By Aisha Hassan on November 4th, 2020
The Siren's call
Storytelling is at the heart of the creative process for award-winning designer Neil Felipp San Pedro. The exquisite pieces from Neil’s eponymous luxury label, Neil Felipp, have deeper meanings that take them beyond being wearable works of art. In fact, the brand began when Neil designed a memory-inspired minaudière for his mother ten years ago.
“I went back into my childhood when she’d take me to the beach and I’d feel like a mermaid,” Neil, who grew up in Cebu, the Philippines, says. “The Siren minaudière is inspired by my mother and it’s an homage to the island I call home.”
The Siren Minaudière is now one of the signature pieces from Neil Felipp. The designer continues to draw from the world around him, including from myth and literature, so that every piece contains a narrative within itself. The Medusa & Midas Minaudière incorporates Greek myth, for instance, and the Suzy Wong Minaudière was inspired by the fictional Hong Kong icon and “hooker with the golden heart,” Neil says. Notably, the Suzy Wong was the first Neil Felipp design that Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, first laid eyes on.
Crazy Rich Asians
The Crazy Rich Asians author spotted the Suzy Wong Minaudière during an event in the Philippines and was immediately struck by the artisanship. Eventually, Neil and Kevin met and Neil’s designs were featured in both the Crazy Rich Asians book series and the 2018 film adaptation. Astrid Leong, a highly admired and stylish character, can be seen wearing Neil Felipp minaudières throughout the movie. Serendipitously, the Suzy Wong used in the film now belongs to Kevin’s aunt, Nancy Kwan, who played Suzy Wong in the 1960s film The World of Suzie Wong.
Despite the recent Crazy Rich Asians accolade, Neil, like many other designers in Southeast Asia, has been successfully creating eye-catching investment pieces for years. He is hopeful that authentic artisanship will soon be increasingly valued worldwide. “In ASEAN, [designers] want to elevate their craft to a global stage, which is beautiful,” Neil says. “They go beyond cookie cutter fashion with their own twist.”
Women of substance
Neil maintains the highest standards in his designs and production processes. For instance, he doesn’t mass produce, and takes great care to ensure every precious material is sustainably sourced. “First and foremost we establish relationships with local suppliers,” Neil says, before his team inspects the facilities firsthand. This mindfulness has resonated with a loyal following worldwide, many of whom can be characterized as the Neil Felipp muse: “A woman of substance.”
“This person does not necessarily need a luxurious background...it’s really about inspiring the circle around her,” Neil says. “She is very considerate of her actions for a better tomorrow,” he says. “It can be as small as changing to reusable bags, or having a genuine care for everyone.” Ultimately, Neil’s brand ethos, and the kind of person he’s inspired by, focuses on creating a positive impact in the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aisha Hassan is a writer, journalist, and co-founder of Dia. Previously, Aisha worked for Quartz in New York and Harper’s Bazaar in Malaysia. Her fiction has been published in international literary magazines. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Language & Literature from the University of Oxford, and a master’s degree from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.