If you haven’t heard of Paulina Paige, then we just wanted to say you’re welcome in advance. Her effortless beauty, charm, and talent will give you much needed style inspo! We’re unsure if there’s anything she can’t do.
This Aussie-based Filipina sweetheart is a designer, art director and visual artist and has had work published extensively in the Philippines, of course, but also in Singapore, Malaysia, New York and Australia, among others. Over the years, she has developed creative concepts for brands like Bench, Barbie, Ayala, Star Trek and Samsung.
We caught up with her about everything from the importance of proper representation of artists in the region, what’s exciting about Southeast Asian art these days, her recent creative endeavours with brands you’ll find in our wardrobe (graphic tees for Japanese retail chain Uniqlo and hand-painted silk scarves for Tropa Store), to the inspiration behind some of her designs.
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When did you first realise you wanted to become an artist?
I always loved drawing, making posters and creating things as a kid but I didn’t think much of it at first because every other kid I knew loved to draw, too. It wasn’t until I was about 11 when friends started asking me to draw for them that I realised, okay, maybe I’m pretty good at this. I was lucky to always get full support and encouragement from my parents, as well.
What’s exciting about Southeast Asian art these days?
I think there has always been a wealth of talent in the region but what’s exciting to me is the global recognition and exposure this talent is now getting. It’s partly because of the internet but also because big companies like Uniqlo are making the effort to uphold representation.
Something really exciting that I can see happening as well is this movement of seeking to re-examine cultural identity and re-interpret that through a contemporary, post-colonial lens. There are strong undertones of us looking into our place in today’s world, which makes for incredibly strong and beautiful work in both art and design.
How was it collaborating in Uniqlo?
It was an amazing experience as it was particularly for their Feel the SEA project, which was really close to home for me. It’s a big deal when a company with as much reach and cultural clout as Uniqlo pays attention to talent in South East Asia and seeks to promote that artistry.
I was both humbled and proud to have been a part of this year’s selection of designers and artists for the line. Collaborations like this, I feel, are meaningful because they show other creatives in the region that our voice is valued and that our point of view brings something exciting to the table. Representation is so important.
The shirts were sold in Uniqlo stores around Southeast Asia, specifically in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. It was such a surreal experience to have people send me photos of them in the shirts!
What inspired your designs for this specific collection?
I live in Sydney and I’ve been away from the Philippines for a few years now so I very much started my design process for this collection with a hint of homesickness. The designs are inspired by the beautiful memories of my childhood, growing up in Cebu.
Each print heavily references life in the tropics — spending time on a boat, lying under the shade of a coconut tree, napping to the sound of the ocean. I really took inspiration from my experience of growing up in a city that was a 30-minute drive away from the beach and worked to translate that into colours and shapes that hopefully many other people can relate to and get excited about.
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How has travelling influenced your designs?
Whenever I travel, I feel like I’ve won a new set of eyes… and ears, and hands and nose and tastebuds! Haha! Really though, travel simultaneously broadens one’s point of view and allows for much introspection. I feel incredibly lucky to have travelled so much and to have learned from so many other ways of seeing the world.
What are your favourite holiday destinations? Where are you going next?
I just came from a long holiday in around Croatia and Greece a couple weeks ago. It was a very Mamma Mia type of trip for me. I went with my mom, some of her friends and my fiance. That was definitely a memorable trip full of swimming and amazing meals.
Apart from that, I’d have to say Iceland has been my wildest, dreamiest destination. The landscapes are breathtaking (and change at every turn). It was an experience unlike any other I’ve had before; I felt almost like an astronaut landing on another planet.
New York is still my favourite city. The energy there is full-on in the best kind of way. I try and visit as much as I can. My shoes always come back a shade or two dirtier, but my creative juices always feel jolted into life.
Next? I am going to Mexico early next year to spend some time in the Yucatan!
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What are some of your favourite projects that you’ve done?
I recently launched a special project at Tropa Store in Manila. I hand-dyed and hand-painted a very limited series of silk scarves that featured contemporary reflections of Filipino motifs and the Filipino lifestyle. This has been such a passion project for me, with each scarf serving as a little keepsake of home. I’m currently still working a set of pre-orders now!
I also collaborated with my friend (and Araw founder) Carla Sison to create a set of pamaypays, a dress and jumpsuit to complement my scarf collection. We were very much inspired by the idea of a mondern-day Dalagang Filipina.
Any tips for designers who are trying to make a name for themselves?
Work hard, work smart and try to meet and learn from as many people as you can. Also, keep working at trying to better yourself. I am far from reaching my own goals and am always trying to challenge myself to do better. I believe that work that lasts doesn’t happen overnight.