This Cebu-Born Designer Is This Year's Metrowear Icon—And Her Fashion Journey Will Inspire You
While some girls celebrate their eighteenth birthdays throwing grand debuts, Vania Romoff took the unconventional route twelve years ago by doing her own fashion show. In lieu of a program with 18 candles, 18 roses, and a cotillion, she showcased a 30-piece collection that she designed herself, inviting friends and family to come and watch. "It was a fun experience," Vania laughed, reminiscing the moment with Metro.Style and Metro magazine.
For the Cebu-born designer who grew up in a family well-known in the industry, fashion was something innate in her. It was as natural as breathing. "[Fashion] was always in my peripheral. I would always see what was going on," the 30-year-old designer quipped. Her grandmother, the iconic Viring Romoff, was Cebu's first couturier—and her mother and siblings soon followed her footsteps. While her sister got into manufacturing, her brother, Anthony Romoff, became a famous designer in Cebu. "I'm lucky that I wasn't put off by the industry that my family was working around—rather, I was inspired. [But] it was always a matter of carving my own name [in the industry] without relying on my family."
And so in 2009, just in her early twenties, Vania took a leap of faith—away from her comfort zone. She booked a ticket and flew straight to Manila. "I knew [that] if I stayed in Cebu, I would have survived. I could have stayed in my parents’ house and rode on their success...but I knew that going to Manila would present a challenge."
She set up her first atelier in Magallanes. Sitting by her desk and staring across the room, she was eager to make her dreams come true, one dress at a time. "I remember sitting there, just really satisfied with being in Manila. But [I was] also wondering when clients would come in—I would have days when no one would come in the door! It all added up because I had all these people working for me, and things just weren't working financially."
Fortunately, Vania met a lot of people who shared the same passion as hers. "We would attend all these fashion shows, and I remember attending Cary Santiago’s Metrowear." Not knowing anyone else that night, Vania took comfort in seeing that it was one of Cebu's veteran designers presenting. Cary was a contemporary of Anthony Romoff—Vania looked up to him, like he was her own kuya.
"It was the first Metrowear that I attended," Vania exclaimed. "I was sitting there in the audience, and just dreaming that one day, I'd have that. I didn't have a business at that time...[my atelier] was almost shutting down at the moment. But I was just starting at Cary's creations, and was inspired. I thought, Oh my God, this is so amazing."
Photo: BJ Pascual
In a series of Instagram Stories, Vania shared the details of her first Metrowear experience:
"I moved to Manila in 2009. I also attended my first Metro event...I was nervous because I did not know anyone that night, except those from Cebu. I wore Jun Escario.
A year after, [in] 2010, I attended my first Metrowear Icon event. This was one in honor of Cary Santiago. I sat in the back and watched in awe of everything!"
"I remember being backstage and helping out however I could. But mostly, I just stood in the background. I was taking it all in. The chaos, the excitement, and the clothes. It was like a dream to me."
"That night, I won the best dressed award. I remember how nerve wracking that was!"
After the show, Vania celebrated Cary's success with friends from the industry, including Metro Society Magazine editor-in-chief Raul Manzano. Wearing her brother's creation, Vania was also crowned the "BELO Woman of the Night," bringing home a total of two awards that evening.
But just like any other story, Vania's fashion journey wasn't always a success. Her first atelier closed down, urging her to leave everything behind and fly to New York. "It was [because of] a mix of everything—of my business folding and of breaking up with my longtime boyfriend. I was like, 'I hate Manila, nothing is working out', and I left. I fell in love with New York. I applied in Parsons [School of Design], and I got in."
But since she didn't have the money and the visa to enroll into the fashion school, she decided to come back to the Philippines. The plan? To work hard in Manila and save up for her Parsons education. "I came home. I didn't have my own studio, but I worked from my own apartment in Legaspi Village." She converted her living room into a workspace, started with a sewing machine, and never looked back since then. "The ball kept on rolling for me...I was just riding it," explained the designer.
