Meryll Yan: 'Mega' publisher extraordinaire
- Tetta Matera () - March 7, 2012 - 12:00am

Meryll Yan is a confessed nerd. Growing up she relished joining “battle of the brains” types of contests. In Grade 6, while reviewing for an upcoming competition, she remembers including questions on fashion, thinking that, “You never know when fashion questions would come up!” She memorized the names of Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace, unaware that fashion was going to be a serendipitous part of her destiny.

Nerd or not, Meryll Yan clearly has the educational chops to prove her mettle in the publishing business; she graduated magna cum laude from De La Salle University with a combined degree: Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts and Bachelor of Science in Commerce in Applied Corporate Management. She was also the editor-in-chief of the school paper, The LaSallian. All her life she found joy in writing and this passion cemented her resolve to work in the media one day.

Today, Meryll not only finds herself working in the field that she loves, she is conquering it with more than just intellect. She has a practical grasp of the publishing trade, an instinct for fashion industry trends, a no-nonsense approach to the idiosyncrasies of the fast-paced, ever-changing business; an eclectic, bipolar (her words), individual sense of style and an engaging, endearing personality that is a rarity in the cutthroat, often facile world of fashion.

Va va voom: Meryll Yan wears a black cotton knit mini with sheer sleeve detail by Charina Sarte.

Meryll Yan opens up to The Philippine STAR and shares her journey from teenage brainiac to publisher par excellence.

PHILIPPINE STAR: You have been in the business of beauty and fashion from the time you graduated. What was your first job?

MERYLL YAN: I worked at Unilever as a management trainee where I learned much of what I know now in business and marketing; I did everything, from supply chain to management accounting to customer marketing, until I became assistant brand manager to “masstige” (mass, consumer-based prestige) brands, Pond’s Flawless White and Age Miracle.

You seem like you enjoyed your job at Unilever. Why did you leave?

I left my corporate job because I wanted to do something I have always loved: writing. When my mom passed away and my brother graduated from college, I had a yearning to pursue my one true love, so I took a leap of faith and resigned.

How did you end up working with Mega magazine?

Funny, but I have to thank Jolly Spaghetti for that! I had a craving for Jollibee pasta one day and so I went to their Glorietta 4 branch and bumped into an old friend I had not seen for five years. I told her I wanted to get back to writing and she referred me to a headhunter who just happened to be in search of a writer; I contacted her immediately and it turned out the job was for Mega magazine. Can you imagine how my life would have turned out if I didn’t have that craving that particular day?

Hot stuff: Black printed dress (used as a top) by La Pendrie from 50th Avenue, black textured skirt from The Ramp and red-hot leather jacket by Deity from 50th Avenue. Wooden bangle with studs by Folded & Hung.

You rose from the ranks at Mega magazine within a short period of time. Tell us what jobs you held.

I started as an associate publisher; within seven months I was made deputy editor and in early 2011, I was appointed publisher of both Mega and Meg magazines while still fulfilling my duties as deputy editor. In May 2012, I will be celebrating my third year working with Mega magazine.

Talk about a woman of many trades. What part of your work do you enjoy most?

I love that our magazine creates a public consciousness for beauty, a sense of culture, Filipino-ness. By featuring the people we have featured, publishing the photos that we have, I believe we are in no small way promoting a lifestyle that every Filipino can be proud of.

I also love the fact that there is so much excitement from day to day because I don’t always know what will happen within a workweek. It is great that I also get to meet new people and travel for my work.

With so much of your time taken up by the demands of your work, what do you like to invest your free time in?

Travel — the chance to explore other parts of the world, especially where the food is yummy and spicy. I will never go to a place where I will not enjoy the food. I cannot get enough of Korean and Mexican food; I am a sugar-and-spice kind of girl!

What place would that be, war-torn areas like Afghanistan?

Not necessarily. I am a frustrated journalist and I admire Christiane Amanpour and if in another life I get the chance to do what she does and cover some of the places she has like Afghanistan, I would go.

Do you have friends outside of the fashion industry? What are their impressions of your current job?

You know, most of my friends are actually outside of the fashion business. I like that I can “de-fashion,” a term Suki Salvador, our executive creative director, coined, which simply means taking a break from fashion and just hanging loose, enjoying other things I love — eat and travel, for example.

Some of my friends find my job alluring, like I stepped right out of the set of the movie The Devil Wears Prada. The ones closest to me, though, know the realities of my job — that it is not all runway shows and parties. Sari Yap, editor-in-chief of Mega, gave me sound advice that I have taken to heart: “Keep your pre-Mega friends because they will keep you grounded.”

Philippine fashion reality TV: The Mega Fashion Crew (from left) model Raya Mananquil, fashion designer Avel Bacudio, Mega editor-in-chief Sari Yap, Meryll and Suki Salvador, Mega’s executive creative director

What was your latest fashion purchase?

A pair of YSL tortoiseshell sunglasses with a gold “Y” detail. I bought it because I like to think the “Y” also stands for my surname, Yan! I actually collect sunglasses and I am also a huge beauty junkie who just loves Sephora.

What has been your most expensive purchase?

A Balenciaga City bag.

What has been your most sentimental purchase?

A pair of Geox brown loafers for my brother; he is not into fashion and yet he loved the pair.

I cannot interview you and not ask about your fashion style — how would you describe it?

Eclectic. Bipolar. I believe style is malleable and changes with time. I would be lying if I told you that I have a one-size-fits-all fashion formula. At best, I have narrowed it down to two: Some days I feel the need to do feminine and others, the need to do edgy. One thing I can tell you, though, is I am not the type to pile on accessories, I prefer to let the clothes speak for themselves.

