Rita Nazareno in her signature look: relaxed button down polo and loose pants (that looks like a skirt) always paired with interesting footwear. Her haircut isn’t cookie-cutter either, and is just as otherworldly as her creations.

I’ve been a big fan of designer Rita Nazareno and her Zacarias 1925 bags ever since I saw my stylish (and the real Stylist of Sorts, IMO!) friend Luis Espiritu carry one in an IG post a few years back. Basket bags were having a major moment and Luis’ version was nothing I have seen before; it was so unique, chic and more of a work of art than just a bag. I was smitten at first sight. Fast-forward to 2018 and I finally set foot at The Alley in Karrivin in Pasong Tamo (I know, travesty right?) and saw the collection in person at Aphro and was blown away with the ingenuity, workmanship and wit that came with the very conversation-sparking designs. Thanks to my friend Clarisse and unofficial The Alley date, I got to view the latest collection and meet the designer herself as well as loyal customers and got a first-hand account on how she comes up with the most innovative bag designs inspired by mundane, everyday things. It was absolute magic!

Rita recently won a Katha Award for Best Product for Fashion recently but she doesn’t mention it, I had to do a bit of research to discover that fact. An impressive accolade that does not seem to consume or faze her; I’m assuming it’s because she would rather focus on her craft, one where she’s obviously having a ton of fun. Rita’s background was in media, having worked in the US, first as Senior Producer for FOX in Los Angeles, then as Creative Services Director in the NBC station in Houston, Texas for many years. Zacarias 1925 is “more of a family ties passion,” in her words, that she began designing for in 2010 after her stint abroad. “My work is very different from my mom’s who was very traditional. I consider my designs a lot more contemporary  with reference to things that interest me: architecture, contemporary art, cinema.” The 2019 collection is her 8th 0r 10th one, she has lost track. “I was inspired by the vintage portable TV sets from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s as well as the H1 hi-way in Hawaii and our very own MMDA barriers along EDSA.” Like a true artist, she seeks inspiration everywhere and in everything. All the pieces are still made by the artisans from her Lola’s shop in Roxas Blvd. in limited quantities, so owning one is truly a rarity and can be passed on as heirloom pieces, keeping the heritage alive.

I ask Rita what’s next and she replies, “I’m flying to the States tomorrow!” Business or pleasure I ask? “For vacation!,” she laughs. Guess we’ll just have to watch out for her next moves come the new year. In the meantime, you can feast your eyes on her most recent collection at Aphro located at The Alley at Karrivin 2316 Chino Roces Ave. Makati. Don’t be late in the game like me, head over there stat!

Her whimsical MMDA clutch that mimics the orange shade of the barriers we see in EDSA.

There is a subtle extension to the handle to make it easy to clutch. A thoughtful detail that’s miniscule but definitely useful, as only women would know.

The row of rainbow boxes are inspired by Yugoslavian cabins in a similar shape.

The long clutches are smaller versions of the barriers at H1, a hi-way in Hawaii.

My friend Clarisse who prompted me to join her at the collection launch and is my unofficial The Alley date.

These vintage TV inspired bags have a front slot for cell phones, pens, glasses or anything else that might fit for easy access.

A seemingly unassuming brown long clutch bears a pleasant surprise…

Open it and a divider is exposed right in the middle to keep everything organized! How innovative is that! The clutch is awfully roomy, too.

A closer look at the H1 clutch.

Cher, Aphro’s shop manager, models another vintage TV themed bag.

These “rock” clutches are inspired by the landscape in Sedona, Arizona.

Artist Corina Borromeo was there to answer inquiries and poses in front of her two works displayed at the store. That’s “Eugene” on the left and “Francine” on the right.

A chair inspired by Victor Vasarely, a Hungarian-French artist and leader of the op art movement as well as the traditional Inabel pattern from Ilocos. Merging of two great design minds! To the right is a cornucopia cone, said to bring luck to the home when placed by the entrance.

Designer Cecile Ravelas, who also designed the SC Vizcarra shop in Shangri-La Mall toting a clutch she purchased right after this shot was taken. Cecile is also the talent behind Lagun hotel’s sleek interiors (in El Nido Palawan)




H&M pajama top, Gap jeans, Zarah juan slip-on sandals.

