Manila-based fashion designer Puey Quiñones counts Philippine TV phenomenon Kris Aquino as one of his clients. But you wouldn’t know that from the way he mingled with guests at a photoshoot for a community event in Sydney. Soft-spoken and quietly observing from the sidelines, Puey’s humble demeanour belies his fashion runway success.
In the Philippines, Puey is well-known, not least for his work as a mentor to an unusual group of students: he teaches fashion and design to prisoners held in maximum security, a story documented in a TV program called Project Bilibid Runway ('Bilibid' means prison in Filipino).
“Every time I travel around the world, I always bring their products to showcase that they are very talented … even though they are incarcerated, they are still talented. It’s about giving them a second chance to show their work,” he said.
Puey is a big supporter of the Philippine textile industry, using local fabric made of pineapple material and silk cocoon – clothing materials that are considered ideal for traditional Filipino costumes, called ‘terno’, and men’s wear called ‘barong’.
A guest of local Filipino-Australian hairstylist and entertainment producer Bhajune, Puey is in Sydney for the fitting of one of his clients, a young bride-to-be.
“I hope to start a business here and penetrate the wedding industry so I think I’ll be coming back and forth,” he said.
Not new to controversy, Puey has had a major setback in his career a few years back but redeemed himself through hard work and persistence. He wants to give back to the people who have been there for him and urged the Filipino-Australian community to support the industry.
“We have a lot of really talented designers already designing for the big fashion houses in Europe and the US," he said, calling the Philippines the melting pot of globally sought-after fashion designers.