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Camille Co Is Facing Her Future Head-On

by Fiel Estrella | Jan 14, 2019

The former fashion designer, now a full-fledged entrepreneur, finds life after her fashion label Coexist in new passion projects, wiser decisions, and a dreamy destination wedding. And for her, it’s just the natural progression of things.

There come a few rare points in your life where you’re aware, for once, that everything’s about to change. Like you’re standing on the edge of something familiar and comfortable, about to dive into what’s next, what’s unknown. You can see it all before you—a big decision, an ending, a beginning, a brand new chapter. All you have to do is take the leap.

At this moment, Camille Co is on her feet, at an edge of her own.


Camille Co for January 2019

She’s got quite a view in front of her, so many shifts happening all at once, like the aftermath of a Greta Gerwig movie: Camille is getting her life together. There’s the big wedding with her longtime beau Joni Koro along with the marriage that follows, a new project or two, a new house. There’s her 30s, and the rest of her life. She calls it “major adulthood.”

Late last year, the designer, entrepreneur, and all-around pacemaker announced she would no longer be working in fashion design, sealing the fate of Coexist, the label she created from the ground up in 2008 at age 20.

She also made a conscious effort to post less on her website, the cheekily (and earnestly) titled Camille Tries to Blog. Specifically, she’s stepping back from blogging as a brand. In a post titled “Coming Clean,” she wrote about wanting to do away with the toxic side of social media, to avoid being so preoccupied with numbers, staying relevant, and having to keep up with everyone else. She wanted it to be like how it was in the beginning, when it was all about connecting with people and the creation process was personal, enjoyable, and fulfilling.

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“I’ve been going back-and-forth for maybe two years now with closing Coexist,” Camille admits. “It was a really hard decision.”

"I had to cut down things that would stress me out so I looked for things that I could focus on that are much more stable and not highly dependent on just me."

Eventually, however, she had to make up her mind. “To be honest, both of them are so dependent on me,” she says of fashion design and blogging. “On my creativity, on how inspired I am. I feel like because of that, it’s so unstable. What if I feel tired, or what if I feel burnt out, especially when I have kids? I had to cut down things that would stress me out so I looked for things that I could focus on that are much more stable and not highly dependent on just me.”

“Fashion design has always been my passion,” she adds. “But in practical terms, I really have to focus on something else.”


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Life after Coexist

These days, what keeps Camille busy are Curio Cavern, a furniture store with Scandinavian design at its forefront, and The Canton Club, a restaurant in its early stages.

“I never enter into a business that I’m not passionate about,” she says. It was natural and it made sense for her to branch out to interiors and food. When she was applying to colleges, she had considered studying interior design—she took BS Management in Ateneo de Manila University—and she describes the Cos as a “foodie family.” “These are things I’ve always been interested in.”

It wasn’t until her family moved into a new house, everything built from scratch, that Camille realized conceptualizing spaces was actually something she could do. They hadn’t hired an interior designer, so she took it upon herself to make their new residence a home—methodically and with flair, as only Camille Co can. “Now looking at our home I’m like, ‘Wow, I actually thought of this,’” she says. “I started to understand the things you don’t normally notice when you’re entering a room, from the texture of the ground to a specific wood stain.”


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She opened Curio Cavern with Joni, after the couple’s adorable hobby of sending each other posts of their dream furniture on Instagram. “He was really into furniture,” Camille says. “He would always send me pictures of furniture, and they’re so nice. I started to notice that I’ve been bookmarking more furniture than clothes.” Located in LRI Design Plaza in Makati, Curio Cavern carries products from brands Camille and Joni themselves love, such as Menu, Gubi, and Aytm, which all hail from Denmark. “It’s really what we want for ourselves. That’s what we have in the store.”

When it comes to her curation process, Camille trusts two things: her instincts, and her Pinterest board. “Being a fashion designer, I also understood color, what matched,” she says. “[Curio] is me in a nutshell: minimalist but luxe, simple lines but fine materials. It’s basically our design loves.”


She believes that the spaces we live and work in largely affect everything from productivity to feelings and moods. “That’s why I love it,” she says. “It’s like clothes, ’di ba? If you’re in an inspiring space, you get inspired as well. Your room is something you look forward to coming home to. It’s so personal.” Her tone brimming with possibility, she adds, “I might even create [and design] my own line of furniture someday.”


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Much more visible on the horizon is The Canton Club. “It’s Chinese because I’m Chinese,” Camille explains with a laugh. Calling it a baby brand, she shares that the concept behind it mixes a modern, cool dining experience with traditional Chinese dishes. “In the Philippines,” she says, “Chinese restaurants are always big ballroom or family style. You don’t really [hear young adults or people our age] saying, ‘Let’s go here,’ you know? So we want to be that place, where families can go and dine together but younger people can also hang out.”


Camille has found that she has a lot to say about building a pleasing menu and finding the right balance of flavors, along with staying on top of aesthetics like which plates to use, what color the walls should be, and how the uniforms should look. “I’m learning so many new things,” she says. “It’s another interior design challenge for me, as well.”

