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Take A Step Inside Maria Gigante’s Closet

The model, beauty queen and philosophy student makes bold style statements, juxtaposing her unique fashion finds with the classics.

If we were Maria Gigante, we probably wouldn’t have much trouble figuring out what to wear. With her beautiful tan skin, svelte figure and an endearing devil-may-care personality, she seems like the kind of person who would look good in just about anything.

“I like to think that less is more,” she says, although she admits the curated selection in her closet now is the product of months of editing down. “I’m also very experimental, but pretty low maintenance.”

She was definitely relaxed when we arrive at her house for the Sunday afternoon shoot, dressed in shorts and a black silk kimono. It was a few weeks after a long run for as Miss Bantayan for Binibining Cebu, where she was crowned Binibining Cebu Charity alongside Binibining Cebu Tourism Samatha Lo of Asturias and Binibining Cebu Apriel Smith of Badian.

“It was an amazing experience. I made a lot of friends and learned a lot, and I got to share my hometown with the rest of Cebu. But I have to admit—it’s nice having the time for myself again,” she laughs. These days, she’s busy with her modeling and hosting career, and finishing her Philosophy degree.

Although beauty queen is a title she already has in her stable, Maria takes on different personas when it comes to fashion. “I don’t stick to one fashion personality. What I wear depends on what I’m doing, where I’m going,” she shares. “I like to switch it up every now and then, and see what looks good.”

That’s something we see in her wardrobe—the pieces range from body-hugging leather miniskirts and sequined shirtdresses, to a dainty pale blue peacoat and a high-neck lace blouse. “The experimental side definitely comes form my love of history and culture,” she admits. As a daughter of an airline pilot, she’d grown up receiving souvenirs from all around the world, which cultivated a curiosity for what’s out there—though she also has a love for what’s here. “I like to support my friends who are young local artists. You’d be amazed at what they can do.”

As she continues to go through the rest of the pieces in her closet, it’s clear that Maria picks up her outfits from a number of different places. “I shop anywhere!” she admits. “It helps me keep an open imagination.”

It also doesn’t hurt that her best friend is Edward James Castro, a fashion designer and founding member of styling group Blaq Mafia (who this magazine frequently collaborates with). “Usually we’ll be in a store, and Edward will just pull things out for me,” she laughs. “I’m so lucky to have my personal stylist!”

Despite the number of eye-catching pieces she has, though, Maria actually has a pretty practical outlook on fashion. “I’m all for basic, timeless pieces and colors. I don’t have as many clothes as you’d expect—just a few statement pieces and a lot of basics,” she says. “I want the clothes that I wear now to still be a part of my wardrobe rotation forever.”

Her reasoning is something backed by a more sentimental reason. “I have two sisters, and I love the idea of being able to share a wardrobe that transcends our age difference. It sounds kind of deep, but it’s really just me,” she continues. “I like clothes that mean something to me. I never get a piece of clothing unless I can’t live without it, so everything in there is my favorite.”

Events

BVLGARI in Cebu

May 10 – Cebu City  |  Step inside a world of opulence where gold shimmers and diamonds sparkle. BVLGARI, the renowned Italian luxury brand, is celebrated for its exquisite gemstone jewelry, thin watches, perfumes, and leather goods. With a legacy dating back to 1884, BVLGARI has become synonymous with elegance and craftsmanship. The newest BVLGARI boutique opened last week at the sparkling The Mall at Nustar Resort and Casino, fast becoming the shopping destination for discerning consumers.

Eva Gullas, Jeffrey Hang, Jaja Chiongbian-Rama and Butch Carungay

Jeffrey Hang, BVLGARI’s Regional Marketing Director for South East Asia, flew in from Singapore to welcome guests. “We are happy to unveil BVLGARI to the Cebu market. This is the company’s 140th year, and BVLGARI celebrates this landmark with the Aeterna High Jewelry Collection in Rome this coming May 20, attended by all our global ambassadors like Zendaya and Black Pink” Jeffrey shares with us. The collection will be available in SE Asia later in the year and in the Philippines at the end of the year.

Leading the ribbon cutting was Joseph Muñoz (commercial director of Bulgari Philippines, Jeffry Hang (regional marketing director of Bulgari South East Asian operations, Pia Wurtzbach-Jauncey (Bulgari Ambasadress and Ms. Universe 2015), Allan Teo (chief operating officer of NUSTAR Resort and Casino and May Adolfo (mall director of NUSTAR Cebu).

