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Chona Bacaoco: Fashion, Resilience, and Endless Possibilities

Words by Mye Mulingtapang

Photos by Ryan Arbilo

Roots of Resilience 

From the initial chapters of her life, spent amidst the verdant fields where Chona Bacaoco diligently traded vegetables at the bustling Guimaras public market, a narrative of resilience and transformation began to unfold. This journey, rich with humble beginnings, has seen her metamorphosis into the prestigious role of MM Milano's chief designer. With each stitch and fabric choice, she interlaces her personal experiences and deeply rooted values, creating garments that transcend mere fashion and become poignant reflections of her extraordinary journey.

Bacaoco faced the sting of exclusion and undervaluation, a contrast to the soaring heights she now occupies. Her story has placed her at the helm of an empire that extends beyond mere professional realms — it is a sanctuary she calls home. Within these walls, a culture of collaboration flourishes, a haven where kindness, respect, compassion, integrity, and inclusivity intertwine seamlessly, crafting a distinct ethos in the fiercely competitive world of fashion.

The genesis of her passion can be traced back to the very heart of her mother's tailor shop. This early exposure became the catalyst for a lifelong devotion to the craft, propelling her towards the discovery and nurturing of models and talents who now proudly represent her company and contribute to the growth of sustainable emerging brands.

In delving deeper into the tapestry of Bacaoco's narrative, one finds a story marked by resilience, creativity, and an unwavering commitment to her roots. It is a testament to her ability to transform adversity into triumph, embodying the spirit of a true artisan who not only creates fashion but etches chapters of her life onto every garment.

From Runways to Red Carpets

Bacaoco's journey reflects her inherent qualities and strengths, refined through experience and perseverance. Transitioning from managing client relations to crafting tailor-made gowns showcases her flexibility and determination.

Her adeptness in handling clients and casting models underscores her interpersonal skills and discerning vision. Organizing fashion shows with grace and precision demonstrates her comprehensive skill set and innate understanding of event dynamics.

In designing exquisite gowns, Bacaoco's artistry flourishes, with each creation becoming an intricate expression of emotion, culture, and craftsmanship. Her ability to meet diverse clientele demands highlights her keen understanding of individual tastes and cultural nuances.

Collaborations with globally renowned designers like Michael Leyva, Albert Andrada, and Michael Cinco symbolize the recognition of Filipino talent on the international stage. Events like the Cannes Film Festival amplify her creative voice, showcasing the influential impact of Filipino craftsmanship in global fashion. Bacaoco's success is a testament to her dedication and commitment to excellence in every facet of the fashion industry

A Fashion Empire Beyond Norms

Driven by the fundamental question of "What does my community need?" Bacaoco's brand, HOME by MM Milano, embodies her commitment to inclusivity. Rejecting age, color, race, religion, and politics as barriers, HOME transcends mere fashion to become a global movement celebrating diversity.

Bacaoco's role extends beyond that of a designer; she is the visionary architect of an inclusive empire challenging traditional fashion norms. Within HOME, values and talent hold equal significance to aesthetics, fostering a harmonious blend of creativity and ethical principles.

Her approach fosters a community where inclusivity is not just a concept but a lived reality, erasing boundaries and celebrating humanity. This community serves as a beacon, advocating for harmonious coexistence within the fashion industry.

In this space, playfulness reigns supreme, infusing the creative process with empowerment and collaboration. It highlights the belief that fashion should reflect the diverse voices contributing to its narrative.

Moreover, Bacaoco's commitment to kindness forms the foundation of her brand, transcending fashion to reshape industries and societies. Her journey from identifying community needs to creating HOME by MM Milano speaks volumes about the transformative power of fashion, redefining contemporary fashion's essence through inclusivity and diversity.

Love Woven in Fabric

Renowned for her particular style, which is defined by voluminous and dazzling costumes, her creations are more than just garments; they are evocative narratives that dig into the complexities of womanhood while expressing her quirky personality. Each dress transforms into a canvas embodying femininity codes linked with her personality thanks to masterful textile play and beautiful embroidery.

Exploring the delicate interplay of fabric and embellishments, Bacaoco showcases not just her technical prowess but also a deeper layer of artistry. Carefully chosen fabrics, strategically placed, metaphorically unveil one's inner self, peeling back layers to reveal vulnerability, strength, and resilience. The meticulously crafted beading embroidery is more than decoration; it manifests intricate emotions and experiences shaping her journey.

Cannes and Beyond

Bacaoco's recent presence at the Cannes Film Festival marks a remarkable chapter in her brand's evolution. Designing dresses for Italian celebrities and VIPs like Gucci heiress Drusilla Gucci, at this esteemed event showcases her journey from beauty pageants to global cinematic glamour, highlighting Filipino talent's capacity to shine on the international fashion stage. This significant foray demonstrates her ability to expand horizons and excel beyond traditional standards, solidifying her position as a notable figure in the fashion industry.

Launching her own line, Chona Bacaoco Milano, during New York Fashion Week at the iconic Angel Orensanz Foundation represents a milestone moment. Her latest collection, “Shooting Stars,” debuted with 25 pieces designed to transcend age barriers and cater to a diverse clientele. Using traditional Philippine fabrics like hablon and piña infused with a modern touch, Bacaoco blends heritage with contemporary design, offering a unique fusion appealing to a global audience.

Bacaoco's journey, from humble beginnings on the island of Guimaras to international fashion stages, resonates deeply with her metaphorical portrayal of dreamers as shooting stars. Her rapid progress echoes her father's philosophy, "time is gold," infusing her endeavours with dynamism and purposefulness. As she takes centre stage, her collection becomes not only a manifestation of design but an expression of her journey, philosophy, and commitment to inclusivity, illuminating the boundless possibilities for those who dare to dream.


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