The names that grace our next few pages are no strangers to Zee Lifestyle, but then again, that just goes to show much they’ve already accomplished. Armed with talent and a driving ambition, this crop of cool kids have been working and excelling in their respective industries to bring Cebu into the future, all while embodying a style statement that makes work look good. This month, we catch up with them to see what they’ve been up to and what they’ve got planned. It may not be all smooth sailing, but clearly they have nothing in mind but continuing on full speed ahead.
Actor, TV Personality
There must be something about guys who drive fast. In the case of Matteo Guidicelli, his clout as a three-time winner of the Karter of the Year award is matched by broad shoulders, a brooding gaze and an overall appeal that’s made girls squeal since he first emerged as a veritable boy wonder in the Philippine karting arena. “I used to fly to Manila from Cebu every weekend for races because all of them were in Manila or abroad,” he recalls of his beginnings. “Eventually my parents decided to move, then we started looking for sponsors. That’s when Penshoppe came in.”
That first print ad eventually gave way to several others, though that didn’t mean it came easily. “I was so nervous, I couldn’t move,” Matteo admits about his first photo shoot with Xander Angeles. “I didn’t know what to do or how to pose.” That didn’t stop the industry from taking notice, eventually booking him for acting jobs after he left Columbia College in Chicago two years into his course. “I realized that I wanted to be in showbiz, so I came back home.”
The move turned out to be a good one, with Matteo soon booking several acting gigs until he truly broke out in the primetime television series Agua Bendita. “It was such a blessing because it put me and Andi’s names out there,” he shares, referring to co-star Andi Eigenmann, who was also a new talent at the time. “Because the show was such a hit, I got offered more projects,” projects that’s included movies like Catch Me, I’m in Love with Sarah Geronimo and My Cactus Heart with former real-life girlfriend Maja Salvador, as well as the TV show My Binondo Girl with fellow Cebu native Kim Chiu.
“I consider myself fortunate to have worked with all these leading ladies,” he says, though it would be hard to think working with Matteo could ever be a chore. Most recently, he’s been heating up television screens with Jessy Mendiola in Precious Hearts Romances’ Paraiso, which follows the story of two people stranded on a deserted island. “It’s daring and it shows a lot of skin,” he admits, also saying that he does his own stunts. “I’m working so hard for it so I hope that everyone likes it.”
When asked about what the biggest challenge of being a designer was, Vania Romoff answers, “To get noticed and, when that happens, to endure.” She’s certainly gotten her share of attention since her debut at Philippine Fashion Week in 2009 and subsequent relocation to Manila. Now her creations grace the red carpet and magazine covers, sometimes on the designer herself. Of course it’s no surprise that editors are as keen on photographing Vania as much as her creations, with her statuesque Russian-Filipino beauty. There’s a laidback but sophisticated feel about her that is immediately noticed, which translates well into her creations. “I won’t do something I would not wear myself. It starts from personal taste,” she says, naming the undone looks of Parisian chic as her style influence.
Her personal taste has resulted in detailed creations that are flattering and comfortable. “The best compliment is hearing someone say they feel beautiful in my clothes,” she shares. It’s hard not to, what with the way she puts together pieces that are feminine yet simple, embodying an understated elegance that gives off a regal air, whether it’s the easy column dresses in soft fabrics or her collection of structured jackets.
It seems Vania has stamped the fashion scene with her presence, and the industry clearly approves. She was recently chosen by the Philippine Consulate General of the United States as one of five designers who participated in an International Fashion Tour, which allowed Vania to showcase her Spring/Summer 2012 collection on runways in Seattle and New York. New York, especially, was a venture out of her comfort zone. “I flew in alone and did everything myself,” she says, recalling her battle with the subway system and handing out invites in a state of anonymity. It’s reminiscent of how she started in Manila, running around the city in sneakers to meet clients and have meetings in coffee shops. She’s come a long way and certainly Vania isn’t anonymous anymore.
“I’ve been traveling for work and fun,” says Kryz Uy on her busy last couple of months. “I keep moving around and hardly have time to stay put in my own home because work just keeps coming in.” Her numerous followers must feel like they’ve traveled right alongside her, with her Twitter and eponymous blog getting constant traffic and her Instagram photos gaining as much as 7,000 likes. Besides the outfit updates and visual travel anecdotes, though, Kryz is also keeping busy as the creative director of What A Girl Wants, a boutique chain that is steadily expanding across the Philippines.
