From humble beginnings in Guimaras, Iloilo, Filipino designer Chona Bacaoco has been making strides in the global fashion industry
This story is published in partnership with SoJannelleTV, a magazine about Filipinos in North America
There was a time when Chona Bacacao was kicked out of a designer’s studio for not being fashionably dressed. Now, the Italy-based Filipina is at the forefront of emerging fashion at the helm of the MM Milano brand.
Bacaoco was front and center earlier this month as one of the star designers at Los Angeles Fashion Week, flaunting her moth-inspired yarns. She points out how many people consider moths to be a form of butterfly, but may be surprised to find that there are thousands of species of moths.
“It is time for the world to see that the butterfly exists. They are not butterflies, they have their own identity. So that’s like me,” Bacaoco said in the “So Inspiring” segment of So Jannelle TV which airs nationwide on The Filipino Channel (TFC) and ANC cable channels; as well as local digital channel Southern CA KNET 25.1.
Bacacao can be identified with the desire to assert its presence. Her rise to future fashion mogul began many years ago, long before her company was officially born in 2018. She grew up on the small island of Guimaras, Iloilo, and dreamed of being like her mother, a seamstress.
“I didn’t know the brands, I thought everyone wore the same clothes. I thought everyone was wearing clothes made by my mom,” Bacaoco admitted.
She moved to Hong Kong with her aunt, where she met her future husband. Together they had a pair of daughters and moved to his home country of Italy. She found it difficult to adjust when he left for business and she had to raise two children on her own.
“Honestly, at first I struggled. I suffered from the cultural differences and the language barrier and people don’t speak English there,” Bacaoco said, as she grew emotional.
She decided to start a modeling agency to connect with over 100,000 Filipinos in Italy.
“I wanted to do something for the community and said they were so beautiful. They have so much to offer, why keep them in the box? That’s why I opened my agency,” Bacaoco said.
Bacoco never gave up on her aspirations to look like her mother. She was managing designers when she had the opportunity to produce her own line. She panicked before realizing she had the perfect partner waiting for her in the Philippines. She called her mother for advice and was reminded of this fact.
“She said, ‘Chona are you crazy? Your mother is a seamstress. Go home,” recalls Bacacao. “I had forgotten that my mother was a seamstress.”
Bacacao began fulfilling her dreams, also appearing at New York and Dubai fashion weeks. Sometimes Bacoco wonders why everything fell into place so quickly for her. Reminiscing about the struggles brings tears to Bacaoco’s eyes, but she never loses sight of those days when others in the industry looked down on her for her humble beginnings, or those times when she struggled with depression and shock. cultural.
“I’m really, really emotional because I really did something good with it. Maybe that’s why sometimes I still wonder why so fast, why the magazines trust me so much,” Bacaoco said.
“I got up, wiped my tears away and said ‘Chona, do something for you’.” – Jannelle So Productions | Rappler.com
Rappler partners with Jannelle So Productions Inc (JSP), founded by Filipino-American pioneer and Los Angeles-based journalist Jannelle So, to publish videos and written stories from SoJannelleTV about Filipinos’ travels, successes and challenges living in America.
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