I am a work in progress, but I find that I’ve always had a very clear point of view. Although each season my looks vary, it’s all about wearability and the woman’s sensuality. I was never the experimental designer, my designs are always approachable. I try to refine my collection each season.
– Vania Romoff
She walks into the room in a white wrap-dress, cool, calm and collected, her hair in perfect loose waves and her make-up, barely there. “As a designer, I have always been inspired by impossibilities. I believe that what the spirit desires, the spirit attains,” fashion designer, Vania Romoff says as she adjusts a gold pendant bearing her name.
Clearly, she has made no bones about continuing a legacy that her grandmother, Viring, began. She cites Inno Sotto, Jun Escario, Arcy Gayatin, Philip Rodriguez, Oj Hofer, and her brother Anthony Romoff as people who have inspired and shaped her as a designer. But Vania admits that it is her mother, Virgie Romoff, who inspires her the most, and whom she describes as strong and kind, and runs a manufacturing business focusing mostly on uniforms, very well.
Although following in their footsteps, Vania does anything but ride coat tails. Ambition took her from the family nest in Cebu to Manila where she pursued formal training at the School of Fashion and the Arts. Her debut at Philippine Fashion Week in 2009 was well received and had cemented her name as one of the country’s up-and-comers. Her design aesthetic, described by fashion bloggers as “unpretentious, modern and understatedly sophisticated” and “[displaying] an understanding of woman’s fashion,” caught the industry’s attention. This launched Vania into a successful collaboration with retail titan The RAMP at Crossings. Her upcoming collection featuring pieces enthused by vintage Romoff are to exude a Parisian “je ne sais quoi” and inspired by Nouvelle Vague and icons like Jean Seber and Anna Karina. She imagines dressing the women she admires, strong, driven, and multifaceted. “I am obsessed with Carla Bruni Sarcozy, Gwyneth Paltrow, Clemence Poesy, and Lea Seydoux,” she says.
After only six years of designing, the talented twenty-three-year-old racked up quite a number of awards and merits like the CITEM and Manila FAME Fashion Eco Design Award, Preview’s Emerging Fashion Talent Award, and Privè award for Best Couture Designer. In 2010, Vania earned a spot in the prestigious 69 Artists Who Will Change The World, in the Philippine Yearbook.
The exuberant young designer had her work featured in magazines, Zee Lifestyle Magazine included, and she herself has graced the covers of Metro Magazine’s Annual List of Young Women to Watch, Sense and Style Magazine’s Young at Art List 2010, and Mega Magazine’s 10 Women to Watch. This proves that she is not only capable of creating beautiful things but personifying them as well.
Last year, she was handpicked by the Philippine Consulate General of the United States as one of five designers to participate in the International Fashion Tour. This honor allowed Vania to show her Spring/Summer 2012 collection in Seattle and in New York, one of the fashion capitals of the world. Pushed out of her comfort zone and into the big city, Vania was left to her own defenses. She battled anonymity and the New York subway system, an experience the designer regards as unforgettable and amazing. “I flew in alone and had to do everything myself, unlike having a show here in the Philippines where you have friends and family around to help you. Your professionalism had to be in check and your patience, too. I found myself knocking on random doors. I went to Parsons, FIT, Intermix, and CFDA handing out invites to my show. We all have to start from the bottom and we work our way up.”
Not one to be easily discouraged, she takes it as part and parcel of conquering her dreams. “People think [the industry] glamorous, but it’s not all parties and excitement. Critics bash you and put you down but you do what you do anyway. In New York they were like, Who are you? Do you know anyone here? You fail once, you try again. It’s about persistence and resilience. I’ve always known that my dreams are bigger than myself.” She says that as a matter of fact and with a flip of her hair. She searches her black Prada satchel for her keys and thanks us for a great chat with a big smile.
Vania shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. A role model to any aspiring designer for her persistence and determination, it is truly inspirational to see one of our own reach for the stars. She represents not only Cebu, but most importantly, herself in the highest of regards. Her constant strive to be the best she possibly can be all bode great things for Vania Romoff, for whom we can expect even greater things. New York is only the beginning and the sky is hardly the limit.
The Vania Romoff Atelier at 207 – B The Gateway Centre, Paseo de Magallanes, Makati City; Photos of her Spring/Summer 2011 Fashion Show
by Danica Ronquillo sittings editor David Jones Cua creative director Mikey Sanchez photography Jan Gonzales fashion photography Hannah Bacalla model Kris Janson hair and make up Gari Son locale Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino