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Getting to Know Stylist Ica Villanueva Through Her Work With BINI

As BINI's creative visual director, Ica Villanueva evolved and grew with the group that also helped her solidify who she is and what she stands for as a fashion stylist

BINI at "BINIverse: The First Solo Concert"
BINI at "BINIverse: The First Solo Concert" | Photo from @bini_ph

P-Pop powerhouse BINI, endearingly called by many as the “Nation’s Girl Group,” has soared to phenomenal success. Members Aiah, Colet, Maloi, Gwen, Stacey, Mikha, Jhoanna, and Sheena have become household names, so much so it’s highly likely you've bopped to their mega-hit songs “Pantropiko” and “Salamin, Salamin.”

With their catchy songs, hard-to-miss style, and undeniable allure, the girls of BINI have definitely captured Pinoys’ hearts. 

Whether you’re a BLOOM (their fandom’s official name) or a soon-to-be fan, BINI is inescapable and most would agree that their fame and success now is merited. After years of hard work and training, the girls are now reaping what they sowed. And while you can see the dedication and work the girls have put into their craft, the people behind them have equally worked tirelessly to make BINI what they are today. One in particular has played a vital role in the girls’ journey to success: their stylist and creative visual director, Ica Villanueva

Ica is a fashion stylist with 14 years of valuable experience. She has been the mind responsible for the members’ visuals—from their wardrobe to their hairstyles—since their debut in 2021. She’s had well-rounded training, working on variety shows and teleseryes like Your Face Sounds Familiar, Magandang Buhay, and Imortal, and styling for fashion editorials. She’s also no stranger to styling performers, as her stellar clientele includes artists like AC Bonifacio, Niana Guerrero, Moira de la Torre, and Yeng Constantino. 

Her work with BINI has garnered praise as the girl group’s style has made a significant mark on the local fashion scene; their looks have helped catapult the girls into superstardom. Ica shared that the partnership only works because of the level of trust among her, the management, and the members.

Ica told Metro.Style, “At first, siyempre, we were looking for everyone’s styles. Pero super thankful ko sa management and sa girls because they’re so trusting. Never sila naki-alam, hanggang Direk Lauren [Dyogi], never naki-alam. Kaya sobrang happy ko sa kung ano man style ng girls ngayon kasi eto ’yung na-visualize ko ever since.”

Read on as we get to know one of the people behind BINI’s success and discover how she’s used fashion as a tool to help with BINI’s impact. Ica also shared her favorite anecdotes about the early days of styling the girl group and how they’re advocating for fashion sustainability.

Ica’s humble beginnings in the industry

Ica graduated with a degree in Business Economics. After graduating from college, though, she jumped from one job to another until she landed a role in an events company. However, she felt she didn’t quite fit in that industry because it had strict requirements. Months later, creative director Chookie Cruz, who she considers her “godmother” in the industry, asked her if she wanted to apply to her fashion stylist sister Kat Cruz

Hindi pa ganu’n ka-mainstream ’yung term na stylist talaga that time. Mahilig ako sa damit pero alam ko hindi naman ako designer kaya sabi ko, 'Ay, sige po, ta-try ko,'” Ica said. Her work with Kat didn’t push through but the latter endorsed Ica to her business partner at the time, Rex Atienza of StyleList, Inc. Ica shared, “Ako ’yung naging first assistant niya. Four years ako sa kanya tapos after, nag-solo na ako. The rest is history!

Working with BINI from the beginning

Many milestones and successes can be credited to word of mouth. It’s no different in the Philippine fashion industry. Ica first worked with BINI for a gig on Sunday noontime show ASAP. Perhaps it was a mix of her style fitting the branding of BINI perfectly, her personality, and her work style that eventually led to her being tapped as the group’s visual director. 

Explaining what that role entails, Ica said, “’Yung visual director, ikaw ang in charge salooks, hair, makeup, everything, sa buong career nila. So, na-excite ako.” 

Landing this job has made Ica further believe in the power of praying for something specific, manifesting a certain dream. “Kailangan talaga maging specific tayo mag-pray,” she emphasized. “Before this opportunity, I prayed, 'Lord, bigyan mo ako ng performer' tapos puro performers [’yung BINI] at ang dami nila! I really prayed to be a creative director or something like that because you have more responsibilities and ’yung vision moyung mas nasusunod. Tapos after mga one week, in-offer na sa akin.” 

