If you’re a little-known designer—or simply a die-hard fashionista—you’d probably say that Pia Gladys Perey has got it made. The Filipina designer has two labels under her belt—White Kitten, which gave her a resplendent international debut in 2007’s Rosemont Australian Fashion Week; and the eponymous Pia Gladys Perey, which was launched in New York just last January. But it is her most recent collaboration with Patricia Field (renowned couturier, costumer, and resident style guru behind Sex and the City, Ugly Betty, and The Devil Wears Prada) that has truly established Pia as a fashion force to be reckoned with. “[This] is a major milestone for my label,” shares the Tagaytay native. “When I heard the news [that Patricia Field’s boutiques would be carrying my label], I went crazy with excitement—and I myself made sure that all the stocks [were] in perfect condition.”
Pia describes this pivotal collection as a “celebration of the strength and grace of a woman.” There are sensual Grecian silhouettes, touches of rawness and exoticism, and of course, Pia’s signature—draping. Dresses, jumpsuits, and soft separates float in a feminine color palette of nude, champagne, pale pink, teal, and crimson, while their impossibly fluid shapes showcase the curves and peaks of a woman’s form.
Such a line is what fashion spectators have come to expect of Pia, who has always understood a woman’s figure. “My work is mainly influenced by the softness of a woman,” shares the designer, who is continuously inspired by Greek mythology and counts actresses Audrey Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, Uma Thurman, and Kirsten Dunst, as well as her own grandmother, as her fashion icons.
“I was raised by my grandmother, who asked me to watch her make patterns and sew instead of playing outside with other kids,” Pia shares. As a child, the designer would spend her school breaks indoors, observing the pattern-making process that her lola was an expert in. Although she hadn’t quite realized that this craft would be an inseparable part of her future career, Pia knew she wasn’t destined for just another day job. “I was pre-law in college, but I knew deep inside me [that] I always wanted [to have] something to do with art.”
And it seems she made a good call. To date, Pia’s designs have appeared in a number of prestigious magazines and periodicals all over the world—including Manila’s own Sense & Style, Elle Hong Kong, Harper’s Bazaar Indonesia, and international forecasting mag Fashion Trend, to name a few. Today, Pia’s breakthrough label White Kitten is sold in the US, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, with interest brewing in Europe, New Zealand, and other parts of South East Asia. Also, following its Manhattan debut at the start of this year and its inclusion in Miami Fashion Week last March, Pia’s luxury label Pia Gladys Perey (or PGP, for short) will grace the runway of the FOCUS Apparel and Accessories Show in Los Angeles next week. And to think it all started with a few (probably underappreciated) sewing lessons. Pia quips, “I guess that paid off!”
Despite all her achievements, Pia believes that she still has a long way to go. “I wouldn’t really say that I am successful; I am not yet where I want to be. But all of these [positive] things are happening because of hard work, passion, dedication, and [the] inspiration that comes from my children.” Never one to forget the people who helped her come this far (or at least inspired her to keep going), Pia mentions that her mentors include Canadian-Filipino fashion designer Shanon Pamaong, Australian CEO Carol Hanlon (who introduced Pia to the organizers of Miami Fashion Week), American businesswomen Frances Harder and Sheila Hill (who shared with her their extensive fashion expertise), and of course, her “man” and best friend.
But even with such a solid support system, Pia’s climb to the top was not without its pitfalls. When asked about the obstacles she had to overcome before each of her triumphs, the designer replies, “There are too many of them. The greatest challenge of all, I suppose, would be moving to a different country to start a label with a limited budget.” Still, the working mom acknowledges that in life, every struggle comes with a silver lining. “In the end, all these things contributed to making me a better businesswoman and designer,” she says.
With all this optimistically-driven determination, Pia’s got nowhere to go but up. Her star is shooting across the international fashion scene, and even if she downplays her success, she’s only a hop, skip, and a beat away from paralleling fellow Pinoy designers Monique Lhuillier and Tina Maristela-Ocampo, whose creations appear regularly on the Hollywood red carpet. The whole movement of Filipino designers getting worldwide exposure is of immense appeal to Pia—she wholeheartedly believes that our local talent can make it with the big boys, and is even taking concrete steps to give these hopefuls a leg up. “Filipinos are the most creative and resourceful people I know, which is why I am starting a company which assists Filipino designers in selling overseas,” she shares.
For the female designers in particular, Pia has these fighting words: “Never doubt even for a single moment that you can make it! Before anyone can believe in you, you have to believe in yourself.” Indeed, whether you’re a fashion designer or a female entrepreneur or a stay-at-home mom in need of a pep talk, Pia’s counsel is sure to resonate.
Now, Pia is looking forward to a bigger, brighter future. PGP has just signed with an agent in the UK and has also been invited to take part in an off-site show for the upcoming New York Fashion Week. Exciting news all around—but Pia is taking it with a grain of salt. “I am taking smaller steps this year,” she says, meaning that any drastic transitions will probably be scaled down. Her parting shot? “The most important thing is to trust your instincts, work hard, have passion, and listen to those who have experience.” We are apt to agree.
To learn more about Pia and her designs, visit her official website at www.piagladysperey.net. To see her 21-piece collection under Patricia Field, visit www.patriciafield.com .
(Photos used with permission from Pia Gladys Perey)