You could say Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan fell for the bait.
In this case, the lure was an exquisite 18cm x 11cm minaudière (a small, decorative handbag without handles or a strap) made of tab seashell as black as night, with a regal gold brass dragon guarding the bag’s tiny clasp. “Kevin was on the Manila leg of his book tour two years ago, and a journalist friend was carrying my bag as she interviewed him,” shares Cebu-based designer Neil Felipp. He admits this was deliberate, with the reporter hoping to catch the author’s eye with the best of Philippine craftsmanship.
“What is that?” Kwan gasped, and asked if he could take a photo. Then followed a swift series of events that could only occur in the digital age. Kwan posted the photo on his Instagram, and a flurry of messages were exchanged with Felipp. It even led to one of the main characters from Kwan’s third book, Rich People Problems, being described as carrying a Felipp original.
“When the go came for the Crazy Rich Asians movie, Kwan asked me to be a part, and introduced me to the head costume designer, Mary Vogt,” says the affable 29-year-old. Felipp sent 10 minaudières to Vogt and director Jon Chu, and two made it into the movie.
Felipp adds, “When I first saw my bag on screen, I honestly had tears of joy; it was a beautiful moment.”
The future for this bright young designer looks just as beautiful. Felipp has plans to take his brand to New York, London and Hong Kong. He’s also working on expanding his range to include men’s watches and home accessories.
Watch this space.
Another Cebu designer to watch
Iconic Filipino imagery comes to life in the delicate handmade jewellery of Cebuana designer Strozzi Rosende. Think metal pins designed to look like jeepneys – a uniquely Filipino mode of transport – in an explosion of colour, using mother of pearl, turquoise and onyx. Other playful designs include an octopus-shaped brooch and a cuff that features a brightly hued toucan.
This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.