Her take on styling BINI

Fashion is a crucial element in branding, especially in the entertainment industry. With BINI, their fashion statements have become instrumental in establishing their personality as a group. Nailing their aesthetic didn’t happen overnight. “’Yung styling mantra ko, para maging trademark siya nu’ng artist, kailangan mo siyang ibabad. And lagi kong sinesendan ng mga pegs ’yung girls para kahit nag nagvlo-vlog vlog lang sila, alam nila ’yung babagay,” Ica shared, sounding like a big sister to the members of BINI.  

“Breath of fresh air talaga sila. Para kang may walong kapatid,” Ica continued. “Being an only child, sobrang dream ko kasi magkaroon ng kapatid. So feeling ko nagkaroon ako ng walong kapatid na iba’t-ibang personality… Sobrang cute nila.” 

Consistency in styling, like sticking to the girls’ established aesthetic while leaving room for experimentation, is important for Ica. Because that’s her mindset, fashion has undoubtedly contributed to making BINI a standout “Kasi hindi ka mag-iiwan ng mark kung hindi ka consistent… You have to give it your all,”  she said. 

Seeing fans recreate the BINI members’ looks is like an achievement for Ica; it’s the biggest compliment and the best proof that their consistency is helping the girls make a mark in the fashion industry.

“Super happy ko kapag nakikita ko na ganun ’yung fans. Kasi nga minsan ’pag sa mall show, biglang makikita ko na, 'Ay, Maloi!' As in nakakatuwa kahit hanggang bata, ginagaya ’yung outfits nila. Tapos, for example, ’yung 'Pantropiko Day' ng ASAP, nandu’n din ’yung mga fans, ang dami nu’n. Sinabihan sila na magdamit ng very BINI 'Pantropiko' outfit. So ’yung outfit nila, very BINI nga talaga,” Ica excitedly recalls. “Ganu’n na din pala ’yung na-create mong brand na ’pag sinabing BINI, alam mo na ’yung outfit. So powerful, no? Feeling ko parang success story siya ng buong team: sa choreo, sa management, sa glam team. Sobrang nakaka-proud kasi ’yung mga hairstyles, ’yung makeup looks—nakakatuwa makita kung ano ’yung growth namin before sa ngayon. Tapos hindi namin binitawan ’yung girls. Kaya nu’ng umiyak si Maloi sa isang interview, feeling ko lahat kami umiyak kasi nga parang ginapang talaga namin siya.”

The BINI members’ signature styles

While BINI has a certain signature style as a group, Ica also gamely chatted with us about the fashion styles of each member:

On Aiah:Si Aiah, bilang siya ’yung pinaka-girly, feminine, we always use corsets, gloves, headbands, and shorts. Her style is very sophisticated. Pretty na hot.”

On Colet: “With Colet, hindi siya girly; she’s more boyish and the first time I worked with her, napansin ko na sobra niyang quiet, introvert. I knew na hindi siya makakagalaw sa skirt or sa sobrang sexy top. So, I put her in oversized pullovers, sweater, vests, jorts, naka-band shirt lang siya tapos binabad ko ’yung necktie sa kanya para alam ng fans nayanyung Colet starter pack!”

BINI Aiah | Photo from @bini_ph
BINI Colet
BINI Colet | Photo from @bini_ph

On Gwen:Si Gwen naman, being the model type, lahat nag-wo-work sa kanya. But because of her skinny body frame, ang ginagawa ko, volume sa bottoms, like puff na pants, flared, or wide leg. Then sa top, haltered para ma-balance. Tapos dahil sobra niyang introvert, nilagyan ko siya ng personality sa hair; we gave her full bangs. Sabi ko gawin talaga natin siyang model!” 

On Jhoanna: “So si Jhoanna, from the start, siya ’yung hirap na hirap kami, eh siya pa naman ’yung leader. As in, ang dami namin na-try. So, naisip ko dahil siya ’yung leader, lagyan siya ng structure sa damit, to show authority using clothes. We did cropped blazers, long skirts, asymmetrical long skirts na p’wede mong lagyan sa loob ng stockings.”

