At the tailend of January, the fashion elite and some of the country’s most well-known fashion muses gathered for the opening of COUTURiSSIMO, a pop-up store built to bring the allure of couture to a more “accessible” setting. Launched by the Asian Couture Federation (ACF) with the mission of “democratizing couture”, the revolutionary online fashion experience saw the launch of several boutiques around the globe from Singapore, Hongkong, Indonesia, and now, the Philippines.
Among its roster of world-class couturiers are Parisian label On Aura Tout Vu, Korean designer Songzio, Indonesian brand Sebastian Gunawan and Dubai-based Filipino master couturier Michael Cinco.
Cinco tells Rank, “It has been always my dream to do a pret-a-porter collection. I’m just so happy that COUTURiSSIMO gave us couture designers, who are members of the Asian Couture Federation a platform to showcase our luxe couture creation to a more affordable market. I have so many inquiries from women in Asia, especially in the Philippines who want to wear Michael Cinco but can’t afford my couture price. So now at least Filipinos can now buy a luxe couture dress in the store where she can try and feel the fabric.”
Cinco was handpicked among the celebrated designers within the ACF to be given a platform to bridge the gap between couture and ready-to-wear. Following a meeting in Singapore with ACF President Frank Cintamani and Vice-President Emily Hwang, Cinco admits saying “yes” to them was almost instantaneous.
He shares, “It’s an honor because among the elite members of Asian Couture Federation, they only chose two Asian designers to create a luxe couture line in affordable prices. We launched the collection at Paris Fashion Week in 2016 and presented our Spring-Summer collection in London Fashion Week in Kensington Palace.”
On the collection meant for COUTURiSIMO, he opines, “The collection has some couture touch in it like embroidery details and touches of beadwork but it’s not as elaborate and intricate as my couture collection. I have to think about the time and materials used in producing a luxe collection while in my couture line there are no limits in everything.”
If anything, Cinco has been the face of Filipino expert craftsmanship and flair in the international arena, boasting a vast clientele of Hollywood celebrities, society personalities, and even royalty from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Dagestan, China, Macau, and of course, the Americas and Europe be in the form of lavish wedding dresses to straight-from-the-runway red carpet creations.
The inarguable charm in Cinco’s creations lies in his extraordinary marriage of delicate materials with intricate details—a fusion of premium textiles and extraordinary fabric manipulation and detailing. It’s this brand of meticulous artistry that allows Cinco to etch an indelible mark not just in the world of fashion, but in the field of fine arts and design.
The 45-year-old artisan believes that one’s creative process is fueled by visual stimuli collected through constant exploration of different cultures in varying periods. But before this creativity led him to dress a long list of bigwigs from Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Nicole Scherzinger, Fergie Ferguson, Dita Von Teese, Brandy, Ashanti, Chris Brown, Tyra Banks, and Naomi Campbell, Cinco was a young boy in Samar with an appetite for beauty.
He recalls, “Samar was a dreamland. For where it fell short, I made up for it with the wild imagination of a child hungry for beauty. From our simple house, I (would) look out through imaginary French windows and see the Swiss Alps covered in snow. And on the other side, I see the coastline and imagine the French Riviera with pink dolphins frolicking near the shore. All that, as I played an aria on our imaginary baby grand piano, in the company of Hollywood stars wearing flowing gowns made of the softest, most diaphanous fabrics I made (out of the dried leaves that I was tasked to clear out in the backyard.)”
Growing up in his hometown, the young would-be designer attributes his success to his solid support system—a young dreamer with big ambitions and black-and-white television.
“Thankfully, we are a family of dreamers. We support each other’s dreams and in the pursuit of (these dreams). We had a black and white TV, but that didn’t stop me from watching Hollywood movies with the stars waltzing and romping in ball gowns of the brightest, most vivid colors. I imagined them all in fabulous dresses I myself made in my wild, technicolored dreams.”
He still remembers the very first dress he made for his mother, straight from inspirations imprinted byBreakfast at Tiffany’s and other influences of iconic women like Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich and Grace Kelly. Cinco went on to take an arts course at the University of the Philippines Diliman before moving to Slims Fashion and Arts School in Manila.
Cinco moved to the Middle East in 1997 in hopes of immersing himself more in the world of fashion and the arts.
“Moving to the Middle East was a big leap for me. The region is a haven of haute couture,” he notes. “In my Arabic dreams, I was born in Dubai. I am a reincarnation of a reclusive Arabian princess who sang the opera.”
In 2002, he underwent more training at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London. Following this training, Cinco went on to establish his own fashion line, Michael Cinco Dubai.
By then, a Cinco creation had become synonymous with exquisite craftsmanship, showcasing feminine silhouettes with a luxurious amount of ornate detailing. This led to him receiving accolades from fashion authorities such as the Breakthrough Designer award from the WGSN Global Fashion in 2011. This was followed by a long line of distinctions ultimately leading to him being hailed the Best Designer in Grazia’s Style Awards 2016. It was also around this time that he gained a slot in the Asian Couture Federation as one of the elite members in Asia with Kenzo Tanaka and ACF President Dr. Frank Cintamani at the helm.
Hollywood mainstream media then picked up on Cinco’s artistry, turning heads of TV and runway heavyweights. Thus led to an appearance in the long-running reality show, America’s Next Top Model, for which he was handpicked by ANTM creator, Tyra Banks, herself.
Since then he has dressed many high profile Hollywood personalities like Sofia Vergara. Cinco’s creation, which Vergara wore at the 2013 Golden Globes red carpet, earned the actress a nod as one of the best dressed of the night.
British pop star Paloma Faith, adorned by another Cinco masterpiece, walked the MET Gala in New York. He was also behind several costumes worn by actress Mila Kunis for the Hollywood film, Jupiter Ascending.
In the Philippines, Cinco has also penetrated public consciousness by appearing in packed halls and auditoriums before the fashion elite. His first ever perfume called, Impalpable, was launched in 2013, followed by the launch of a limited edition underwear collection for homegrown brand Bench.
In 2014, President Benigno Aquino Jr. awarded Cinco the Presidential Award for Outstanding Filipinos Overseas for proudly waving the Filipino flag in each of his design’s significant outings. And in 2016, Cinco debuted his Autumn-Winter Collection at the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week—a Filipino first. The soft spoken designer shared, “Paris is the realization of an impalpable dream. Need I say more?”
I ask what’s next for Michael Cinco and his affair with design and the arts.
He answers, “Be recklessly, wildly and madly in love.”
Images from “The Impalpable Dream of Love” collection, photographed by Rozen Antonio, and courtesy of Michael Cinco.