Woman of Style: Mandy Santos: Cutting-edge chic

- Ana G. Kalaw () - January 12, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Spunk. Designer and entrepreneur Mandy dela Rama-Santos personifies the word. You see it in her confident stance, the tilt of her head, her brisk way of talking; in her razor-sharp wit and her no-nonsense banter. You get a glimpse of it in her short, pixie cut, recently chopped from a hairstyle that fell in a straight veil down to just beneath her shoulders. It’s in the interiors of her home: splashes of vivid color and pattern, of textured fabric and intricate adornment on stark white walls and couches. It’s in her choice of clothing designers, all who have perfected the tweaked minimalist aesthetic, from Yohji Yamomoto to Martin Margiela to Stella McCartney to Acne.

Spunk. You can see it in her designs for Tarte Tatin, a clothing label for little girls (and their mothers) who enjoy a bit of edge and French chic in their wardrobes, meaning animal print faux fur coats (in pink, no less), ruched patterned skirts, and bow-embellished beaded tees.

And you can see more than glimpses of it in her daughter Solenn, a precocious six-year-old who converses like she’s 30 and who dishes out one-liners that reflect her mother’s dry sense of humor.

What she wears on weekends: Mandy wears a tank dress from her own line, Tarte Tatin, Balenciaga shoes, and rings bought online.

Mandy dela Rama-Santos is spunk and spirit, with a dash of serenity mixed in. A woman who effortlessly combines business savvy with domestic ideals (her kitchen serves homemade pizza) and modern motherhood. A woman who knows style but doesn’t seem to be consumed by it — yet she still ends up in every best-dressed list. A woman who knows herself enough that she doesn’t need others to remind her of who and what she is.

How can you look so good in just a T-shirt and jeans? Is this a usual “uniform”?

Do I look good? Thanks! (Laughs.)

What are your preferred brands?

Agent Provocateur and VPL for underwear, Por Du Sol by Wendy Puyat for swimwear.

Which designer would you save up for?

I wouldn’t “save up” money only to go out and buy clothes.  There are other more important things. I guess if I had to save up to buy something designer, then I have no business buying it in the first place.

What are your bargain havens?

Topshop. And I love Bench basics.

With six-year-old daughter Solenn, who greatly inspires the designs Mandy creates for her children’s wear label Tarte Tatin

Describe your shopping philosophy: Are you impulsive or practical?

I asked my husband to answer this and the smart man replied, “Definitely practical.” With a straight face.  

What made you shift from doing ladieswear to children’s wear?

We have always been manufacturers/ exporters of children’s wear so it was only natural to pursue a local line — Tarte Tatin and Fleur — in this category.    

What is easier to create, ladieswear or children’s wear?

I did dabble in ladieswear a couple of years back, I enjoyed doing it and I still get inquiries about it.  I am considering a resurrection, but children’s wear is just more time-consuming and ultimately more fun.  I do have a capsule collection of simple everyday ladies’ clothes that we carry in all Tarte Tatin branches.

Do you design with your daughter in mind?

Definitely.  Solenn accompanies me on trips and even chooses the fabrics — talk about child labor! 

What is the best thing about designing for kids?

“I don’t really wear jewelry too much,” says Mandy, although she does keep a few favorites, which include a gold Ebel watch and a Cartier necklace from her grandmother, her engagement ring, and a vintage cuff from her mother.

Because of the intense media exposure children are subjected to nowadays, they, themselves, are definitely more discerning in what they wear.  And because of this, there is a definite influx of children’s brands in the local market, which is great for local retail. We don’t have to buy abroad for our kids anymore.

Where do you get your inspiration, apart from the usual catwalk trends?

From traveling, movies, friends. Even food can inspire a collection.

Are there other aspects of design you would like to explore?

Right now, Tarte Tatin already has its own line of shoes (Tarte Tatin Chaussures), fine jewelry, home scents, and an organic skincare line.  We also have a separate line for boys called La Pipe Au Papa Du Pepe Pue (a tongue twister which means Pepe’s dad’s cigarette stinks). We’re also looking to expand to tween wear late this year. So any investors interested out there, please feel free to contact me anytime! (Laughs.)

Mandy has a thing for fragrances. Her label Tarte Tatin now sells bottled room fragrances made out of organic essential oils. Each bottle comes with an animal-print sack, making it a great, no-brainer gift.

What are you obsessed with now?

Sleep, which I severely lack.

Whose music is always on repeat mode on your mp3 player?

Katy Perry, Florida, Black Eyed Peas.

What’s the one thing you will never wear?

A tongue ring.

The one thing that you’ve always wanted to wear but haven’t yet dared to?

A tattoo.

How do you juggle being a mother, designer, and entrepreneur?

I’m like those characters Sally Field played in the movie Sybil. Enough said.

Do you have any secret talents?

I can tie the stem of a cherry into a knot with my tongue in one minute flat.

What quality do you admire most in a person?

Other essentials include swimwear from Por du Sol, underwear from Agent Provocateur and white tank tops from Bench Body.

Loyalty. The “even-though-I-know-you’re-wrong-I-still-have-your-back” kind.

Whose style do you think is overrated?

Kim Kardashian. I hate her!

What keeps you grounded?

Life keeps me grounded. And cooking every day.

What keeps you going?

My beautiful daughter Solenn and my wonderful husband Duane Santos.

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