve done a few virtual projects which allowed me to learn new skills. It amazes me how a lot of people are creatively using the virtual space as a platform for work or as an avenue to put their work out there.”

There will come a time when COVID-19 will be just a memory. But the lessons learned, the insights gained, the precious moments, don’t have to be discarded. We all had to change and adapt and grow from this experience. Let’s carry all those into the future, while leaving the fear and frustration behind.

Photographer: Seven Barretto

Shot on location at the Louis Vuitton boutique at The Shoppes at Solaire