40 Under 40: Meet the new breed of game changers in Cebu (Fashion)

Yoko Sato
Yoko Sato

“SunStar Cebu: 40 Under 40” is a campaign by SunStar Publishing Inc. in celebration of SunStar Cebu’s 40th anniversary. The campaign identifies and recognizes 40 Cebuano individuals no older than 40 years old who have greatly influenced and contributed to their respective fields of expertise.

On the days leading up to the anniversary on Nov. 25, these individuals will be featured in separate lifestyle articles that cover each category—ranging from Health and Wellness to Business. A special publication release will be scheduled on Nov. 23 covering all categories and honorees.

Today, Oct. 30, meet these four exceptional fashion designers who proudly banner the Cebuano culture and heritage through their incredible designs that have been recognized both locally and internationally: Yoko Sato, Neil Felipp, Blaqmafia and Ia Coca.

These Cebuano designers have earned their place in this year’s 40 Under 40 feature, as they proudly wave the colors of Cebu as each of them represents a mirrorball of craftsmanship and artistry that is uniquely theirs but also pays homage to the Cebuano culture and values.

Yoko Sato | Chief executive officer, Yoko Sato Atelier

“My vision of a Modern Cebuana is someone simple but who knows how to carry herself with grace and elegance. I see her as authentic, capable of owning her identity and able to speak her mind freely. I see her as subtle but also not afraid to try new things, be diversified and innovative. She will always remain adventurous, warm and easygoing. That is exactly how I would describe my designs.”

Yoko Sato has a clear vision when it comes to giving Cebuanos designs that can empower themselves in any occasion. Together with her husband, who has always encouraged her to pursue her career in fashion, Yoko Sato has since then been working tirelessly and she perfects her designs that are fit for every Cebuano. From bridal to evening gowns, Sato certainly has it all to help every Cebuano look and feel beautiful.

“I believe that through my profession, I have inspired the people around me to embrace their uniqueness and to be bold in expressing themselves and their creativity,” Sato said. Through Yoko Sato Atelier, she is giving back by joining charitable organizations that aim to provide scholarship programs as well as providing livelihood to skilled workers and local artisans.”

In light of promoting Cebuano culture, Sato is now drawn to creating timeless Ternos and Filipiniana as well as adding weaving techniques to her designs as well as practicing sustainable fashion.

Neil Felipp | Designer and founder, Neil Felipp

It is hard to miss the milestones that Neil Felipp has achieved. From his works being featured in the film adaptation of “Crazy Rich Asians” to DOJA CAT carrying his beautiful bag in this year’s New York Fashion week, Felipp is certainly hard to miss in both the international and local fashion scene.

Felipp has always prided his designs to be made in Cebu and that is exactly what he aims to show to his clients who adore his designs.

“Ever since I started building my brand, I have always wanted to contribute to Cebu,” Felipp said, “through my designs, whether they are seen being carried by our local celebrities or international recognition such as in the film “Crazy Rich Asians” or recently being carried by DOJA CAT in New York Fashion Week. I always say that my work is proudly made in Cebu, thus giving pride and honor to an island that I call home.”

Felipp has always been one to give back to the community. He emphasizes the great need for Cebuanos to support the Cebuano industry.

“I encourage my fellow Cebuanos to support local craftsmanship as much as they can. Whether they are in the creative industry or not, by showing their support for the local community and industry, we uplift our fellow Cebuanos in a way that we become more than just a tourist destination but a design destination.”


Two minds are better than one, and that is what Blaqmafia is all about. A partnership between Edward James Castro and Axel Que, this fashion duo is a force to reckon with.

Edward Castro, a fashion stylist, has credited that most of what he does is largely inspired and credited Cebu to the artist that he is today.

“I’d say that instead of my creations having an impact on Cebu, it must be the other way around. I am just a minuscule part in this microcosm, just out here giving it everything I got, and showing the world that Cebu will never be short on talent. It is paramount for us to find our passion as early as we can in order to live with authentic purpose.”

Axel Que echoes the same sentiments: “We live in a community where people come first.”

Excelling the field of fashion, this power duo always gives back and promotes an ethical and sustainable business system. As Castro explains: “These tiny conscious acts, and efforts will eventually snowball into something that goes beyond just myself. After all, sustainable and progressive success can only be achieved through collective and collaborative efforts.”

Through their collaborative work, Blaqmafia is proof that Cebu never ceases to amaze the world of the talents that it has to offer and there is always more to come if the Cebuano culture and values are being put on a pedestal.

“Cebuano culture is important because it’s a traditional culture that has been passed down through generations. And I want my creation to be reflective of the person who uses it,” Que said.

Ia Coca | Chief executive officer, Ia Coca Atelier

“As a fashion designer that does custom pieces, each of my designs tells a story. These stories are kept alive through the people that wear them. I want to believe that my designs have resonated with many Cebuanos. I always think of ways to reinvent the idea of traditional wear.”

Incorporating a modern twist in his works, Ia Coca is not one to shy away from the traditional comforts of fashion but rather integrate in his designs what he envisions for Cebuanos to embody and become.

Through his business, the Ia Coca Atelier, Ia aims to promote Cebuano craftsmanship. “It is essential to support and acknowledge local artisans. I always go to the weavers of Argao who create these beautiful handmade textiles and all of my embroideries are made by the embroiderers of Minglanilla.”

“As a fashion instructor, I also inspire my students to express their cultural identity through their designs,” he added.

Follow SunStar Lifestyle for the next edition of “SunStar Cebu: 40 Under 40.”


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