In one of her last moments as Miss Grand International Philippines 2019, Aya Abesamis wore a stunning multi-colored one-shoulder dress. Inspired by Muslim heritage, Filipino designer Renee Salud’s dress has a simple silhouette that emphasizes its print. For an elegant touch, it has a dramatic sleeve that dances in each of its movements and turns.
What sets this dress apart is not just its inspiration or vibrant details, but the story behind it. The dress was first worn by Aya’s mother, Desiree Verdadero, in the 1984 Miss Universe pageant where she was hailed as the third runner-up. As a person born into the world of beauty and style, Aya uses fashion not only to dazzle but to mark special moments in her life. And in this case, she paid homage to her mother’s legacy and hers as the proud Binibini.
As her reign comes to an end, Aya takes her love and passion for fashion to another level by becoming a fashion designer. Through her brand AAYA, the beauty queen of Pasig City fulfills her dream of making beautiful clothes that give confidence and empower women.
“AAYA is Aya A. backwards, in Japanese it means ‘beautiful fabric patterns.’ It was created last year in October, ”she told the Manila Lifestyle Bulletin. “Since I was young, I have always loved fashion and the arts. Seeing the story of my parents behind it all, I too have gone through this field to be surrounded and exhibited with fashion and to pursue my love for the arts.
Although she was first accepted into a fashion design school, she decided to pursue another creative study by taking up fine arts at Sto University. Thomas. While this set her off on a new path, life has a way of bringing her back to the fashion business as she became a model and designer for a shoe store in New York City.
“I saw myself evolving and loving fashion even more in addition to being a simple model canvas to present it on the catwalk and in front of the camera,” Aya recalls. “The way I look at clothes, from the texture and quality to the colors, the size, the price, and also the way I would dress and help style my friends, that was definitely something different I am now studying slowly and being more mentored about it as the process of designing my collections goes on.
Currently, AAYA has produced two collections. Its first line offers vacation and resort pieces that play with Asian art and culture. Cheongsam, obi, and oriental embroidery belts are contemporary with modern cuts that show off the skin, western fringes, and playful proportions. The second, a spring-summer line, always plays with the oriental sartorial heritage. But this time, he’s got a ’70s vibe with his punk glam pieces, bright disco-worthy dresses, and psychedelic print outfits.
“AAYA is an expression of the imagination in beautiful fabric patterns. It reproduces places and a story that resonate with me. It’s a mix of Asian and Western cultures presented through unique pieces always made with love, ”she says. “We believe in slow-fashion, which is why we only make our pieces to order. The collections are crafted through certain seasons, but right now we’re trying to explore eclectic bespoke pieces.
Contrary to what many might have in mind, Aya’s style for her brand is completely different from her aesthetic in competitions. AAYA is more versatile and risky compared to the all-female beauty pageant fashion, according to the designer. By doing this for almost a year now, Aya has learned that “the universe will guide you to what is for you and what you are passionate about, even if it takes years.”
“The relentless struggles and brainstorming through a limited supply during this crucial time makes it all worth it and I can’t wait for more companies to come forward for this brand and dream of growing up,” Aya said.
“Fashion for me is an endless cycle of creation and imagination put into a style and form of clothing,” she adds. “The way I see fashion in our post-pandemic world would be something versatile – a need that adapts but is still in fashion.”
See more of Aya’s creations @___aaya__ on Instagram.