HSA Exclusive! Minaudière Designer Neil Felipp San Pedro Talks About His Rise To Stardom

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In an exclusive to HSA, award-winning minaudière designer Neil Felipp San Pedro also shares his favourite pieces from his Crazy Rich Asian collection

At just 29, award-winning minaudière designer Neil Felipp San Pedro has managed to capture the imagination of the world with his whimsical and creative craft. His imaginative musings take the form of ornate minaudières — that are creative stories you can carry in your hands. 
 
Following his graduation from University of the Philippines - Cebu, Pedro began contemplating his specialisation. But it wasn't until had a eureka moment that he zeroed in on minaudières. 
 
"I began designing minaudières about five years ago. During this time, I just graduated from the University of the Philippines - Cebu and I didn't know what design I wanted to specialise in until one evening with my mom. That evening, my mom was attending a formal event. She looked gorgeous with her off-shoulder midnight blue gown, her jewellery was stunning though when it came to her minaudière, I felt like it didn't do justice to the whole look. Thus, I challenged myself to create a minaudière that reminded me of her and my first ever minaudière was born, The Siren Minaudière in Blue Capiz Shell," Pedro tells HerStyleAsia in an exclusive interview. 
 
The young designer then went on to win the Inquirer’s Look of Style Awards for Accessories in 2013 and followed it up with a three-month scholarship in Sheffield Hallam University, UK, that eventually led to his budding luxe minaudière-designing business.
 
With international exposure and a deeper cultural perspective, Pedro has only risen the charts of success. His most recent being his involvement in the blockbuster hit Crazy Rich Asians where his latest designs were seen on Gemma Chan.  

In Conversation: Minaudière Designer Neil Felipp San Pedro

Pedro gave an exclusive interview to HerStyleAsia and shared his inspiring journey. Here are the excerpts from our tete-e-tete. 

HSA: How did you begin designing and how did you hone your skill? 

Neil: I started designing at a very young age. I remembered all to well when I was a child, I would sketch dresses for my Nanny who I considered as my second mother. 
 
I began starting to hone my skills when I got into University. During that time, I got through various internship from fashion apparel to furniture design. One of the most fundamental experiences was when I became the apprentice for world-renowned industrial designer, Kenneth Cobonpue.
 
As his apprentice, I began to learn that in order for a design brand to become successful, it needed to have the right balance of creative identity and business management. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Neil Felipp (@neilfelipp) on

HSA: Who or what is the inspiration behind your whimsical designs?  

Neil: The design icon that I looked up to was Alexander McQueen. He truly was a visionary of his time of how he created provocative stories through his work. Even after his untimely passing, his work still fascinates me. 
 
One of my usual sources of inspiration would be literature. I find that books are a doorway to multiple worlds just waiting to be explored. A good example is my Medusa & Midas minaudière.
 
This piece is inspired by a surreal love story of where Medusa and Midas would meet and fall in love. Both cursed as they were, they decided on the deadly embrace. As Medusa turns to gold while Midas turns to stone, their lips are forever in a kiss."
 
 
 
 
 
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HSA: How much does your minaudière cost? 

Neil: Anywhere between $720 (S$986.94) and $900 (S$1,233.68), depending the intricacy of the design.  

Starting Your Own Design Company

HSA: How did you start your own company? 

Neil: I started working on my company right after college which was around the year 2010. I started with determination and perseverance, the company steadily grew and I was finally able to register my company as a legal entity. 

HSA: Were there any challenges at the beginning? 

Neil: One of the challenges was financial management. I started only with my personal savings thus I had to be cautious with my expenses especially on product development. Though as I progressed, I became more attentive on how to utilise my budget to ensure that I steadily grow my company with every year that passes.  

HSA: Do you face any challenges being based in Cebu? We know that most of the art and fashion hubs are in Manila.

Neil: Being based in Cebu, I didn't face any major challenge for me since we now live in the digital age, making it more accessible to get the latest information such as fashion trends, art, business and politics.

HSA: Is there any other design vertical that catches your eye? 

Neil: Besides minaudière, we are looking at expanding into home accessories as well for men's accessories. We are currently working with a Philippine Watch brand to create collaborative gentleman watch piece. 

The Crazy Rich Asian Stint

 
 
 
 
 
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HSA: How and when did you meet Kevin Kwan? When did you join the exclusive Crazy Rich Asians club?

Neil: It began when a good friend and client of mine brought with her a Suzy Wong minaudière during the first Manila tour of Kevin Kwan for his book, Crazy Rich Asians. When she was about to interview him, the first thing that Kevin noticed was her minaudière and asked her permission to take a photo of it for his Instagram account.
 
When the post came out, everyone started tagging me. At that time, I didn't know who he was. I sent him a direct message saying how grateful I am for his post. We started communicating after that.
 
The only time we finally met was when he came back to the Philippines to promote his third book, Rich People Problems

HSA: What brief did you receive (if at all) to work on the designs? 

Neil: They were very specific from the designs that will be used, that only principal actors will be using the minaudière, and what scenes will they most likely be show in.  

HSA: How many of your designs were showcased in the movie? Which ones are your favourite?  

Neil: There were about ten designs that I had sent. And out of the two designs, it was the Siren Minaudière in Black Capiz and the Persephone Minaudière in White that was used. All of my bags was only used by one character which was Astrid Leong. 
 
You will see her carrying my Minaudière in Su Yi's Welcoming party, her grand entrance with Su Yi during the wedding and her tense confrontation with Michael Teo. 
 
My favourite will always be the Siren Minaudière due to sentimental reasons since it was the minaudière that started it all. 
 
 
 
 
 
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HSA: Who would you like to design for next?

Neil: It would difficult to simply pick one so here are a few of my top picks and they are Oprah, Beyonce, Amal Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Michelle Obama, Gemma Chan and Michelle Yeoh.
 
I chose them not only for their impeccable fashion sense, as well as how do they use their celebrity status to help others. This can be done through various ways such as providing scholarships, relief goods to victims, and constantly inspiring hope to others. 
 
What I seek the most in a celebrity is the charitable work that they would do in order to make the world a better place. 

HSA: What is your advice to the millennial HSA readers and aspiring designers? 

Neil: My advice would be have a support system through wise friends and mentors. This, to help remind you of the goals you set for yourself as an entrepreneur. Read biographies of successful entrepreneur and learn from them.
 
When starting in your own venture is that there are times you would lost.
 
And I like to say that it is fine to be lost. Knowing you are lost is the first step of finding your way. I got lost multiple times and I'm grateful for those moments. For without them, I wouldn't be where I am right now. I kept reminding myself to keep moving forward, whether or not the pain of failure was present.
 
This is something I learned while being an apprentice for Kenneth Cobonpue—you must have perseverance if you are going to take this path or any other path to achieve success.
 
Remember, keep moving forward.
 
 

Written by

Deepshikha Punj