Pia Wurtzbach-Jauncey, BVLGARI’s local Ambasadress and Ms. Universe 2015

Sheila Osmeña-Go and Jaja Chiongbian-Rama

Spotted at the event was Joseph Muñoz, Commercial Director of Bulgari Philippines escorting Pia Wurtzbach-Jauncey, BVLGARI’s local Ambasadress and Ms. Universe 2015, Allan Teo, Chief Operating Officer of NUSTAR Resort and Casino, Howard Go, Summit Media’s CEO and his wife, Cebuana Sheila Osmeña-Go as well as some of Cebu’s young fashionable set like Claudia Bezza Yeung, Marjay Ramirez, and Danessa Onglatco.

May Adolfo, Danessa Onglatco, Marjay Ramirez and Claudia Bezza-Yeung

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Fashion

The Qipao As Interpreted by Innovative Filipino Designers: PHILIP RODRIGUEZ

The Qipao, an iconic symbol of Chinese fashion, takes center stage as we celebrate the Lunar New Year of the Wood Dragon. This singular closely-fitted garment crafted from the most opulent silks originated in 1920’s Shanghai. ZEE fashion editor Oj Hofer, has sought the creative insights of some of the Philippines’ most innovative designers for their interpretation of the elegant Qipao, also known as Cheongsam.

Cebu’s esteemed designer, Philip Rodriguez, pays homage to imperial attire with this stunning yellow silk brocade qipao. While adhering to the traditional cheongsam silhouette, Rodriguez infuses a touch of sensuality by incorporating see-through silk tulle panels along the waistline. Known for his timeless designs and culturally respectful creations, Rodriguez’s attention to detail is unparalleled. His embellishments are intricate and exquisite, showcasing impeccable taste and luxurious design without veering into ostentation. Take, for instance, his cheongsam for the Year of the Dragon. While it may seem daring compared to traditional sensibilities, Rodriguez maintains elegance by delicately veiling the wearer’s skin with sheer tulle on the cutout side panels. The front slit of the dress is cautiously calculated to strike the perfect balance between modesty and allure “I design for women who possess sophistication beyond their years, “ Philip emphasizes. “My clothes are crafted to evoke a sense of beauty and allure, leaving her feeling exquisite and confident.” As a seasoned designer, Rodriguez consistently achieves harmony in his designs. His qipao for 2024 seamlessly blends elements of royalty and sensuality, luxury and practicality, reflecting his mastery of the craft and his ability to create pieces that are truly elegant and well-balance.

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Fashion

The Qipao As Interpreted by Innovative Filipino Designers: JC BUENDIA

The Qipao, an iconic symbol of Chinese fashion, takes center stage as we celebrate the Lunar New Year of the Wood Dragon. This singular closely-fitted garment crafted from the most opulent silks originated in 1920’s Shanghai. ZEE fashion editor Oj Hofer, has sought the creative insights of some of the Philippines’ most innovative designers for their interpretation of the elegant Qipao, also known as Cheongsam.

JC Buendia, celebrated for his ability to tell a million style stories through minimalist details, is a master of clean, chic lines in fashion. Eschewing frivolity and nonsensical embellishments, every element of his designs contributes to their overall elegance.

Inspired by cinematic portrayals of Chinoiserie, Buendia’s first fascination with the Qipao began with Gloria Romero’s iconic portrayal of a Chinese princess disguised as a ‘sampan’ girl in the 1957 film “Hong Kong Holiday.”

“This admiration for orientalalia only deepened as I watched films like “The Last Emperor” and “In The Mood For Love,” JC recalls.

Buendia’s latest creation is a testament to this cinematic influence. His interpretation of the Qipao for the Year of the Wood Dragon features a cropped top crafted from silk Dupioni, embellished with diamond brooches on the reverse closure for a touch of glamour. Paired with a tea-length bouffant skirt made from frothy layers of delicate tulle, the ensemble exudes sophistication and timeless elegance.

With meticulous attention to detail and a keen eye for design, JC Buendia’s Qipao captures the essence of cinematic glamour while offering a contemporary twist on a classic silhouette. It’s a tribute to the enduring allure of Chinoiserie and the timeless beauty of the Cheongsam.

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