“You have a really good bum!”, I tell Ros Juan when I ask her to turn around for a shot of her Viña Romero top that had an interesting back design, an inverted V with faux buttons that was actually quite flattering and highlighted her shapely behind even more. “Thanks to my trainer,” she quips, followed by an infectious laugh that was a constant the whole time we were shooting. I met Ros virtually before we saw each other in person when she sent me a private message on IG about possibly doing a collab at her hipper-than-hip coffee shop Commune in Poblacion. We eventually met in her cafe and planned my SOS Mix It workshop and instantly hit it off. We became friends and the idea to feature her came to me when I noticed her distinct style starting with her hair color, that as of press time, is a beautiful shade of deep purple. It reminded me of my bridal entourage motif and I loved it.

The confidence in how Ros carries herself and her sartorial choices are just some of the qualities that struck me the most. Usually, curvy girls I work with or meet prefer to hide behind oversized garments to conceal their “folds”, which to be honest, are sometimes non-existent, negligible even. Such isn’t the case for this self-assured lady. Ros knows how to dress for her body type, highlighting her assets with carefully thought-of choices, doesn’t shy away from print or color, enjoys bright and exotic baubles and shoes. In fact, the way she styles herself makes her appear evenly proportioned and sleek; a formula that more curvy women should assimilate. It comes with self-love, acceptance and a healthy dose of “I don’t give a damn, I’ll wear what I want and rock it” attitude.

She is quick-witted, hilarious and loves to talk about everything under the sun, has a ton of great ideas and doesn’t take herself too seriously. When I ask her to contort her body to get the best shot, she gamely poses with exaggeration, making me crack up until my insides hurt. Needless to say, I left Commune with a full tummy and great photographs that I hope speaks to women of different shapes and sizes to celebrate their bodies the way Ros does because not much else radiates more than a woman who is comfortable in her own skin.

Commune is located at 36 Polaris st. Makati, Metro Manila. 

What she does Chief Extractor of Coffee at Commune and Social Media Strategist

Personal style Classic with a punch. I like to stick to classic pieces then I incorporate something unique, crazy or unexpected, sometimes a statement piece, sometimes nice little details (fabric patterns, stitches here and there, unusual button placement, etc)

Style Evolution I now pay more attention to quality. I have also learned more about fabrics so I am more conscious of my choices now. I’m willing to spend on quality pieces that will last me longer, like investment pieces. I guess that comes with age. I used to be all about bargains and was more drawn to trends. Nowadays, I challenge myself more with mix and matching stuff in my closet and try to come up with different combinations. I also wear jeans a lot but now, I have aded more variety to my bottoms. Meeting you has made me less scared of prints and patterns and mixing them all up. Whenever I shop with Pauline (Juan, who is her SIL) she pushes me to try the unexpected and see if it fits me…so the wildcard exercise was fun for me. She also told me to venture to the men’s section, which I love because I also enjoy androgynous dressing!

On appearance and why it matters Looking good to me means neat, put together, presentable…so that’s a 10/10. It doesn’t have to be instagrammable and “where’s the party?” levels at all times. It just has to be appropriate. Oh…and good fitting please! Like I said, no matter how chill or how lazy I am, I still put even the least bit of thought in what I’m wearing before I head out.

Her days be like Days always start with coffee! I’m a night owl so mornings need some caffeination. Commune is my second home. My office is above the cafe, I roam around the cafe, run events in our space and hold meetings in the cafe. I also entertain my friends in Commune and usually explore Poblacion after work.

Weekends can either be super chill or very packed. It can get pretty busy at the cafe especially when we have a lot of events lined up. Sundays are usually kept free for family lunch and some me time (read, sleep, play with my cats, Nail Spa, massage, church)

Favorite designers and shopping haunts I developed a Uniqlo habit a decade ago while I was living in Shanghai. There was a Uniqlo right smack in the middle of my route home and the constant sales called out to me. I’m still hooked and the collabs and special collections are my jam. U collection girl, through and through! Zara and H&M for more frivolous and trendy pieces. I like to shop local for unique pieces though. I noticed that in all my conferences abroad, other nationalities proudly wore their national garb like normal clothes and not as a “national costume.” All the Filipinos would be in corporate attire, myself included. So I have made it a conscious effort to incorporate local design into what I wear.  I went a bit crazy with all the accessories at Manila FAME. I’ve been working with young designers like Esme Palaganas, Seph Bagasao and Viña Romero for some of my pieces. I like having a nice top made every so often so that I have something I can dress up and down when an event comes up. I also love Zarah Juan, Rajo Laurel and a whole bunch of shoe brands!

