Besides the realms of musical theater and beauty pageants, Filipinos have also been gaining a foothold in fashion around the globe. Think Josie Natori, Monique Lhuillier and Michael Cinco whose creations have clothed a veritable who’s who in Hollywood, not to mention royalties and industry heiresses. These names no doubt inspire up-and-coming Filipino designers to make a go for it on the international fashion stage, just like one Gia Galicia. No matter how long it takes, no matter how difficult, she combines her talent with hard work and immense passion to make her dreams come true—from Manila to Los Angeles, and wherever else her aspirations may take her.
One foot in
The Sunday Times Magazine met Los Angeles-based Gia Galicia who had a homecoming in Manila in late May after she turned over donations from her fashion shows to benefit two charitable foundations. Though living far away, she has made it a point to give back to the less fortunate, choosing to help out the orphans and abandoned children of Precious Heritage Foundation in Antipolo City, and the Breast Cancer Support program of the Pilipino Seniors Resource Center through her work. Introducing herself to the paper, it turns out that the balikbayan designer had dabbled in show business when she was still living in the Philippines. She was known as Jay Rodriguez back then—a Viva Films talent, video jock, radio anchor [as segment host of the Chico and Delamar show "Rebyu, and co-host of an entertainment and lifestyle program on Radio Veritas], and segment host of the PTV 4 program “Good Morning Pilipinas. She nurtured her interest in fashion when she landed projects as a commercial model, eventually founding a models’ magazine titled Black Book.
With the advent of social media, she went on to fashion blogging, which she continued when she decided to migrate to the United States with her husband. Settling in the “City of Stars in Los Angeles, she turned to the red carpet for her entries, sharing with her followers what celebrities were wearing to glittering Hollywood events.
“As a child, I always knew I would be a designer someday. However, I was clueless as to how I was going to get there, although my interest in clothes was quite evident from the get go with my quirky fashion choices, Galicia told The Sunday Times Magazine.
Happily, residing within the proximity of Hollywood in La La land allowed Galicia to study the collections and styles of the world’s most famous designers, and consequently helped her get one foot into the business. With her blog gaining attention, she was given access to stylists and PR agents of celebrities taking her up close on the red carpet for unobstructed views of the fashion of Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Lopez, Kristen Stewart, Emily Blunt, Jennifer Aniston and Emma Stone to name a few.
”Before I knew it, I was covering red carpet events and interviewing celebrities in person! I not only got to see the gowns up close, but I also got to talk to and interview the celebrities as well!”
Growing up in Cebu in the ‘80s Galicia recalled how her father was not fond of her off-shoulder necklines, loud prints, mismatched shoes, and other fashion experiments. They were a tad bit scandalous for the old man’s taste, so she obediently took her quirky sense of style several notches down, and conformed to dressing more like her conservative sister.
Naturally, pursuing a fashion degree in college was out of the question too since her parents had other plans for her.
”But I was always looking for something related to fashion. So when I became based in Manila for 10 years, I dabbled in TV hosting and TV commercials thinking it was the closest I could get to the industry. It was fun while it lasted, but my dreams where nowhere near realization,” she said.
Never giving up on her heart’s desires, Galicia followed her parents’ wishes, secured a degree in college, fell in love, married and left her hosting stints in Manila to start a new life with her husband abroad.
”It was in the States that I finally felt I can pursue fashion with my blog in tow,” she related. Turning point
Galicia found the courage to do more than just chronicle what celebrities were wearing when she chanced upon a woman on the red carpet who was just like her in a sense.
”She took a big leap from blogging to acting, she recalled. “She told me that she used to be on the other side of the rope, and now she was on the side where she had always wanted to be. That truly was a pivotal moment for me and it dawned on me to stop skirting around the issue of what I really wanted to do and face it head-on.”
Getting full support from her husband, Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur Aldo Carrascoso, Galicia enrolled in a fashion school in downtown Los Angeles to find her bearings.
