FASHIONISTA Clint Holton P. Potestas takes a stroll down the catwalk with a soon-to-be fashion icon.

In the beginning, some mistook her decision for a life crisis. She had a pretty good deal in one of the country’s most lucrative industries - the perks, the money, the glitter - but she still took a brave step out of her comfort zone to conquer the fear of the unknown. Or better yet, to chase what she truly loves, even if it meant moving to a smaller market. Isn’t this attitude very Cebuano?

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“I was at a pretty good place in advertising when I suddenly realized that there were other things I wanted to experience - some people may call it a quarter-life crisis, but I just never believed in living my life with ‘should’ves’, ‘could’ves’, or ‘would’ves’,” shares Stephanie “Tippi” Ocampo on why she decided to launch a self-labeled fashion line in Manila after spending years in advertising firms, which was her occupation after graduating cum laude in Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

“Advertising is a very exciting, well-established industry, and the pay and perks were really good. It’s also more conceptual and strategic as an industry. On the other hand, fashion is more tactile, sensual, and is more creatively intuitive. Fashion, especially in Manila, is not yet established as an industry the way it is in other parts of the world,” the 39-year-old fashion designer continues.

What she missed about her former employment, though, is the opportunity to combine her “twin” interest of writing and drawing. So when Tippi was able to find an opporunity to indulge in fashion designing, she managed to create an outlet to express her love for words, pairing it with - this time around - fashion.

Not By The Book: Fashioning Design, the recently-released book she authored, documents how she goes through various steps in achieving a certain design, from choosing the fabric to tailoring it on the sewing machine to fitting it on the client. Thus, “not by the book” was how her husband, Ito, often refers to the style ethic she has believed in for more than a decade.

Tippi also maintains an opinion column in Metro magazine called The Tippi Point where she writes about her thoughts on fashion, inspiration, latest click, and her first-hand experience on field.

“My designs have often been described as being very feminine, whimsical and elegant (and sometimes humorous) with a modern Filipina sensibility. Personally, my fashion designs are a reflection of the things I see and experience, translated into collections that can be shared with others,” she states.

“The most challenging, as well as the most fulfilling, part of fashion designing is keeping a fresh perspective on things and managing to combine keeping a pulse on what’s new and exciting with a designer’s unique point of view.”

For more than 10 years now in the business of fashion, Tippi still has fresh memories of the first gown she designed that became the country’s representative to the Concours International des Jeunes Créateur de Mode in Paris, France.

While it garnered applause from Italian fashion editors, it has also inspired her to invest more in the business, saying: “That was the turning point I had during my sabbatical leave, and the sign I took to mean that I should continue to pursue fashion.”

Just when you thought that she spends too much time on glamour, she instantly explains that she is not the high-maintenance type. But her simplicity has qualified her to promote the latest line of Avon, called Ultra Color Rich Mega Impact Lipstick that is created with Chromapixel technology to enhance the shade’s hue by reflecting light and intensifying shine.

“I was excited to be part of the Avon campaign because it focused on both sides of feminine beauty - the external and the internal. Without internal beauty, I find that external beauty fades pretty fast,” she shares, speaking like a true-blue Cebuano.

After all, she was born in Cebu before her family moved to Manila when she was three years old. Her early recollections include swimming lessons in Casino Filipino and Club Filipino and hitting the nearby beaches

Since her mom’s parents (Mario and Lucy) still reside in Cebu, Tippi makes frequent visits to familiar places in the city.

“I visit Cebu often with my husband - our favorite thing about the city is that it’s cosmopolitan in a laid-back kind of way. Cebuanos are very open and friendly and generally down-to-earth, but with a fun, crazy side. Cebu is definitely a city that’s close to my heart,” Tippi says, imagining the white sand beaches, sun-tanned skin, sumptuous island dishes, and of course, the throbbing desire to go down south after a stressful work week in the capital.