Stitching Self-Expression in Fashion: Nina Amoncio on Narrating the Personal to Universal Forms of Wearable Art

In the world of fashion, the art of designing has long been regarded as a practice beyond putting fabrics together and turning them into wearable pieces of clothing with sartorial splendor. From the very beginning, for designers, fashion is storytelling in the form of garments woven together to carve identities not just of its makers but of people as a whole—their culture, attitudes, and rich history.

This is what 26-year old fashion designer Nina Amoncio wants to evoke with and through her craft, taking her art to another level by translating and transforming her personal experiences, principles, and worldviews and threading them together through fabrics.

Through her designs, Amoncio’s creative approach to fashion design heavily derives from an introspection that oftentimes lead to a bold and playful exploration of textures, threadworks, and prints.

Amoncio’s journey to the fashion industry all started from her strong interest in the field of arts that then opened doors to an experimentation with the magic of fashion. Reminiscing through her younger years, she would play dress-up with her Barbie dolls with her sister, “I remember we would always mix [and] match our Barbie clothes and have this little fashion show after,” the designer behind contemporary design house ANTONINA, shares.

More than her proclivity on styling, the unquestioning support of her family served as a huge driving force in pursuing her love for fashion and design and, above all else, representing herself through her craft.

Photographed by Jharwin Castañeda

“My family has always been supportive, including my lolas and titas, who gladly passed down their ‘pamanas.’ I have appreciated it fully after graduation, when I was able to come up with collections that best represent myself.” She continues, “I felt happy and content that I have this platform of mine where I could express myself and earn at the same time.” 

To thoroughly polish her skills in the craft of design, Amoncio rolled up her sleeves to tread her own route, taking up Bachelor of Science in Clothing Technology at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, which for her, thrived a traditional method of the education on every aspect of fashion design.

“Unlike usual fashion schools, mine was really straight traditional. The program was holistic in a sense that it covered subjects on design, merchandising, production, and research.”

She adds, “Apart from what is required by the program, I had minors that were electives or pre-requisite to my Clothing Technology (CT) majors—subjects such as Accounting, Chemistry, and Industrial Engineering.”

Photographed by Jharwin Castañeda

All of these academic, even technical, gleanings widened her perspectives as an artist-in-making, greatly incorporating her creative influences like Helmut Lang, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Dongjoon Lim (Post Archive Fashion/PAF), and Emily Bode (Bode)—marveling on their unconventional and unusual creative vision. Apart from these renowned personalities, Amoncio also took inspiration from pop culture, largely of G-Dragon (Kwon Jiyong), leader of idol group BIGBANG, one of the biggest K-Pop acts the industry has seen.

She shares, “Apart from his contribution to the music world, he created a movement in fashion. I’d always see an inspiration of him everywhere—whether it’d be the bull clips, oversized sleeves, or long baseball closures. These people have really affected the way I view fashion and how it has become sort of like a movement.”

As for her creative process, in everything that she gets her hands to start working on, Amoncio would always include her signature by starting ideas, putting her personal views and beliefs, “I initially start with an idea or feeling that I personally wanted to further develop.”

Photographed by Jharwin Castañeda

Building from this germ of an idea, she would flesh out her vision with mood boards to be clear on the direction of the feeling she wanted to convey. She highlights, “My inspiration for designing has always been my own sentiment or understanding; it could be a past experience, a belief, or principle one can relate to. I always see this as a creative expression of my own thoughts—so in the next years, I want to look back to these collections of mine as some kind of diary, but in large wearable forms.” 

This design ethos was very much echoed on her premiere collection and how her garments were very personal to her as they were interlinked to each other. Her first collection, titled “’96“, served as a tribute to her childhood days and experiences.

“It was a fusion of my childhood experiences. I remember putting a lot of items that would best represent it, so the collection itself significantly had a lot of bright colors. I also integrated details like digitally-printed family portraits, oversized ’90s fit, and pocket works,” the designer thinks back.

As she moves forward with her artistic growth and built ANTONINA, her fashion wisdom remains grounded on her personal thoughts and principles, “As I would describe it to someone who has not heard of my brand, ANTONINA has always been so personal. It [the brand] touches ideas that represent or relate to designer [myself] and [my] views. I saw this creative stage as a form where I could narrate my own feelings.”

Photographed by Jharwin Castañeda

She freely discusses how putting her identity on her collections makes it more enjoyable to continue her craft, “Back then, I never thought of myself as someone who could design, since it was more of a requirement. This, however, changed my viewpoint on fashion when I was able to create something and to feel contentment afterward. I felt design as a haven.”  

As she looks back from the very roots of her journey into fashion designing, she discerned her own evolution as a creative and acknowledged how she was able to grow over the past years, “I have been designing since I graduated from college, and have been pursuing a dream of mine. With today as compared to years before, I think my mindset towards that dream has become much clearer. I feel that I am heading towards that direction. I became content and at ease with the present.”  

In order to flourish in her own, self-made element, the designer strives to be someone who can express her personal character and creativity through the use of the garments she creates. She shares, “My goal as a creative is to present these ideas in the most relatable way and to narrate my emotions and beliefs through clothing. As a designer, one of my ultimate goals is to create pieces that best represent my origin and my psyche.”

Photographed by Jharwin Castañeda

In the future, Amoncio, through ANTONINA, wishes to have fruitful collaborations with colleagues in the fashion industry, “In terms of artists I wish to collaborate with, I grew friendship outside fashion with Ha.Mu (Abraham and Mamuro), Robert Andrew Hiyas, Jann Bungcaras, Jace Quiambao, and Hansen (Bon Hansen Reyes)—these young brands I see myself having strong collaborations [with].”

Diving into her personal dream collaboration, she is also in hopes of dressing some of the empowering figures within and outside the Philippines, “I always have this idea of dressing empowering Filipinos and artists. A personal dream of mine is to dress up Vice President Leni Robredo and Rep. Sarah Elago. Internationally, I always look up to music and fashion game-changers Kwon Ji Yong (G dragon) and Song Mino of Winner.”

As the brand ANTONINA proliferates in the industry, the designer is in the process of continuing her creative design prowess and looks forward to more growth of her brand. Right now, she focuses on her next ready-to-wear collection and personal projects, having dabbled into celebrity styling, herself. She also looks forward to upcoming opportunities, like the rest of the world, as the pandemic eases, “I am hoping I could develop more wearable pieces and be able to present these collections through physical shows.”

Photographed by Jharwin Castañeda

In doing so, she highly believes that through her brand, ANTONINA, she should use this as a platform to support sustainability. “I think, with where the world is heading, designs will become more considerate in the aspects of sustainability. With this, partnering with start-ups and small scale businesses will better alleviate the problems of fashion and limit waste. I feel that this is really possible for my brand.”

Amoncio’s development as a fashion designer results from all of her experiences, blazing enthusiasm, and grit as she moves her way in the industry. Fashion is just fashion to the rest of the world, but for Amoncio, it is more than that. She speaks her experiences and her mind through her craft to create something that will resonate with and relate to the people who wears and breathes her brand.

Produced by Leo Balante

Photographed by Jharwin Castañeda

Creative, styling direction, and grooming by Leo Balante

Styling by Nina Amoncio

Assisted by Patch Amoncio

Model Ryan Balila

Shot on location at the Penthouse Studio