BINI Gwen | Photo from @bini_ph
BINI Jhoanna
BINI Jhoanna | Photo from @bini_ph

On Maloi: Si Maloi naman, I think isa siya sa successful na naging style icons ng industry natin. Alam ko sa lahat ng girls, siya ’yung mas may interest sa art, sa pagdadamit and that reflected sa style niya. Kaya I put her in puff sleeves, rompers, mga hip na damit, ’yung mga pang-cute na siya lang makakatawid. ’Yung coquette style niya na sumikat, sabi ko, unahan na natin mag-coquette, kasi wala pa nag-coquette. Ibabad natin ’yung ribbons everywhere, doll shoes tayo, bubble skirts. Nakakatuwa kasi naging iconic na ginagaya ng ibang tao so feeling ko successful ’yung branding niya.”

On Mikha:Si Mikha naman, ang pinaka-bias wrecker ng lahat ng tao, siya ’yung maangas na mysterious na ang pretty. Medyo conservative pa siya noon so gusto niya naka-pants, naka-jacket, shirt na maangas. Pero slowly, nagiging open siya na hindi laging naka-jacket. The girls naman, gradually, nagiging confident din sila as time goes by. Pero ’yung red hair talaga niya, ’yun ’yung dinesign ko na character niya.”

BINI Maloi
BINI Maloi | Photo from @bini_ph
BINI Mikha
BINI Mikha | Photo from @bini_ph

On Sheena:Si Sheena naman, the bunso, we went with sporty tops, gloves na sporty din, cargo pants or pants na may maliit na skirt on top kasi siya ’yung dancer.” 

On Stacey: “Lastly, si Stacey, the princess of the group! Kung ano man siya dati, ’yun pa rin siya hanggang ngayon. ’Yung lahat naka-neutral tapos siya lang naka-pink and skirt or shorts. Lately, lagi ko siyang ini-style na naka-bag na maliit or sling bags, fur, very princess. Tapos sa ibang performances, siya lang ’yung lagi may shades sa ulo.”

BINI Sheena
BINI Sheena | Photo from @bini_ph
BINI Stacey
BINI Stacey | Photo from @bini_ph

Shaping BINI’s future fashion

It’s an exciting time for BINI, with their future shining so brightly. There’s so much to look forward to from their music, and it will be such a visual treat to see their fashion evolve with their artistry. 

Sharing her hopes for the next phases in BINI’s career, Ica opened up, “Ang goal ko sa future, mag-try ng ibang looks by local designers. Kasi feeling ko dahil being the Nation’s Girl Group, pinagtulungan talaga na mai-angat ’yung BINI ng mga Filipinos, kumbaga, kapwa Filipino natin. So, might as well, magtulungan din tayo paakyat. I try to update myself lagi sa mga batang designer sa mga fashion schools para mabigyan sila ng opportunity. Pati mga manang-manang nagpapa-crochet ako.” In a guesting on Sunday musical variety show ASAP for the “Grand Pantropiko Day,” BINI wore crocheted outfits by designers Cora and Cecilia from Bohol.

Ica continued, “’Yung isang goal din namin ay mas maging sustainable, na okay lang mag-repeat costumes at walang masasayang na damit. ’Pag may pinutol ako, ilalagay ko pa ’yun sa ibang damit. Ine-encourage ko lahat ng tao through BINI na maging creative whenever they can… So we upcycle, pinagtatagpi-tagpi ko para magamit ulit. Feeling ko nauumpisahan na ngayon sa fans, gumagawa na sila ng sarili nilang denim outfits. Pati ’yung drag queens, sobrang nakaka-happy, hindi nagiging limitation sa atin ang budget, ang resources. Kaya pa rin natin pumorma ng maganda.”

BINI has indeed become a huge source of inspiration from their journeys in pursuing their dreams to their fashion evolution that celebrates creativity and individuality. And through it all, two things also stand out: their humility and loyalty for people like Ica, who helped them get to where they are now. 

With text by Chin Ann Obiedo

Interview by Chin Ann Obiedo

Lead photo from @bini_ph

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