”Normally you want to finish a four-year course in fashion design before launching a line, but I was getting impatient. After more than a year in fashion school, I decided to get my feet wet and start a line—Love, Gia—to test the market and yes, to make mistakes. Then it hit me that there is nothing glamorous about being behind the scenes, she continued.
When she had her first showroom she learned that designers find their rhythm only after their third, fourth or fifth collection, partly because one cannot simply make clothes to their heart’s content. She further realized that whimsical designs were definitely out of the equation as her vision was labor-intensive, and therefore expensive.
“I had to figure out a way to incorporate fun and flirty into everyday clothes to reliably put out a collection that worked for buyers,” she elaborated.
Moreover, she understood how the bumpy and thorny road to becoming a designer is definitely not for the faint of heart. Dealing with fabric suppliers, fitting issues, pattern makers, sample makers and contractors were as essential as designing itself.
“It also requires knocking on doors, hunting down buyers who seem to don invisibility cloaks, visiting dozens and dozens of boutiques from Los Angeles to San Francisco, attending trade shows, joining fashion week markets, tracking down independent sales people, talking to showrooms, having pop-ups, doing fashion shows, sending out hundreds of mostly ignored emails and meeting production deadlines,” Galicia lengthily enumerated.
“Simply translated, you have to grow a thicker skin. In a really tough industry, you just have to stay focused and keep a positive attitude during moments of frustration and self-doubt. It’s a good thing that Los Angeles has an amazing garment district where you can find a plethora of suppliers,” she expounded.
Through her baptism of fire, Galicia understood how forging a career in the industry also meant constantly looking to learn new techniques and skills. After all, she has not even a tenth of the stature achieved by her fellow Cebuana Monique Lhuillier whom she idolizes.
“If I bump into a designer in the garment district—believe me—I will stalk them for fashion advice!” she laughed.
Recognizing that she was still clueless when conversations got technical, she decided to go back to fashion school and finish the course.
“Now I know all the terminologies, nuances and language in the fashion industry,” she sheepishly added.
And so, in going back and correcting her mistake, she finally moved forward and got a few of her designs on the red carpet for the likes of local Los Angeles celebrities TV host-producer Jeanie Mai, “Days Of Our Lives” star Vivica Fox, singer-songwriter Goapele and Maye Musk, the sextagerian South African-Canadian model-dietician and mother of billionaire Elon Musk. Change of label
It was in mid-2016 that Galicia finally got her groove. More knowledgeable, practical and realistic than before, she also decided to change the playful name of her label to her real name, Gia Galicia, which also happens to be a beautiful town in Spain.
With the change of name an increased e-commerce presence as she opened her online boutique. Soon enough, she found the confidence to mount her first fashion show late last year.
“I was able to inject a little bit of my signature quirkiness. I made a bustier with a myriad of beads, crystals, buttons, dolls, and charms on it. I appreciated the little stamp of approval after a few people came up to see it up close.”
Fashion for a cause
Thankful for what she achieved in La La LandÑLos Angeles’ playful nicknameÑGalicia, while acknowledging there is still so much more to achieve, felt it is never too early to give back in gratitude for finally living her dream.
And so, on May 5, she mounted “Catwalk For A Cause” at Fort McKinley Restaurant in San Francisco successfully raising $12,000 from the auction and ticket sales for the orphans of Precious Heritage Foundation in Antipolo City and PSRC.
She revealed that her husband’s mom died of breast cancer and her sister-in-law is afflicted with the same disease, which is why they are eager to join the cause for breast cancer awareness and support. Before coming home to turn over her donation to the two foundations, she also started to work on the second edition for Catwalk For A Cause in cooperation with the Philippine Medical Society Northern California Chapter. The funds raised in this outing will go to the society’s medical mission in the Philippines in February 2018.
In touching lives through her work, Gia Galicia’s dream has certainly branched out into a more meaningful cause, and in closing she declared, “It is now my resolve to use fashion as a means for charity, and I hope to get resounding support both here and the Filipino community in San Francisco and LA.”
For like she said, wherever her passion takes her, she will go.