A LEAGUE OF HER OWN

Say hello again to Mai Mai Co­juangco.

Preview (Philippines) - - From The Archives - BY OWEN C. MAD­DELA

The stakes are high when you are the daugh­ter of a fash­ion icon and the sis­ter of a pop-cul­ture phe­nom­e­non; even higher when both the old and new guards of Philip­pine fash­ion re­gard you as muse and ev­ery glossy in town hails you as an It girl and your mother’s style heir ap­par­ent. Such is the case with Mai Mai Co­juangco, daugh­ter of Harper’s Bazaar 100 Most Beau­ti­ful Women in the World lis­ter, politi­cian and phi­lan­thropist Tingt­ing and sis­ter of ac­tress and ath­lete Mi­kee. It was the late ‘90s and while Mi­kee was cre­at­ing mass-market magic, the younger Co­juangco was cre­at­ing rip­ples in Manila’s style scene for her global fash­ion sense and clas­sic beauty. No less than Inno Sotto, ar­guably the last of Pi­noy fash­ion’s old guard, and young Rhett Eala, then al­ready a com­mer­cial hit with his sheer pon­chos—a trend that wouldn’t die for an­other decade (as pictured in Pre­view’s Septem­ber 2001 cover)—kept her in their sta­ble of muses. You could say that Mai Mai Co­juangco is a PRE-OOTD, pre­hash­tag Pre­view girl—one that per­son­i­fied the mag­a­zine at the time of dial-up. The mag­a­zine’s first 10 years abound with her cov­ers and fea­tures un­til her me­dia mileage thinned out in ex­change for a quiet life in Italy as a designer and mother. Her dig­i­tal foot­print is scarce, and save for her Esquire Philip­pines cover from 2014, her stint as startup entrepreneur and app de­vel­oper, and the launch of her epony­mous hand­bag la­bel Deme­tria (from her given name Margarita Deme­tria and the names of her grand­mother and daugh­ter) in April, an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of fash­ion fans and style set­ters has yet to know more about her per­sonal style and sar­to­rial wis­dom. “Time has cer­tainly shifted [the way I dress], with styles chang­ing and evolv­ing, like my­self,” Mai Mai re­flects to­day. “I think I was just as ex­per­i­men­tal then as I am now,” re­fer­ring to her mix- and-match ar­se­nal of el­e­gant black dresses with denim jack­ets, chif­fon dresses with laced boots, and hats and berets that still make sense to­day. She also used to color her hair so of­ten just to play around. Mai Mai would like to de­scribe her per­sonal style as “sloppy, el­e­gant chic,” with pol­ished sep­a­rates worn with what her dad and sis­ters call “bruha, bun hair,” or con­versely, neat hair with el­e­gant yet care­free sep­a­rates. Trans­lated to to­day’s terms, Mai Mai’s play of con­trasts trans­lates to “woke up like this”—only a hun­dred times bet­ter. She adds, “In many ways I’ve stayed the same, only that now I dress more like my­self, for my­self, and even more con­fi­dently in my style com­pared to be­fore. I’m sharper at it, for sure.”

Hers is a style all her own, and not a mere con­tin­u­a­tion of her chic mother’s, no mat­ter how the press wanted her to be Tingt­ing Jr. at the turn of the mil­len­nium. “I tell my mom that no one wears tulle like she does, and if I try wear­ing her clothes, I’ll look like a bal­le­rina’s night­mare! It does take a lot of con­fi­dence to just have and fol­low your own style, though. But in my case, a huge part of how I dress is be­ing com­fort­able, and if I’m not, I just look re­ally awk­ward.”

Don’t dis­miss her as just an It girl, too, even if she clearly rates well on a few crit­i­cal fac­tors on the prover­bial It girl check­list: beauty, lin­eage and high-so­ci­ety re­call, among oth­ers. “I like say­ing that ‘It girl­dom’ is sim­ply win­ning the ge­netic lot­tery. There’s no real value to it, ex­cept that it is flat­ter­ing up to a cer­tain point,” she con­fesses. “I’d much rather be called the same way as the peo­ple I ad­mire—a suc­cess­ful entrepreneur, leader, phi­lan­thropist, mu­si­cian—sim­ply be­cause ‘It girl’ is pure flat­tery, cute and fun... but that’s it. It would be a mis­take and to­tally un­healthy to give too much weight to that.”

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