With minimum fuss but maximum impact, Mich Araullo’s designs always stand out.
Mich Araullo’s atelier is in a house originally built in the 19th century in Quezon province that was then transferred piece by piece by her grandfather in the 1960s to its current location in Alabang. It’s a place full of character–vintage fans and lamps, golden scarabs, books–a perfect home for her unique creations that have their own interesting stories to tell. Racks of lace dresses and intricately detailed separates are getting ready for trunk shows and client fittings. And with Mich’s cheerful demeanor, open personality and impeccable taste, it’s easy to see why her clients keep coming back, with even more knocking on her door. Did we forget to say she’s gorgeous, too? We took a tour around her studio and talked about her latest collection (which she modeled for the photos!) and what this up-and-coming designer is up to next.
Take us through your background. How did you end up as a fashion designer? Did you always like to sew and play dress-up as a little girl?
I’ve always known that fashion was the path I was meant to take. Even at a young age, I always had a knack for thinking out of the box and putting things together. I might have gotten it from my mom who also had a small shop in her younger years.
What inspiration do you surround yourself with and how do you keep creative?
It could be absolutely anything! Oftentimes, it just strikes me at a random time or place! My main sources of inspiration are travel, art, architecture and nature. Right now, for example, I have tried injecting sculptural and architectural details into my holiday collection. I played around with origami-like details which add more than enough edge to even the simplest of designs.
How would you describe your designs? Do you stick by a design philosophy?
I believe in marrying fashion and function—chic style and easy comfort, maximum impact and minimum fuss. When I am asked who my muse would be, I always look to the modern woman, pulled in many different directions in the course of a day. She juggles multiple roles depending on the situation, but always knows who she is and what’s really important in her life. A real woman, a go-getter, a game changer – that would be my ideal muse.
What’s the best part about being a fashion designer?
The best part of my job would have to be meeting different kinds of people and making a connection with the women I dress. It’s true what they say that designers or creatives invest a lot of emotion in what they do. I try to put my heart into each piece that I make and I know I have done a good job when I see my clients happy and confident in their own skin. That’s the fulfillment I get in designing.
How different is it to be doing made-to-order dresses for special occasions versus creating ready-to-wear collections? What do you enjoy about each process and what are the challenges for each?
When designing customized pieces, there are a lot of things to take into consideration – the client’s personality, body shape, skin tone, design preferences and restrictions. The list can go on and on! This is more challenging for me because this is where I really get to experiment, explore design possibilities and test my creativity. Designing RTW on the other hand, has its limits so I usually stick to a style that is universally flattering, something that one can see herself wearing in the next couple of years. Comfort and mileage are important things to consider when designing off the rack pieces. Fabrics must be treated like second skin, and should always be soft to the touch and breathable. Colors should always bring out the best features, and silhouettes simple, allowing the body to move freely. All in all, clothes should complement a woman, the perfect accessories to her beauty, personality and lifestyle.
What’s your favorite piece from your newest ready-to-wear collection and why?
My favorites are the high neck neo top with an architectural back detail and the neo twist top! I feel that these are classic, effortless “throw-on” pieces perfect for all the holiday festivities! Put on a pair of pretty earrings or statement heels, and you’re good to go! Like I said: maximum impact, minimum fuss!
When you’re not creating beautiful clothing, what do you do in your free time?
I work six days a week so I make sure I get to squeeze in some me time! I do pilates three times a week, and I try to spend time with my loved ones whenever I can. I like watching movies, trying out new restaurants or cafes in the metro and indulging in a massage occasionally! I also have recently developed a liking to gardening – I have a thing for tropical foliage!
Take us through a day in your life and what are your favorite spots to hang out in?
I get up at 7am, have breakfast, schedule the day’s appointments and fix the line up for production. Clients start coming in at 9:30-10am. In between, I supervise my sewers, work on designs and source fabrics from my suppliers. I like being hands-on during the entire design process so I work closely with all my sewers and beaders – from fabric purchasing, pattern making to draping and production. My fittings usually end at 7pm.
What stores, restaurants and brands do you love? Which ones should Sassy girls check out and watch out for?
My boyfriend and I love having dinner at Tsukiji when we want our authentic Jap fix, and all-time-fave Milky Way for some classic Pinoy food. There’s a new bar/resto in my neighbourhood (just a few blocks away from my atelier) called Bar Pintxos – it’s usually where I go when I need a mid-week break! Their tapas and craft beers are amazing! We always come home with happy tummies!
What advice would you give for aspiring fashion designers? What skills should they learn and have to become successful?
If this is the industry you really want to get into, you need to know: this is the woman, this is the idea, this is the vibe. You need a brand manifesto these days — who you stand for, what you’re about and who your customer is. When I started, I just wanted to make clothes. I had no ambition to create a brand. It was all just very pure in the beginning. Nowadays I don’t think you could do that, as the competition is too fierce. You really have to know who you are, what you can offer and stick to it.