Michael Cinco: Of Million Peso Dresses and the Impalpable Dream

By Lalaine Chu-Benitez  –  Photo by Eros Goze

If there’s anybody who should be credited for bringing in much-deserved attention to UAE-based Filipino designers within the unforgiving and sharply-taloned fashion industry in the Philippines, it is Michael Cinco. The celebrated designer has undoubtedly ignited megawatt interest with the voracious media, style and celeb circle in the country.

But is there something beyond the drama on Philippine Fashion Week runway, the covers in Manila glossies, TV and red carpet couture moments with the Manila stars du jour?

A closer look reveals that there is more to La Cinco than the hype and the million peso dress.

It’s been three years since we’ve last sat with the designer for an exclusive interview – at a time when he was just dreaming about staging his own fashion show.  Fast forward to January 2011 and Michael Cinco has already made his mark not only in the emirates, where he is a respected designer, but also elsewhere.

So far, he has already staged two amazing shows in the last two years’ Dubai Fashion Week, where he received rave reviews and the People’s Choice Award in 2010. He has also presented his elegant pieces, not to mention a never before seen line of ultra-glamorous swimwear at the Miami Fashion Week in 2009.

This year, he’s making his American TV debut in a big reality show which airs in March. Of this, he says, “It is truly an honor to be handpicked to do the clothes and appear alongside famous names in fashion in one of the world’s most watched reality TV programs. It just so happens that I am effortlessly ‘in’…” he adds cheekily.

All this while running a top tier couture house in Dubai with an illustrious clientele, which has now come to include, not only the elite and royals of the region, but also celebrities and socialites from the US, Europe and the Philippines.  Just recently, Michael created a fabulous wedding dress for New York socialite Samantha Sarcinella who married Nascar superstar Kyle Busch in Chicago. The couple who is doing reality series “Riding Shotgun” for ESPN and Style Network in the US, also made the designer a part of the show.

Michael says, “In retrospect, I would certainly like to think that I have achieved what I set to do in the last three years, and more. Life’s good. I may sound clichéd, but hard work is the key. And it just paid off naturally. And as I make it a point to compete only with myself professionally, I am not burdened with highlights or lowlights in my career. I consider them all blessings.”

And what about back home where he had two critically acclaimed shows at the Philippine Fashion Week and conquered the industry’s interest by storm?  Fashion watchers would wonder why there is a need to go back to the Philippines when the designer is already wildly successful here and is beginning to spread his wings into the international market.

“It was with a raised eyebrow that I had to continually contend with the stereotypical impression on Filipino designers in the Middle East, every time I would go home,” Michael shares. “The misconceptions were hurtful if not degrading – especially when we are tagged as ‘OFW designer.’ “ Somehow, something’s got to give,” he furthers.  But in hindsight now, what I did was really no herculean task, inasmuch as I love my country and would gladly initiate motivating further my compatriots and help in the upliftment of the fashion industry. If we can shine in the international fashion arena then we might as well dazzle the Philippines,” he concluded thoughtfully.


Through the years, and through highlight upon highlight, Michael’s work remains consistent and true to form.  While his contemporaries’ works are known for their pomp and pageantry, and broad strokes on design, his works have a definitive look of precision and luxurious glamour punctuated by sleekness and modernity that can only be described as, well – Michael Cinco.

Although he defies boundaries, the designer’s signature sense of style is undeniable. He remarks, “It’s a tragedy to be bound by parameters or be limited to sets of values, more so for a fashion designer. And in that context, I only seek out for what appeals to my sense of aesthetics. Needless to say, my works speak for themselves, impalpably.”

As for his creations, he is very specific, and makes no apologies for the kind of women his dresses are made for, “You will know a Michael Cinco stands out effortlessly for its seamless quality and precise attention to details. The Michael Cinco woman is tastefully done. She is a woman in her own terms.  She is moneyed and she knows exactly what she wants. She may not be born into royalty but she better be married into it. This attitude makes a Michael Cinco piece stand-out.”

With all that he has achieved in the last couple of years, the designer considers 2011 as a significant year in his flourishing career. He shares, “I am looking forward to 2011 as my banner year of the moment. I’m doing fabulous gowns and wedding dresses for clients here and abroad. I’m currently collaborating with a big fashion brand in the Philippines that will be launched in October – in the same league of Lanvin and H&M.”

He continues, “A major solo show in Manila is also in the pipeline but all details are still confidential. An offer from a big bridal boutique in Europe and the US to supply couture wedding dresses is also part of my major plans for 2011.”  The designer concludes, “Finally, maybe couture accessories for this year will be launched also. I love spontaneity and its surprises, but if you insist, 2011 is my banner year like I care to know what that means, hahaha!” Michael bursts into infectious laughter.

He’s already got the artistic recognition, commercial success and the high-profile future projects, not to mention validation from his peers, yet the designer is not one to rest on his laurels. Michael says that he is still in pursuit of his impalpable dreams.

He explains, “It’s like gazing at the rainbow as a child and wanting so much to touch it you want to go to where it ended in the horizon, and yet you know you can’t. But as you grow older, you realize that there’s more to the rainbow than just touching it. And then again, there are other dreams to pursue…”


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