The Breakthrough Star
Tatler Philippines|October 2021
Fashion designer Michael Cinco tells Tatler what it takes to be at the forefront of the fashion industry, the obstacles and triumphs he’s been through, and how he has overcome them to become one of the leading international Filipino designers today
Jove Moya

Wearing his trademark oversized glasses and black suit, the celebrated and probably the most well-known Filipino fashion designer at the moment comes on the Zoom screen with much flair and flamboyance. He readily apologises and says, “I am so sorry I am not techie,” dropping the phone he is using for the meeting. And we lose him for a moment. He adjusts the screen, and we begin an hour-long interview filled with anecdotes, laughter, inspiration and the story of a life that never gave up on its dreams.

He grew up in the humble city of Catbalogan in Samar, miles away from the metro where red carpets and runway shows happen. “My home is in the western Philippines,” Michael Cinco tells Tatler Editor-In-Chief Anton San Diego. “I grew up there with my siblings. We are eight in the family, and I am child number five.”

Significantly, no one in his immediate family and relatives near or distant, worked in the fashion industry. His father was a radio technician, while his mother was a homemaker. “We lived a very simple life, but well enough to survive,” he describes. So where, and how, did his dream to be a fashion designer start?

Since childhood, Cinco behaved differently. While his siblings and peers were outside playing, he preferred to stay indoors, with his eyes glued to their TV screen. “When I was a kid, I loved watching classic Hollywood films instead of going out and playing with other children. I think that was one of the reasons why I began to dream of being a designer,” he discloses. “These films exposed me to fashion and style.”

One movie that made an indelible impression on the young Cinco was George Cukor’s My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins. “I wanted to be a fashion designer when I saw the costumes worn in the movie. They were so elegant and beautiful,” Cinco recalls. “I was 10 or 11 then and it was my first time to see such clothes. I was inspired and from that moment on, I said to myself ‘I want to be a fashion designer.’”

But his gender preference threatened to douse this dream. While he had his mother’s support, his father was against it, believing that the fashion scene was only for women. “My mother was very supportive, but my father was not. He was like the typical Filipino father then who could not accept the thought of having a gay son,” he shares. “For my father, fashion is a world that is exclusively for ladies.”

He knew, however, of one sure way to endear himself to his father: to excel in school. “The only thing that my father was very proud of was the fact that I did very well academically. He would be very pleased whenever I’d bring home my medals. I was not his favourite child, but the fact that I was doing good in my studies made him very proud,” Cinco explains.

When it was time for him to get a college degree, the designer went to Manila. “After graduating high school, I became a state scholar, and enrolled at the University of the Philippines [UP],” he relates. “I just stayed there for a year because I really wanted to pursue my fashion design career.” He quit from the university, a decision which still got the support of his mother.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM TATLER PHILIPPINESView All

'Tis the Season

These beauty-inspired advent calendars are bigger and better than ever

2 mins read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

Luxury Redefined

Ayala Malls Greenbelt 3 has undergone a major facelift unveiling a world-class shopping destination that’s sure to be the talk of the town

4 mins read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

Tatler Scene

Three industry experts on their outlook for 2022, culinarians speak about Filipino cuisine at the Asian Culinary Exchange, and major retail therapy at the repurposed Greenbelt 3

1 min read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

Minute Details

Expanding its vast repertoire, Patek Philippe unveils three new versions of chronographs with additional complications this year

3 mins read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

What Will the Next Year Look Like

Industry experts Gigi Montinola, Cielito Habito and Edsel Salvana tell us what to expect in 2022

4 mins read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

Family Values, Timeless Heirlooms

Zelda Kienle and Jessica Kienle Maxwell share what they value, and what to impart from one generation to the next

2 mins read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

Ice Ice Baby

Can an ice bath for your face really work wonders for your complexion?

6 mins read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

Day' Til Night

Packed with good-for-the-skin ingredients, you won’t have to worry (too much) when you forget to remove these products after a long night of free-flow champagne

3 mins read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

A Taste of Home

This 2021, the Asian Culinary Exchange shifted its focus to Filipino cuisine; here’s what our leading culinarians had to say

4 mins read
Tatler Philippines
December 2021

Seat of Power

The latest member of the 5-series, BMW 520i Sport, highlights precision in driving dynamics and a powerful engine

6 mins read
Tatler Philippines
October 2021
RELATED STORIES

Are Boeing and Airbus Flying Into a Bubble?

They’re launching freighters just as competition from retrofitted jets and cargo space on passenger planes is heating up

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
November 15, 2021

SKYPOD FIRM IN UAE TIED TO INVESTMENT COMPANY FLAGGED ABROAD

The small, four-seat pod glides above the sands of a test track in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, a futuristic transit solution promoted by a Belarusian firm that hopes to secure contracts here in the near future.

3 mins read
Techlife News
October 30, 2021

Above and Beyond

Airlines elevate the premium travel experience in the air and on the ground.

5 mins read
Global Traveler
Class Act 2021

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DUBAI

Discover luxurious shopping, ultramodern architecture and a vibrant nightlife in Dubai, a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates. Home to nearly 200 nationalities, Dubai promises a truly memorable experience to all visitors — memories just waiting to be made.

3 mins read
Global Traveler
July 2021

LEXY PANTERRA

INDIE RAPPER & SINGER - SONG WRITER Aside from dancing, Lexy’s true passion in life is music. She has also collaborated with artists like DJ Snake, Major Lazer, Too Short, Prologic, Shaun Frank, Louis Bell, and several others. With 2.6 million followers on Instagram, 2.3 million subscribers on YouTube, 3.1 million followers on Facebook, and billions of impressions across all social platforms, Lexy is a name to know in the business. Follower her on Instagram @lexypanterra!

2 mins read
RETREAT Magazine
Issue 19

Future Forward

A visionary approach influences the shape of things to come in Dubai.

8 mins read
Global Traveler
September 2020

MILO SLADAKOVIC - THE NATURE OF MAN

Burdened with care and appreciation of everyday spectacle Excerpts of everyday life and passion - documentary and behind the scenes stories of daily life and lesser-known events captured around the UAE.

1 min read
Lens Magazine
August 2020

Virus Slows Dubai Airport, World's Busiest For Global Travel

Perhaps nowhere is the world’s lack of flights due to the coronavirus pandemic more clearly felt than at Dubai International Airport, for years the world’s busiest for international travel.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
June 12, 2020

DUBAI AIRPORT CEO: GLOBAL TRAVEL STILL UP IN AIR OVER VIRUS

The CEO of the world’s busiest airport for international travel wants to get the globe flying again, but even he acknowledges everything remains up in the air during the coronavirus pandemic.

4 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #446

ART DUBAI 25-28.3.2020

Art Dubai 2020 reaffirms commitment to alternative global perspectives with the announcement of gallery list, new Africa focus for Residents section, and a line-up of international curators.

5 mins read
Art Market
Issue #45, January 2020