To build a house or a home

Asked what differentiates Curio Cavern and The Canton Club from Coexist, Camille mulls it over and answers, “These are my adult businesses.”

“Fashion design started as a hobby,” Camille recalls. “I didn’t really think it was going to be my career.” When she started Coexist, it became her real-world course on how to run a business, a venue for milestones and firsts. “That’s why it was so hard to let go of it,” she says. “All my business acumen, I got from Coexist.”


After 10 years, she’s able to begin these new projects from a wiser perspective and make smarter decisions. With her label, she was figuring it out as she went along. But with her furniture store and her restaurant, she’s a businesswoman with ideas and plans. “I’m more prepared for what’s to come.” Being able to collaborate with other people, especially Joni, also means that the ventures are more sustainable, and she doesn’t have to carry their weight by herself.


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It’s well-established by now that Camille made a lot of monumental, life-changing decisions in 2018. But there’s one decision that she counts among the most important—and it’s not exactly the most thrilling thing, but it is sensible and makes all the difference for her.

“Joni and I chose to rent a house over buying,” she says, and it’s so matter-of-fact and grownup that you could almost be a little jealous of how completely together she has it. But Camille is quick to add that reaching this outcome entailed a lot of sleepless nights spent worrying.

“At first, I really wanted to buy,” she recalls. “In my head, I was thinking, Why are we renting a house? We’re going to pay for a house that’s not going to be ours.” If they were buying a house, they wanted it to be a good investment, somewhere they could see themselves settling down with their family for years to come. But after exploring their options for bank loans and working out their finances, the numbers all added up. “It was just a long-term commitment that we weren’t ready to take. [And to us,] it didn’t make sense to buy a house right now.”


“I come from a really strict family, so now I feel like I get to make decisions for myself. It’s like removing training wheels. This is really just me and Joni this time.”

Making plans for the future, as a young couple, was meant to be exciting and hopeful. Camille and Joni figured they weren’t in a rush and could stand to wait a few years to buy their own house. In the meantime, they could save up, and feel more secure in the process. “I started to embrace [the idea of] renting a house,” Camille says. “When we wanted to buy a house, it was like we were chasing after something. With this, we can take our time and really look for a place to build our lives together.”


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So far, so good

Joni proposed to Camille in Japan on an early morning, the pair surrounded by lush greenery in Tokyo’s Rikugien Garden. For the ceremony, they’ll be flying everyone out of the country—it’s set for April 11, which follows the Chinese feng shui calendar and allows them and their family and friends to explore, enjoy themselves, and make a real vacation out of it. Camille will be wearing a gown designed by Lela Rose.


“It’ll be a week-long celebration,” she gushes. “What I’m most happy about is really getting to spend the wedding with our family and friends.” The gathering will be quite intimate; a feat, Camille says, for a Chinese and Filipino family. “I’ve always told my parents that the only thing I want is a small wedding somewhere cold,” she explains. “A destination wedding. No one in our group has done it yet.”


Camille has always been at ease with reinvention and beginning a new phase in her life. Moving on to a new chapter, for her, is not necessarily a deliberate effort. “I feel like it just naturally happened,” she says. “It was my natural progression. Every time I entered into a new chapter, I was ready. Feeling ko nagawa ko na lahat ng dapat kong gawin in that [part of my life].”

“I feel like, especially now, young people are always in a hurry to experience the next thing,” she adds. “But looking back, I’m happy that all these chapters in my life happened the way they happened.”

Throughout this conversation, she does indeed sound ready to take yet another great leap. So when she’s asked how she thinks marriage will change her life, she doesn’t hesitate one bit. “It will change it for the better,” she declares, her tone light and quippy, but you know she means it.


“I come from a really strict family, so now I feel like I get to make decisions for myself. It’s like removing training wheels. This is really just me and Joni this time.”

“Married life, that’s what I’m most excited about,” she adds. “Joni and I are so in tune. I’m so excited to spend my life with a partner. Not just a husband, but a partner.”

Like any woman who just got out of her 20s, Camille has had her fair share of wrong turns and learning curves. She knows that turning 30 doesn’t magically make mistakes and misfortune disappear—but as she has said before, these days, she’s more equipped to handle them.


“It’s so cheesy, but I always say this: Every time something really wrong happens, instead of feeling so sad and dwelling on that, we have to focus on the positive because that just means that something better is going to come along,” she explains. “I honestly think it’s so true, because that’s what happened in my 20s. Now, every time a door closes, I get excited because of that unknown thing that’s bound to happen in the future.” She grins. “It’s going to be so, so, so, so good.”

Produced by Janey Rivera

Photographed by Tricia Gosingtian

Art Direction by Mark Buenaobra

Styled by Qurator Studio

Co-produced by Nicole Arcano

Makeup by Sylvina Lopez for NARS Cosmetics

Hair by Cats del Rosario

Nails by I Do Nails

Shoot Assistant: Teresita Gabat

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