I enjoy picking up pieces during my travels (from local artisans, like my brown strappy sandals from a Mexican shoemaker who was in the exhibition I went to or this woven wool scarf made by a community of women in Kyrgyzstan), mostly accessories and I have a thing for scarves too. I love COS and & Other Stories too.

Top 5 closet staples Pants, tops, scarves, earrings, rings

Celebrity crush In a super dream universe…Angelina Jolie. Because OMG…Angelina Jolie. Physical appearance. And a part of me loves her 90s grunge phase.

Stylewise…it would have to be those I follow in Instagram:

Garance Dore & @simplycyn for her use of color

When I grow up, my #TitaGoals are Carolina Herrera, Lola Androgynous and of course, Iris Apfel.
For celebs it’s Emma Watson and Gwen Stefani in casual clothes.

Online surfing Inc, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review

I love this blog called “Messy Nessy Chic” because I love old stuff and quirky history. Refinery 29, Masahable, Perfect Daily Grind…for fashion, it’s been instagram!

Reading material When I get the chance, I love InStyle and Vanity Fair. I was a Preview fan of course. Now, I like the coffee magazines like Standart and Drift.

Current uniform I wouldn’t really say I believe in having a uniform because I constantly get bored with my wardrobe and then I would periodically obsess over certain things like stripes or polka dots or all black everything then I’ll be like, ugh, am wearing too much black then I’ll suddenly get really crazy about color.

But I do believe in having “go to,” fool-proof, tried and tested pieces that you can always pull out for any occasion and you know it looks good on you. These pieces are mostly dark colored, for me, at least. My little black dresses, my versatile black tops, my black V neck knit top, my navy and black tailored shirts. When I can’t decide what to wear, or when I need to pack something for a just-in-case-a-fancy-dinner-comes-up kind of thing, or when I can’t afford to experiment (ex. TV interview), I have these go-to pieces that will never let me down. These should also travel well. Having versatile clothes in your suitcase is the key to packing for travel.

Viña Romero top @vina.romero on IG Uniqlo WOMEN SMART STYLE ANKLE LENGTH PANTS sandals from tiangge (@georlyshoes).

Their resident cat Mirage who is a real ham!

Uniqlo cotton top and linen pants, sandals from Mexico – there was a shoe making family in the exhibition in Puebla, Mexico. they let you fit the shoes and make necessary adjustments on the spot, woven bag with leather straps from Manila FAME.

Her collection of earrings bought locally and from her many travels.

Posing with her new baby, their very own roaster.

Viña Romero black top, Gap jeans, Risqué shoes (custom made by Tal de Guzman using Illonggo hablon), Christian Dior vintage clutch from her Mom and statement earrings from Manila FAME.

Zara fuchsia heels

Uniqlo polka dot dress, an Ines de la Fressange collab

My favorite souvenir tee from the airport in Perreira, Colombia, gap jeans (Gap has the best fit for my body type!), Risqué shoes and Bagasao round bag.

Uniqlo JW Anderson collb orange striped tee, Uniqlo Ines linen pants (with a corduroy pattern), Prada sling bag  and Puma sneakers.



Man Repelling

Dressing to the beat of my own drum has always been my fashion mantra. Sure, I sometimes have doubts when I step out the door in a more “adventurous” outfit than my usual, but I reason that life is too short not to have fun with clothes and you can always start over the next day in an outfit you feel more like yourself in. I’m also a behind-the-scenes girl through and through so posing for this particular entry wasn’t the most comfortable experience but it sure was a lot of fun! When my friend Monica of Big Love Photos and I decided to shoot one hot afternoon at her husband’s new restaurant, we didn’t really have a concept except to show the place and the food. The night before, as I was styling looks for the shoot, I thought of doing Man Repeller-inspired OOTDs as the perfect foil for the gritty, casual interiors. I went a little nuts with print, texture and color as you can see and even wore layers and a sweater to further prove my point that dressing for yourself is there only reason there is. So thank you Man Repeller and their fearless team for celebrating individuality no matter what garments you have on your back. You continue to inspire me!

Photos by Monica Savellano of Big Love Photos.

Shot at Snak Haus and Homer’s Bar and Restaurant, 54 Sgt. Esguerra ave. Diliman, Quezon City

Jacket by the uber talented Jor-El Espina

Make sure to try Snak Haus’ excellent laksa! So good and affordable too.

Their BBQ is for the win, too!