Meet Tina Ong, the cool fashion blogger behind Religion Black.
Definitely not your cookie-cutter blogger, Tina Ong has a style that’s entirely her own. With a moniker like Religion Black, you’re sure to find a grayscale palette in her closet, but she is definitely no somber girl. She’s playful and even a little silly in person, a contrast to the serious-faced model she seems to be in her pictures. We chatted over some iced lattes at EDSA Beverage Design Studio (where her brother David is co-owner) about minimalism, menswear and what it takes to run a personal style blog.
Tell us a a bit about yourself and your background. What are you up to these days (and what were you doing previously)?
I’ve been in fashion for a while now. When I moved back to Manila from Vancouver in 2010, I worked for H&F Retail Concepts for about 4 years. It still remains to be the best local retailer in my eyes, truly a dream to be a part of. I’ve been doing my blog on my free time for about 2 years now as a place to share some ideas in putting looks together from my perspective. This year I’ve been working for the ever-growing Sunnies Studios in the creative side of product development, working on the upcoming collections for the brand, curating styles and colorways that are going to hit the shelves soon! I designed a capsule collection with the local fashion brand Basic Movement, which is available on my online store, and I’m working on more projects for the shop as well. I also do some styling for some publications when I’m able to fit it into my schedule–I’ve found that I really love styling men!
How and when did you discover your distinct personal style? How would you describe it?
It’s been several years of hit and miss for my style. I would say I finally committed to the core of it while working at H&F (where else but in a place surrounded by the best brands ever created!). I realized that I was really inspired by menswear and androgynous style: mixing tailored and street style elements to sporadic feminine touches. Brands like CDG, Maison Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, Acne, Rick Owens, to name a few, really spoke to me.
Your style is so refreshing in its minimalism! You’re probably one of the first few we saw to rock the culottes look, too. How did you choose the name Religion Black? How did you start your blog and when did you know that people were relating to your look?
Thank you! The first culottes I ever owned were a gift from a good friend in Vancouver who had a vintage store so I really have her to thank for those! Religion Black was the name of my tumblr page back in the day, I just didn’t think I needed to change it because Religion Black really was a page with images that inspired me. My blog is now just a translation of everything that continues to inspire me and the result is a look that I’ve come up with to express that. I was initially hesitant to make a personal style blog because I put it off for too long that I was afraid it wouldn’t make any difference among the wave of great bloggers out there, but with a little help from my friends, I eventually didn’t care much for that and just did it for myself. I’m not so sure about people relating to my look, but it really warms my heart when I hear that they do.
If you had to wear a color that wasn’t black, white or gray for a whole week, what would it be? Would you do it?
Not many people know that I really do love navy and denim. Navy just looks so luxurious and denim is one of my most favorite fabrics!
What’s your most favorite thing in your closet right now and why?
This answer will probably change every week! Not even that I always have new things–now that I’m older I try to be practical with closet management and shopping. I just find myself falling in love with some older pieces I’ve had for a while. Right now, I’ve fallen back in love with my Y-3 pencil skirt made with sweat fabric and a 5-inch ribbing on the hem.
What brands (both fashion and beauty) do you swear by? And do you have a favorite lipstick color at the moment?
I’m not particularly brand loyal, especially because I’m also really attached to vintage clothing. But I would say COS is forever reliable for almost any fashion item, as well as the denim jeans by Acne Studios. I have a number of favorite lipstick shades, but MAC’s Cyber and Persistence are very strong favorites!
Can you take us through a day in your life in the city? What are your favourite spots?
On most weekdays I’m at the Sunnies HQ from 10am to 5pm, then I either have meetings or hit the gym after work and have dinner with the family/boyfriend/friends. I’m really picky with coffee, my absolute favorites would really have to be EDSA BDG in the Greenhills area or The Curator in Makati. I love going for cocktails and those two spots are also really good for that purpose. For window shopping and daydreaming, I always love keeping updated with new brands and styles from Univers, CDG, Homme et Femme (which is conveniently situated beside Laduree in Rockwell).
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? (And where do you go to do these activities?)
I like watching movies in my free time, just cozying up at home with some popcorn on the side. I also like DIY/reconstructing a lot of things in my closet from accessories to tops and down to shoes. I don’t do a lot of sewing but I do a LOT of cutting and make the most random crafty things. Finally, I like hoarding music because it’s my not-so-secret dream to be a DJ.
What do you love about the fashion industry? And where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I love seeing different interpretations of fashion through other creatives’ eyes. That’s really exciting and inspiring to me especially when it’s something unexpected. Fashion doesn’t need to be super serious, but it’s also our job to pay it some respect in the way we present it. It’s an art that should never get boring!
I’ve tried envisioning and projecting a 5 year plan in the past; however, time has continuously surprised me and changed my life in ways I never imagined. So, I’m just going to go with it and see where I end up!
What young designers in the fashion industry should we keep an eye out for?
There are so many great new designers out there! I’m a really big fan of Lemaire, Vetements (super exciting that head designer Demna Gvasalia is the newly appointed creative director of Balenciaga!) , and Carl Jan Cruz to name a few.
What advice would you give aspiring fashion marketers and/or fashion bloggers?
Enjoy, and keep going for as long as you believe in what you’re doing.