With its collection of trendy clothing, WAGW gives the fashion-inclined a chance to create their own Kryz Uy renditions, although the original still has a personality all her own. “Over the years, my style has evolved into simpler, more streamlined dressing and sleek fuss-free looks, but I always inject a touch of youth and quirkiness into it to make it more me.” It’s this lighthearted individuality that makes her a regular on Lookbook.nu’s list of biggest karma gainers of all time, though she still packs her closet with the classics—high heels, a crisp white button-down, denim cut-offs and a good men’s watch. “If I was an accessory, I’d be similar to Michael Kor’s oversized Tortoise watch. It’s classic yet modern, striking but not over the top.”
The busy schedule seems to have left her almost ambivalent about the future, as she shrugs, “Who knows what the future brings? Hopefully, more success and more travel opportunities.” She names Israel and Iceland as her dream destinations but these days, she’s excited about something closer to home. “It might sound cliché, but what Cebuana wouldn’t think it’s the most epic event of the year? WAGW is actually sponsoring the Baseline Sinulog party this year. Can’t wait for that!” Knowing they might catch a glimpse of her on the streets, her followers probably can’t wait either.
Interior Designer, Musician, Blogger, Entrepreneur
“Focus on work, visit Europe and design, design, design!” says Raleene Cabrera of her plans for the next year, which specifically include practicing interior design, booking singing gigs with her sister Rizza, planning a holiday revamp for her online vegan dessert store Skinny Sweets, and putting a lot more effort into her blog. She’s recently taken a more concrete step towards adulthood—moving into her own place that she redesigned with her team. “I live without household help and I’m trying to be more independent,” she shares before admitting, “but I’m glad that my dad and sister are just a phone call away for emergencies.”
Designing her own space is just the beginning of her career, her schedule now packed with visits to construction sites that have changed her views on dressing. “Being on-site is just not glamorous, so I am keener on utilitarian fashion nowadays.” She’s found a way to infuse her personality into her comfortable outfits. “I’ve been more into boots lately—high-heeled and casual ones. I find that they pull an outfit together and I can easily transition my look from work to partying. They’re also easier to walk in and I’m not worried if it suddenly rains in the city.” Besides the boots, she plays up her looks with accessories, colorful blazers and denim button- downs, which she says, “I always end up resorting to.”
Raleene dreams of visiting the Maldives and Iceland, but for a vacation that’s much closer, she names Philippine festivals as a great way to explore the local cities and cuisines. “It’s when everyone is extra hospitable.” She plays the part of the hostess herself on Sinulog, where her weekend itinerary gets just as busy as her regular days. “I usually invite my friends from Manila to stay in our home and my mom would feed them lechon everyday. Then it’s island hopping or swimming, and then clubbing at night. On Sunday, we’re usually at the street parties ‘til dinnertime, when I take my guests to Larsian’s before watching post- Sinulog gigs in the city.”
“Wear what makes you comfortable and what makes you feel sexy,” Holly Dychangco says on the best fashion advice she’s gotten. “But sexy doesn’t mean you have to expose yourself provocatively. Sexy is in the way you carry yourself.” Her confidence now comes by learning from some style detours along the way. “I did get very hipster at one point, while I was living in San Francisco. I guess the way the scene out there influenced me.”
Considering her return from the bay area was just a few months ago, Holly has been off to work and on the go with various opportunities. “I’ve been involved in the development of this new brand, Urbanfolio. It gives the design trends in Cebu a little push forward as we expose local design and talent through our television show.” The packed schedule called for a style evolution, which she calls simple and streamlined. “I choose comfort over extreme glitz and glam. Since I started working, the closet has definitely evolved to include a bit more professional clothing.”
Of course, her style isn’t the only thing that’s evolved. Although still comfortably affable, Holly’s definitely learned some things from the obstacles she’s been through. “All I can say is that the industry is a tough field,” she shares. “I learned to stay strong and push forward. There are people who try to bring you down, but I believe it’s a battle between you and yourself. I am my own competition, and it’s broadened my understanding of the industry and the ways of handling tough situations.”
With that, she looks forward to the future, “I have big, big plans. Fingers crossed, I will be launching a special line of furnishings and accessories, a new design collection. Also, a lot of traveling, hopefully in Madagascar or the Maldives.” She also espouses the offerings in our own backyard. “There’s food and white sand beaches,” she says of what to see in the Philippines. And then there’s Sinulog. “I’m usually the person dancing with the street dancers, covered in paint, or jumping up and down the crowd to the beat while the Sinulog parade is happening. I usually go where the beat takes me.”
A quick look at Vito Selma’s Instagram profile will have you wishing your passport saw just as much use, his profile description of “keep calm and sail on” being apropos to his collection of travel, fashion and design photos. “I have a goal of traveling to all the continents before I turn 30,” he shares. “South America is the only one left. I’d be happiest to travel around the continent, hoping to follow the route of Che Guevara, just not on a motorbike.”
The wanderlust seems to work well with his career, with Vito traveling all over the world for trade shows and client meetings. It’s an on-the-go lifestyle that has the furniture designer thinking his shoes best epitomizes who he is. “Shoes tell a lot of where I’ve been,” he says. “Good shoes are a great investment as you spend most of your time in a day wearing them.” The simple philosophy makes sense, capitalizing on the belief of dressing for himself and not other people. “I’m a very casual guy. I just learned to polish up after living in Milan.” The exposure to other cultures affects more than just his sartorial choices, of course. “Life is all about growth. I learn from experience and others, apply all that information into my future, decisions and designs.”
His future proves to include just as much wandering as his past, his schedule marked with a return to Paris in January for Maison et Objet, a meet-and-greet for his US clients and a Philippine launch for his 2013 collection in March. However, Vito makes room for philanthropy. “I’m working on a project with an architect and business designer to improve education in the country, especially in remote areas where there isn’t a lot of opportunities for children.”
The chances to give back prove the designer’s continued support for where he’s from, as does his appreciation for local sights. “Philippine architecture,” he answers when asked for a cultural can’t-miss. “People take for granted the history of design and architecture that’s in the older parts of town. I wish there was more investment in preserving these historically rich old homes and buildings.” Vito might see a different world from the rest of us, but his photos offer a little peek into it that, truthfully, still makes us a little bit envious.
Actor, TV Personality
After winning Pinoy Big Brother and taking on movie and television projects, Slater Young might have been shy as the engineer who was following in his father’s footsteps and working at the family business Hi-Speed Construction, but his current career path in showbiz has been teaching him otherwise. “It gets you out of your shell quickly,” he says on how the last few months changed him. “It gives you confidence, especially when you know that a lot of people are supporting you. The industry is built on relationships with the people you work with, so it’s made me a more sociable person. I still have a lot to learn though.”
The humble way he points out his own room for improvement is probably how he won over thousands of fans in a little over a year; then again, it could have been his bright-eyed boyish good looks. With already close to 300,000 followers of Twitter, Slater continues to charm audiences with more acting projects, including the new show A Beautiful Affair with John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo. Despite the national fame, though, his affinity to Cebu isn’t easily shaken, especially around January. “You can’t miss Sinulog. I’ll be there this year—the first time since PBB—and I’ll be ready to have a great time,” he enthused.
Like most Cebuanos, Slater takes a more laidback approach to fashion. “It’s usually just polo shirts and jeans,” he says of what outfit best reflects his personality. The minimalistic dressing had to be slightly altered though. “I didn’t use to mind what I was wearing as long as I’m comfortable,” he confesses. “But they told me I had to dress like a star!” Considering the fanfare that’s starting to follow him around, his disarming smile might have been enough to make him one anyway.
Fashion and Accessories Designer, Entrepreneur
“I’m definitely not sitting at home and watching it on TV,” Mia Arcenas says of her Sinulog plans come January, when she will be entertaining friends from LA. “My face paint, whistle and feather hat will be ready so I will be seeing you on the streets!” The exuberance for the festival is the kind of thing about the fashion designer and recent Bb. Pilipinas contestant that sets anyone who has qualms about meeting her immediately at ease. “I’m like a pair of comfortable high heels. Most people see me as intimidating, too high up there, when I’m really not.”
Perhaps more than her long legs and bronzed skin, it’s Mia’s air of confidence that makes her immediately stand out, but that’s just from having the drive to get what she wants out of life. “Every experience has definitely been a learning curve to knowing what I really want in life. Traveling around the world, working for the family business, school, and all the other circumstances I’ve put myself into add up to realizing my wants and needs.” That’s included working on her brand and focusing on apparel and accessories for the resortwear market.
As for her own style, Mia’s found herself backing on sound advice she received at an early age. “When I was about nine or ten, my mom always used to tell me, ‘build your closet; it’s about quality, not quantity.’ It is definitely important to invest on good pieces that will last years, instead of two to three washes.” Since then, her style has evolved into more solid-colored and quality pieces that she matches with her collection of shoes. “It’s more put-together, feminine but edgy.”
There might be some room for other style inspirations as she travels in the next year, which could include stops in Egypt, Turkey, Maldives, Bali and Tokyo. As for the rest of what’s to come, Mia is unapologetic about going after what she wants. “Nothing is set in stone, and you’ll just have to see what happens. But I’ve got high hopes and big dreams. They say big dreams take as much energy as small dreams, so why not go for the gold?”
- by Shari Quimbo
- produced by Melo Esguerra
- photography Dan Douglas Ong
- sittings editor Michael Sanchez
- locale Cebu Yacht Club