This stylist to the stars leads us to her quarantine world of socially conscious and sustainable clothes.
Fashion icon and stylist extraordinaire Pam Quiñones is no stranger to disruption. As one of the early purveyors of duality styling (masculine and feminine, form and function) with a strong sex undertone in the mid-2000s, Quiñones has always been highly praised for seeing fashion move past trendy aesthetics. The stylist to the stars received a master’s degree from the famed fashion school Istituto Marangoni—former students include Franco Moschino, Domenico Dolce, and Alessandra Facchinetti—where Quiñones further developed her unique fashion sense. Today, Quiñones has elevated the local styling scene and, to some extent, the whole fashion industry to heights comparable to international fashion capitals like New York and Paris.
To further incubate creativity in fashion and styling, Quiñones established Qurator Studio, a styling firm that nurtures the next generation of stylists after a rigorous three-year first-hand training program. To be part of Quiñones’ team is one of the most coveted opportunities there is in local fashion, as it exposes one to her own A-list clientele, including Anne Curtis, Bea Alonzo, Alden Richards, Marian Rivera, Pia Wurtzbach, and Solenn Heusaff, to name a few. The studio’s current roster of creatives features three senior stylists, three juniors, two style associates, one styling assistant, and a creative director.
In this exclusive interview for Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, we asked Quiñones about the effects of the pandemic to Qurator Studio, and how she envisions the future of both local and international fashion.
What is the new style statement in the era of Covid-19?
At the moment we are focused on protective wear with a lot of utilitarian pieces that are almost clinical in style. Also, there are a lot of stylish iterations of protective masks and hazmat suits. Though mostly are not medical grade, wearing them help us “feel” safe. Somehow, we feel more confident easing back into some sense of normalcy with this layer of protection. Sometimes believing that you are protected is as powerful as being protected. There are also a lot of people, however, who feel constricted and trapped in these protective layers.
Once the dust settles, fashion will be new and exciting again. History tells us that after this big crisis, we will likely be aching for something new to refresh our personalities, something to communicate the change in us. And that’ll be a new platform of expression.
Do you that fashion will return to the basics?
In the short term, yes, because we are addressing layers of issues brought about by the pandemic, such as safety protocols, business restructuring, increased home time, and so many others. Fashion has always been a mode of expression, and our current “back-to-basics” mindset reflects that. Because fashion has become some sort of protective uniform while at quarantine, those who have a closet full of clothes will start to reflect on its current value.
I was like that weeks into the lockdown when I realized it would be a long time before we dressed the same way again. It was also a time to reflect on fashion as an industry. After months of being bombarded with information about how broken the fashion system is, we all know that things will never be the same, and that they will change for the better. It’s no longer a choice but a necessity.
In the long term, I am betting on an industry that’s more sustainable, less wasteful, and one that values quality over quantity. The subject of sustainability has been on the table for years now, but considerable efforts into making systemic changes haven’t been applied because there is so much demand for the new. Instead of cutting down on production to restructure processes toward a more socially conscious and sustainable fashion system, more pieces are being created to feed the demand in consumption and sheer profitability.
This is the first time that the entire fashion world has stopped on its tracks and is forcing everyone to rethink their ways.
Fashion brands must now embrace synergy with technology to be able to adapt to a world of fashion shows and fittings with less contact.
I am also betting on a new look that will define our post-crisis mindset, the same way Dior defined the post-war look with his “New Look.” At best, it will be the opposite of our current fashion state. Vanessa Friedman writes in the New York Times, “Times of great trauma also produce moments of great creativity as we attempt to process what we have been through. The functional side of that is fashion. After periods of extremes—war, pandemic, recession—dress is a way to signal the dawning of a new age. It’s going to be the irrational, emotional pull of a… something. The gut punch of recognition that comes from seeing a new way to cast your self. One that signals ‘Yes, I have changed. Yes, things are different. Now we emerge in a new world.’ It’s on fashion to define that something, because that something is going to be how history remembers whatever happens next. It will do what clothes always do, which is symbolize a moment, and give it visual shape. What that shape will be is the existential question facing designers right now.”
How do you wear sustainability?