Eventually, clients kept coming in. Her staff increased that she had to call back the seamstresses she had let go before when her first atelier closed down. Today, they are more than thirty in the team—and the rest, as they say, is history. "[It turned out that] New York was my reset button," she smiled. Today, the designer plans to stay in Manila for good—but she still hasn't forgotten her dreams of studying in Parsons, even just for a few months.
In 2015, Vania Romoff was invited to take part at the Metrowear luxe gala show, along with iconic women designers Charina Sarte, Rosanna Ocampo, Sassa Jimenez, and Maureen Disini. Vania, who was seven months pregnant that time, recalled her experience. "I walked on stage with my belly this big. I was in heels and my feet were hurting! My baby was kicking while I was on stage. It was such an experience."
Thank you #MetrowearLuxe for this beautiful opportunity to stand alongside these empowered women designers @charinasarte @rosannaocampo_r @sassajimenez @maureendisini it was such a wonderful night full of support and love for each other! ?????? Thank you @metromagph @chrisnlo @robbycarmona @sarah_meier @eldzsmejia ? xx All the love.
With a growing list of celebrity clients and more covet-worthy RTW collections being launched, it's no surprise that Vania was chosen to be this year's Metrowear Icon. "Before, I did Metrowear while I was pregnant. But now, I'm doing Metrowear [again]—as [a] married [woman]! It's an extreme rush of emotions."
Metro is excited to announce the next #MetrowearIcon! Approaching her ten-year milestone in fashion, with her name almost always mentioned at every major fashion moment or event, #VaniaRomoff has become a staple in the local fashion scene. Known for designs that evoke a feminine mystique, frequently featured on editorials, weddings, and red carpets, Vania has become a go-to for celebrities and fashion women alike. We give a sneak peek of what’s to come with some of Vania’s muses, including #AnneCurtis, #JessWilson, #StephKienleGonzalez, #JanineGutierrez, #MariJasmine, and #ClaraAseniero in original designs showcasing Vania’s signature feminine style. Read all about it in our @metrodotstyle exclusive #MetroLovesVania (or click the link in bio) Photographer @bjpascual Writer @jenicachuahiock Producer @gracelibero and @kate_paras Fashion Editor @randzomeness Makeup artists @antheabueno (Vania, Jess, Mari), @omar_ermita for M.A.C (Janine) @reeaquino (Clara, Steph), and @robbiepinera (Anne) Hairstylists @mongamado (Vania, Jess), @georgealiben for Aveda (Clara, Steph), @ethandavid_ (Mari), @markfamilara (Janine), and @santiagoraymond (Anne) Fashion Assistant @zetacarmenn Nails Luz Fortuno for @tripleluckbrowandnailsalon
"Dreams do come true. Even if it takes a decade," wrote Vania on Instagram. "I never thought in my wildest imagination, that one day, this stage would be mine. After 9 years, I would eventually be presenting as the Metrowear Icon. This is all too surreal. Now, I have a wonderful team to help me backstage and the incredible support of all my clients, family, and friends. Thank you Metro for allowing my dream to become my reality today. I am overwhelmed with gratitude."
Ten years ago, Vania was seated in the audience, basking in inspiration at the 2010 Metrowear Icon show. But this November 22, the designer won't be watching the show from afar anymore. "Now, I’m getting ready for the exact same show. But this time, I’m not at the audience. I’m actually there!”
Congratulations, Vania! We are proud of you. See you on the runway!
Counting down the hours before the grandest fashion event of the season, the #MetrowearIconVania show! In celebration of @metromagph’s 29th year, the country's authority in style presents #Metrowear2018 featuring one of the country's top young designers, #VaniaRomoff. Watch the show's live feed on @metrodotstyle’s facebook and Youtube pages and make sure to stay tuned for the TV special on @metrochannelph this coming December!
Watch the show's live feed on @metrodotstyle’s facebook and Youtube pages, and make sure to stay tuned for the TV special on @metrochannelph this coming December!
Lead photos via @vaniaromoff