You have to hand it to the younger generation of fashion stylists today. It's hard to break into an already extremely solid and jam-packed industry, yet you see them growing by folds never minding rivalries. It was totally different back then to have been one of the trusted pioneer stylists from the beginning, where competition didn't make the freelance market seem so bleak for rookies. There was much more elbow room back then for an individual to put themselves on the fashion map, not to mention less digital distractions. We remember industry engraved names like Michael Salientes often referred to as the Philippines' "first stylist" way before the actual word "stylist" was even heard of over here. (He's worked with Details Magazine in NYC). Then of course there are more socially celebrated stylists like millenial maven Liz Uy, who has already captured a global audience including the publishing eyes of WhoWhatWear and Vogue.
Fresh talent has to be more hardworking these days to break into the scene. One of the more recent and budding local stylists we've enjoyed working with is Patrick Pleno. Without a doubt for someone as young as Patrick—at 25 and Myx VJ Alex Diaz's main style handler—energy at work, play, and fashion passion are a special concoction he's served up. And the industry is picking up on the flavor!
How early on did you envision yourself to be a stylist?
"Ever since third year college. I went to Manila Doctors College...third year college, dun ko nagawang hobby because, I liked my course, but I didn’t love it. BS Psychology—that was my course. So, I started going to Style.com, ganyan, and then may Philippine Fashion Week pa noon, sa SMX, so I went there. The whole five days of Philippine Fashion Week, I attended the whole day. So, sabi ko, this is what I want. And then I got curious na, na parang, ‘Ano kaya yung nangyayari backstage?’ I contacted other designers. I even started a blog before, pero hindi siya nag-work. Nag-assist ako backstage. So, every year, I really assisted during the Philippine Fashion Week event."
What was the name of your blog before?
"TheThriftBoy.blogspot.com, because I liked buying from thrift stores that time. As in sobrang love ko. Ganung level nung age ko noon. After that, nag-draw-drawing na ako nun. I already wanted to be a fashion designer at that time."
What was your medium for drawing and who sparked inspiration?
"As in parang tuwing class lang, ballpen lang. Yun lang. Kasi parang yung mga shows mo dati, nag-shoshow pa dito sila Michael Cinco, sila Albert Andrada, so parang na-inspire ako sa kanila. That time, gusto ko talaga mapasok sa fashion industry. Right now, I guess, super lucky."
At what point do you feel your career as a stylist significantly took off?
"Actually, it’s starting right now. Like this interview, this is my first ever feature as a stylist. I was noticed by Sir Mike Carandang kasi he’s the producer of America’s Next Top Model before. Someone recommended me to him. The first music video of Kiana Valenciano, I styled that, 'Circles.'"
"After that, sabi nya, contact-in na daw ako. So, right now, I always work with Sir Mike. He's really worked on an international level."
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Whats your personal go-to daily casual look?
"Right now, I like wearing neck-erchiefs. Tapos t-shirt and a jacket and then pants. Rubber shoes and white socks! Before, I liked showing my ankles, then I just tried this, parang hippy kind of way. I just put socks. Even some show their socks with colors."
What type of influences do you feel have shaped your sense of style?
"Super na-inspire ako mag-work sa magazine when I was in college when I watched September Issue. I said, 'OMG, ang galing ni Grace Coddington.' Na-open yung eyes ko na ganito pala yung magazine industry, yung fashion industry. Sobrang ganoon pala kahirap syang gawin. And the people behind it are super doing their business kaya they’re also strict, and Anna Wintour is hardcore. So, sabi ko, 'Oh my god,' Mas na-motivate ako.'"
"After that, I watched the documentaries on Yves Saint-Laurent, Valentino, etc. So anyone actually. Then I looked naman at street style photos from fashion weeks. It’s those fashion icons online and there are also people around. And nakuha ko lang tong neck-erchief trend, like this one, from Jess Connelly because I saw her Instagram. I also listen to their kind of music. I listen to Curtismith to Jess Connelly, for inspiration."
Any local influences?
"Fellow stylist actually, sila Pam Quiñones and Liz Uy. This hair is inspired by Liz Uy kasi lagi syang naka-wet hair during fashion week. My boss was also Myrrh Lao To. Kay Pam, it’s inspiring, her journey as a stylist, and now she's a magazine editor, too. Sobrang nakaka-inspire."
When styling for someone else what are three things you always bear in mind?
"First is of course knowing what they want. Second, I want to know them on the personal level. And third is, motivating them to try something new. It’s ok to stay in your comfort zone, but we have to kind of push it a little bit more. Because you’re styling a celebrity, of course. You’re in a public profile."
What's a retro memory from your childhood that you feel hinted at your future in fashion?
"I think, my Mom. There was this photo of me at Enchanted Kingdom. It was my birthday, I must have been three or five years old. I was wearing a striped polo and white shorts, and I had rubber shoes. Sabi ko, sobrang stylish ko pala noon. Siguro yun yung pinaka-hint, na parang, may fashion sense na pala ako dati, thanks to my Mom."
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What do people tend to be concerned about the most when it comes to styling?
"Napansin ko sa mga clients ko, they don't have to be comfortable to stand out in style. Alam mo yung tiis ganda? Kunwari sa ASAP, I want to wear them turtle neck, and then i-layer ko ng t-shirt and jacket. They go for it as long as it looks good. As long as it looks good on TV, they feel confident. They wear it... I try to say something like, it looks good on you. I try to check and inquire kung kaya ba talaga nila. Minsan kasi, nag-o-over ako. Parang, thinking 'Mas pang-magazine na 'to.' Kasi may tamang styling for tv and for magazine. Minsan, they kind of play it down but still keep it fashionable."
Who are the celebrities or influencers you've styled that have impacted your career?
"It would be my first ever celebrity client, Alex Diaz. Then two members from Gimme 5: Grae Fernandez and Joaquin Reyes. They are my main three celebrity clients. Then, Kiana Valenciano for her 'Circles' music video with Jake Cuenca. I also styled her for magazines. Then Rufa Mae Quinto for magazines as well."
In a world filled with pegs and other people's moodboards, what would you tell those interested in fashion about finding their own voice in style?
"You just have to know who you are. You don’t have to fake anything. Sabi nga ni Rachel Zoe, 'Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.' So, you have to remember that anything that you wear, it should come from within you, and there should always be a story. Hindi pwede yung, 'Ay, I love this!' 'tapos gagayahin mo lang. There should be something special about it (that fits the creative brief). You can mix and match it, as long as masasabi mo sa sarili mo, ‘Ah, eto ako.’ So, mahahanap mo rin. You can try other things, and when you find your style, you can already voice it out.
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Photography by Vyn Radovan, additional images from Instagram.com/patrickpleno