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Meet Maricel, a local fashion designer

During 2nd year uni fashion 2011What do you do?
A freshly graduated fashion designer specializing in conceptual womenswear clothing.

Describe yourself in a few words.
Optimistic and loves indulging in anything creative.

What does success look like to you?
Success to me is to persevere despite the many obstacles and negativity that you may face.

When I see the words 'fashion designer', I think of The Devil wears Prada and Ugly Betty. Exaggerations? Or pretty close to reality?
Perhaps some scenes are quite true as being in an industry where competition is always never-ending, catty attitudes are not uncommon. But, the way they portray interns in the movies is probably exaggerated as it really depends on the company on how they treat their interns, as generally interns are not paid as we are giving free labour but, I guess it is up to us individuals on whether we can find ways in learning through that experience. There are times where I had to do simple errands such as walking around the city to collect things or send things; it may seem boring but I take it as a way to observe the sights and sounds of the city whilst doing so. At the end of the day, it is how you perceive these small tasks in a different light.

Apart from that, designing clothes may seem like a glamorous career but it is actually a lot of hard work, talent and dedication. I remember being in the studio doing my own tasks and observing the long hours that the designers dedicate their time towards their designs.  

Have you always been creative? Or was it something that grew on you?
I have always enjoyed drawing and making creative crafts as a child so I think that came quite naturally to me. In middle school and high school, I was in the Science stream so, for a few years I did not have any formal education in art and design and did not have the opportunity to yield my creativity. However, that is the period in my life when I realized that I wanted to pursue something creative as I really missed drawing and having the freedom to create something artistic on a daily basis.

A peek into my sketchbook

Illustrations final collection1

page sketchbook inspiration1

Toile development Outfit51

Hunting for fabric

Fabric shopping london2 2010

Fabric shopping London 2012

What was it like living in New York? Is it all that the media portrays it to be…you know…Wall Street - Sex in the City - MTV-ish?
From my own experience, I really enjoyed it. According to the media, New York can sometimes be portrayed as dangerous but, I don’t find it exactly true as I remember traveling by myself on the metro and walking alone along the streets in the middle of the night up until 2.00 a.m. in the morning and felt that it was relatively safe. As cliché as it sounds, it’s definitely ‘a city that never sleeps’; there is always so much to see and do!  

What are some highlights from your journey to date?
Being able to have work experience in Marchesa [note: Marchesa is a brand specializing in high end womenswear, established in 2004 by Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig] in New York, having my very own graduate collection that I designed and made being presented to the press during London Graduate Fashion week and last but not the least, seeing my collection together with my course mates’ collections pictured on the British Vogue online website. Four years ago, I’d never thought I would be designing and making clothes and now all these are happening! It is really surreal, come to think of it. I feel really blessed and grateful to have had all these experiences so far.

Backstage at Marchesa

Marchesa backstage


Some of my work as featured on British Vogue online

British Vogue Pictures Final Collection1

How would you describe the fashion scene in Brunei?
To be completely honest, there isn’t much regarding fashion in Brunei unless it is about traditional and cultural clothing but hopefully more genuine interest and awareness in contemporary fashion would steadily increase over the next few years. Hopefully through what I have learnt, I would be able to contribute to this, along with other passionate individuals.

As a scholar under the Ministry of Education, you are 'destined' to be back in Brunei. What do you see yourself doing?
I actually contemplated about this long and hard before switching my course from Architecture to Fashion Design three years ago. A lot of my own friends and family started questioning me about job opportunities in Brunei back then. Although I know there isn’t much regarding jobs in the fashion industry in Brunei but, if no one is going forward to bring about a change then nothing will ever happen. For now, I have plans of setting up my own small label but, regarding the scholarship bond, I am still unsure of what they expect me to do. But, whatever happens, I am being positive about it and won’t give up on my dreams. I refuse to let my three years of hard work go down to waste just like that.

In your article* in The Brunei Times, you mentioned ‘I feel that Brunei has the potential to be a hub where designer labels can have the option of manufacturing their ready-to-wear garments.’ What led you to his conclusion?
I was thinking in terms of labour costs compared to European countries and the opportunities that could pave ways for more employment. Since Brunei is heavily dependent on oil and gas for its revenue, having a factory that could contain locals specializing in the production of garments could help open up a new industry in our country and that could perhaps boost our economy if we are able to compete with neighbouring countries in terms of quality and cost.

IMG 0414

NY TimesSquare

Editor's Note: I am always on the hunt for interesting stories. Sometimes I find them online, sometimes they come to me (directly or through recommendations), sometimes I get leads from the newspapers. This was the case with Maricel's story. Shoutout to Faiq for highlighting her story first. [note: Read From Beams to Seams by Faiq Airudin in full here]

You can follow Maricel's journey on Instagram - @MaricelPamintuan

"...if no one is going forward to bring about a change then nothing will ever happen..." ~ Maricel Pamintuan


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