Fashion school barkada buds Shaira "Shai" Habon and JM Gumatay never thought that styling for fun would open doors to flourishing fashion careers. Scoring winsome work early on would unknowingly begin with something totally pure and organically artistic. As it turns out, playing with style outside the four walls of a classroom was sowing for something bigger! Since then the duo has moved on to styling for countless ad campaigns, events, and celebrities. We chatted with the rising stylists as they looked back on how their exciting, fashionable lives have panned out.
JM first met Shai at the SoFA Design Institute, where they were classmates. But even before this soft-spoken, smiley stylist graduated from fashion school, he was already reaping the fruits of his spontaneous labor with her. This greatly influenced his career path. "Dati kasi, parang enjoy lang...After fashion school, I quit my day job and ended up as a fashion assistant [for] a TV network," he admits.
Juggling multiple things at once certainly wasn't new to Shai. "I [studied] Communication in Ateneo. Last year, my schedule was like this: today I’m in SoFA, tomorrow Ateneo, and then the next day I might be at an event because I’m going to cover [it on my] blog. I did fashion styling [at] the same time," she confesses. Shai looks back at 2016 with fondness, most especially her three to four-month stint at fashion school. "I had so much fun. We were from a big class, and we formed a group. As JM mentioned once, I was like their doll. Parang lahat sila may damit for me," she says.
Life after SoFA has been just as busy. Like JM, she also ventured into the corporate world and, at one point, ran a business. Now, Shai loves filling her days with productive endeavors that further her growth as an artist and professional in the world of style.
But for Shai, learning never stops. When asked about her future plans she reveals, "It wasn’t really my intention to be a stylist at the beginning. I’m the kind of person who wants to do a lot, so I’m actually taking my Master's as well."
Shai's blog played a major part in their foray into legit stylists. She would often post photos of the OOTDs she and her SoFA friends came to class in. "Then we started getting sponsorships from brands. They [would] send out clothes and tell us, 'Oh, baka you can shoot this.' We were able to form a group initially, and then we started styling," Shai explains.
Shai adds, "One of the first we had was with ABS-CBN. Our teacher is a fashion editor for Metro. We then got projects from Chalk,, so we were happy. Initially mga ex-deals lang: collaborations in exchange for your names being published. Later on, we got projects na talagang good. From a hobby, it became a real business."
It was inevitable for the two to team up for their newfound careers right after their stint in SoFA. But sometimes Shai and JM will accept separate styling jobs. Either way, their approach to work is practically the same.
Both agree that listening and observing are key in building trust with clients...even before making any recommendations. Evidently, the two have earned that of the influencers and celebrities they've worked with, such as Megan Young and the cast of A Love To Last.
As for the current generation of aspiring stylists, JM and Shai have a couple of words to impart. JM believes that in a world where pegs are ever-present, aspiring stylists shouldn't necessarily become slaves to them. "Iwasan na lang ‘yung sobrang gayahin talaga, ‘yung gayang-gaya ‘yung look. Dapat magkaroon ka pa rin ng individuality when it comes to styling. Parang ang daming pegs ‘di ba? Ang dali-dali na lang gayahin ng isang peg, pero pag ‘yung created ‘yung buong style, parang hindi ‘yun madali gayahin."
Shai, on the other hand, advises them to be ahead of the pack and aware of ongoing trends. "You should know what's trending ‘cause that’s part of being a well-researched fashion stylist. Dapat alam mo kung ano ‘yung Winter, Spring, and Summer collections. But I think you shouldn’t lose yourself in the process. At the end of the day, you still carry yourself," she says.
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Photographs from Instagram.com/shairahabon, Instagram.com/jmgumatay, and Vyn Radovan