Make up by: Christine Laviña Hair by: Genstein Yuzon
For someone who buys designer clothes for a select clientele, it’s a surprise to discover Eliza Montilla was a late bloomer when it came to fashion. “My uniform used to be t-shirts and sweats. After the birth of my first child, a friend told me that just because I was a mom now, it didn’t mean I should let go. That really stuck to me and made me change my mindset.” Her selections–which often include next season’s offerings–seem to have been hand-picked by a fashion editor, consisting of a good mix of classic and trendy cuts, avant garde and boho styles, a myriad of colors and what she’s known and what her clients come back for: vibrant prints. Those, and evading Who Wore it Better? moments are what made me run to her when I was looking for a dress for my Despedida de Soltera. I didn’t want another retail find that everyone else and their mother, sister, tita would be wearing. I found my dress (a very flattering a-line Dior) and the idea to share Eliza’s insights on the modern Pinay’s adventurous side when it came to dressing. We did a one-on-one after a series of shots featuring the entrepreneur and mom in some of her exquisite selections. Here are some of our favorites.
How did you get started and when? I started about eight years ago as a consumer, then slowly my friends, sisters and cousins asked me to buy for them. That’s how the business evolved.
How has it changed since? It was better when I was younger (and fit into a S) haha! Now I shop for an older demographic and their kids.
How have you changed since? I never used to wear black. Back in my 30s, it was all about print, print, print! Now that I’m older I prefer plain neutrals in comfortable cotton shirts, joggers or shorts. I became a basic girl. I decide what to wear based on the weather first, unlike before when it depended on my mood. Signs of aging I suppose.
How do you deal with clients who insist on a garment that doesn’t work for them? I’m a very frank person so it’s hard for me to lie. I tell them politely if something doesn’t fit well or makes them look big. But in the end of course it’s their decision. I take time out to ask for measurements, preferences, dislikes so that I send the correct pieces. I like making them look and feel good because the goal is for them to come back. We also offer free alteration to make sure the clothes fit perfectly.
What about competition, what sets you apart? I believe my clients like us because we have a sense of exclusivity. I’ll never put up shop or advertise because our clients prefer to keep us their little secret shopping source that they only share with friends or family. These women don’t want to wear what everybody has from the malls. They also see the value of not paying obscene designer prices. We want to keep it as small and as private as possible.
How would you describe the Pinay style nowadays? Pinay style has definitely evolved. We’re not scared to experiment and think outside the box. I always encourage shoppers to try something new. They may say that it’s “not them” to wear a certain garment but I always tell them to try it on first. It ends up looking great!
Are your kids into fashion too? My daughter who’s 11, I know is. She would always ask me what to wear, even just to her Lola’s house or the park! My son dresses himself now that he’s 15. It’s quite a production to get dressed on Sundays now. They (my husband included) always consult with me.