By having a more curated closet, which means I only keep what reflects my personal style. By renting out clothes I no longer wear to extend their lifewear. By repairing or tailoring ill-fitting pieces I still want to keep. By challenging myself to creatively re-wear and re-style pieces many times over. By adhering to my one-in-one-out closet rule: For every new item I purchase, one old item needs to be rented out or donated. By buying only good quality because they stand the test of time. By buying local and small-batch, products with the shortest travel time and less waste. By walking the talk big time. Before I can speak about conscious fashion consumption, I need to practice it in my everyday life. By committing to wear and re-wear an item especially when it’s a new purchase.
What is Qurated Online?
Qurated Online is a digital personal styling and virtual personal shopping service by Qurator Studio. As fashion stylists, the team understands that there are many at home who are decluttering their closets during the lockdown. And as they go through each piece in the closet, the most common questions are “What do I wear this with?” “Why did I buy this?” “Should I keep this?”
As stylists, we have been curating closets of many celebrities and private individuals for many years and, while most are done physically, we’ve also done some projects through digital sessions via messaging apps and video calls. We thought to make our practice more accessible and democratize our services by opening them up to the public through virtual means.
Qurated Online starts with an introductory digital personal styling session called Shop Your Closet where we’ll help you create new looks from your existing closet. We feel that this is a practice that most people need help with especially during this time. This is also a way to encourage our clients to re-wear and recycle pieces, and that with a few creative styling suggestions, old pieces can look new again. In the process, we also aim to help clients build their personal style.
Shop Your Closet is a good way for us to assess the existing style mindset of a client, where we get to assess her preferences, body type, lifestyle, and budget. Clients can choose between a 45-min (P7,500) and 60-min (P9,000) virtual sessions. Extension rates are at P1,000 for the first 30 minutes and P500 for the second 30 minutes. Each virtual session has a maximum duration of 120 minutes per two hours.
Fashion has been known to be one of the major environmental pollutants. Do you think consumers today are rethinking the way they purchase?
Slowly we are, though this must be an ongoing dialogue so that more people have access to this kind of information. For most people sustainability is an abstract concept so it’s easy to dismiss it. But if you break it down, it’s quite simple. It’s the consciousness that every decision we make, big or small, has consequences. It’s the mindfulness that for each thing we consume, there is wastage from its production to end-of-life. We need to take any small step we can to begin impacting change. It can start as small as re-wearing and recycling pieces, and slowly practicing conscious consumption. Or rent out pieces you no longer wear.
My ideal scenario would be this: We refocus the concept of desire, which is a key driver in fashion consumption. If a designer’s or a brand’s desirability lies on its capacity to be socially conscious, sustainable, and transparent, on top of creating a high-quality product with good design, wouldn’t that make for a better fashion system?
During Vogue Global Conversations, Stella McCartney said that the fashion industry needs to change the way it handles wastage and should use this time to have a conscious outcome. What can one learn from this great pause in terms of how fashion is?
Locally, most of our young and established designers have not yet jumped on the retail bandwagon and planned for global scalability. This, actually, is not a bad thing. In fact, our made-to-order industry is so strong and highly sustainable. Most international brands are now having that same dialogue—to consider an on-demand model or less production of ready-to-wear collections—In an effort to find ways to be sustainable.
After globalization peaked, and world fashion started looking homogenous, most local fashion scenes started to invest inward and became hyper localized. The Philippines is going through the same thing. I believe we’ve only scratched the surface. With this great pause, more localized efforts will take effect and strengthen our local fashion industry and we should all be there to support it.
Are there personal insights you have received from reflecting during this time?
That I don’t really need much. And that having less allows me to make smarter decisions.
What projects are you currently working on?
Aside from Qurated Online, we’re also increasing Qurator Studio’s digital presence through our website, YouTube channel, and Instagram to reflect the evolution we have undergone—that of a small styling studio into a styling incubator and representation studio. We’re also preparing for our annual closet sale.
Do you believe fashion is still of importance during this crisis?
Absolutely! While style is external we forget that it’s also deeply internal. The right outfit can help you feel confident when you need it most—it can serve as an armor or inspiration. It has the power to visually express the things we cannot verbally, positively influence how we see ourselves. A really good outfit can make you feel like you can take on anything. In my opinion, looking good is a form of wellness because when you look good, you feel good.