Perhaps it was a happy coincidence that a good client and friend of Neil Felipp San Pedro's was carrying a black Suzy Wong minaudiere to interview Kevin Kwan. Or maybe it's because of the Crazy Rich Asian's author's sharp eye for quality and talent that Neil was able to have the good fortune to not only to be mentioned in the series, but also to be featured in the book's film adaptation.
When asked how it all came about, Neil tells Preview, "It was through a personal recommendation by the author, Kevin Kwan, who asked if I would be interested to have my minaudieres used in the film, Crazy Rich Asians."
The local bag designer adds, "Of course, I immediately said yes since it would be a privilege to part of a historical Hollywood film." Neil recalls that he's been communicating with Kevin since he sent him a thank you message for posting his work on the author's personal Instagram account. "We were only able to finally meet after a year or two when he visited Cebu to promote his third book, Rich People Problems, which I'm greatly honored to have the Neil Felipp brand mentioned in as well," he added.
Neil's inspired designs and high quality, expertly-made clutches made it possible for his growing brand to reach international heights. Below, get to know more about this local designer.
How would you describe your design aesthetic and philosophy?
"My design aesthetic is ethereal elegance. The stories that inspire every minaudiere I make are mostly drawn from dreams. I design them in a way so that they have an equal balance of subtlety and are still able to deliver impact as a statement piece."
Do you have a signature design or key element evident through your collections?
"There are two key elements that you would find in every piece. [One] is the intricate brass detail, and once you go deeper into each collection, [there's a] story that each piece holds."
Where do you usually draw inspiration from?
"One of my usual sources of inspiration would be literature. I find that books are a doorway to multiple worlds just waiting to be explored. A good example is my Medusa & Midas minaudiere. This piece is inspired by a surreal love story of where Medusa and Midas would meet and fall in love. Both cursed as they were, they decided on the deadly embrace. As Medusa turns to gold while Midas turns to stone, their lips are forever in a kiss."
Can you walk us through your creative process as you design bags?
"The vital aspect of every piece when I would create is the story. Majority of the conceptualization process falls on that aspect. If you would look it in a different way, it as if I'm creating the soul of the piece. Once I have created the right story, that is when is the sampling process would begin.
"When I'm creating a story, I do like to be playful and imagine various characters of what would happen if there ever was an encounter between these two. Another example would be my Antoinette the Mad minaudiere. This piece was inspired of what would happen if Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, survives the French revolution and goes into the rabbit hole. There she explores a world filled with wonder and meets a peculiar man with a large hat offering her tea.
"When it comes to the sampling process, it covers multiple sketches, material swatches, color swatches, and ergonomic design of the piece. [There is a] variety of considerations to ensure that the piece is not only aesthetically pleasing [but also] functional for the user."
What makes a Neil Felipp muse?
"The Neil Felipp muse is a woman of relevance and substance. She doesn't need to do grand gestures in order to prove her worth; it is [evident] in the small yet consistent acts that she does. These acts can be as simple as making someone smile."
Could you describe the lifestyle that fits your design philosophy?
"My lifestyle has quite changed over the years. An example would be especially in my outfits, I was very into colors, prints, and florals, though as I progressed in my career, I became more attracted to neutrals like whites, blacks, and grays. Then I simply add a few accessories that I have collected in my travels. One specific accessory would be neckerchiefs."
"Through this transition, I became more focused on the concept/design philosophy. My designs have a classic silhouette, [but as you] get more acquainted with them, you would see the details from the brass work to the story that each one holds."
Who do you dream of wearing your designs?
"It's very difficult to simply pick one, though here are a few of my top picks: Oprah, Beyonce, Amal Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Michelle Obama. I choose them not only for their impeccable fashion sense, [but also because of] how they use their celebrity status to help others. This can be done through various ways such as providing scholarships, [sending] relief goods to victims, and constantly inspiring hope in others."
How has your brand evolved since you started?
"In the beginning, I really didn't know what I was doing with my brand. It began simply by just designing various pieces. Along the path, I learned more about myself and how the brand began to be perceived by the market. I can say that the brand has a more distinct identity now compared to when I started eight years ago right after college."
Have you ever felt uninspired? How do you overcome this?
"There were quite a lot of moments that I felt uninspired. Based on experience, it's normal. For me, the first step of overcoming this is by acknowledging it. From there, you find ways to motivate yourself to restart those creative juices. For me, it would be reading books, playing mobile games such as Mobile Legends and PUBG, or simply having a good cup of coffee with a friend. It is also good to have a support system through wise friends and mentors, especially for times like these to help and remind you of the goal in mind."
What can we expect from your brand soon?
"We are looking at expanding into home accessories. Soon [we're also targeting] the discerning gentlemen through a collaborative watch piece with a fellow Filipino brand."