You must admire someone’s fashion style. Who is your greatest fashion inspiration?

Sofia Coppola and Daphne Guinness — my choices kind of corroborate my bipolar fashion leanings! I love how both of them obviously love fashion but are not solely defined by it. Sofia is a very talented filmmaker and Daphne is nothing short of an intellectual who treats fashion like art.

Which has been your most favorite fashion assignment so far?

Partnering with Cirque du Soleil Varekai for a fashion editorial. We borrowed costumes from the cast and put them side-by-side with the best of our own Filipino fashion and it proved how our designers are truly world-class.

You mentioned that you have met many new people in your job — who are some of the most remarkable and why?

Yves Carcelle and Pietro Beccari, both of Louis Vuitton. I met them during the opening of the Louis Vuitton Island in Singapore and had a lovely dinner conversation with them. For such powerful individuals they were both very charming and incredibly sharp. They also had a special fondness for the Philippine press that I found very inspiring.

Now that you work both in print and on TV, which do you find more challenging? Which medium are you more comfortable with?

The business of publishing a magazine is definitely more challenging. I came to work on the Mega Fashion Crew show by accident; the producers had already booked a field host but ETC vetoed the choice. The director looked around the room, pointed at me and said, “You do it!” TV is a lot of fun, a welcome break from the intense magazine work.

Being exposed to fashion almost 24/7, what style do you love the most, dislike the most and consider classic?

I love suits for women — there is something sexy and powerful about a woman who can pull off a “Le Smoking” jacket with a great pair of trousers. I am not fond of’90s fashion although I am guilty of wearing the oversized-shirt-and-low-waist-pants combo: I think the biker jacket is a proven classic — every woman should have one.

If you had the chance, which international publication would you like to work with?

Vanity Fair, without batting an eyelash. I like their cerebral approach to fashion and culture; their features are written in such an incisive, approachable manner. For me, it is the consummate cultural digest.

How much of your salary do you spend on fashion purchases?

I consider myself a smart shopper although my brother would disagree, judging by the number of shoes I own! I only spend 10 to 20 percent of my salary, I guess that is the businessperson in me. Fashion has evolved into something inclusive and accessible so I am just as happy to go to Mango for a basic white shirt as I am shopping for a nude jacket at The Ramp, SM, Landmark or my secret bargain haunts in Hong Kong.

What do you think your life would be without fashion?

Honestly? I am fascinated with fashion but I am not a fashionista who completely lives and breathes fashion. I think I need a couple more years to earn my stripes as a fashionista. I guess I am more of a foodie!

Your publication is geared towards Filipinas. What are some of the common fashion mistakes Filipinas make?

Rather than calling out the Filipina for fashion mistakes, I’d offer up some of my fashion boo-boos. There was a period when I would pile on too many accessories at a time I was a walking clash of colors and prints! I have since learned that just like food, fashion should not overpower the senses. 

How would you rate the fashion style of the Filipina today?

Filipinas are naturally beautiful so they don’t really have to over-think their fashion choices. I would describe the Filipina’s style as feminine and formidable at the same time.

Do you believe that fashion is a young person’s business?

No way! To paraphrase Oprah, the best way to counter being judged for being a woman or for your race is to be excellent. I am inspired by young people who transcend the concept of “no barriers,” they are all multi-hyphenates now but fashion is for everyone regardless of age.

What is your dream fashion assignment?

I would love to meet and have a one-on-one interview with Stella McCartney. I admire women who work even if they don’t need to. She’s music royalty and yet she created a fashion empire bearing her name. Besides, I want her entire 2012 autumn/winter collection!

What would you consider a fashion must-have for every woman?

A great timepiece is a fashion must-have now more than ever, especially since mobile phones have practically made watches obsolete these days.

What part of your body do you like to show off the most? Which do you least like and why? Do you exercise?

I love showing off my shoulders but I am a bit more reserved about showing off my legs. I have learned to love my curves and prefer to work out than diet because I love food too much, so I take Ashtanga yoga three to four times a week.

I know you to be a very calm, Zen-like person. What makes you angry and what makes you happy?

I despise liars. I don’t appreciate it when someone says something to your face and another behind your back, or says one thing but does another. My associate publisher Dazzle jokes that she is afraid of the day she sees me angry; if that happens, it will most likely be cold fury, though.

Spending time with the people I love or doing mundane things like staying in, watching a movie and eating popcorn makes me happy.

Have you been hurt in this business?

Yes, I have, but it is something I no longer think about. I believe that people are brought into our lives for a purpose, even the hurtful ones. They either help you grow stronger or help you gain compassion so you don’t hurt others like you have been hurt.

What are the three most important things in your life that you will never ever compromise on?

My values, my loved ones and something I recently learned the hard way: my health.

After years in the fashion business, who has influenced you the most as a fashion mentor?

Definitely Sari (Yap). I owe her everything. We work well together because both of us don’t mince words. You have to be able to take it if you want to dish it out. A month or so into my job she told me, “Obviously you are not afraid of me. I like that.” She believed that the corporate girl could transform into a fashion swan and she entrusted me with her baby, Mega magazine. I will always be grateful for that.

What is the Philippines’ best-kept fashion secret?

Our Filipino designers are our best-kept fashion secret. During the Louis Vuitton events in Singapore, all the media from the other countries kept asking who I was wearing. I wore the creations of Seph Bagasao, Mikee Andrei, Kermit Tesoro and Veejay Floresca.

What are you most proud of being a Filipina?

The fact that the Filipina is both feminine and formidable. I am very proud to say we are a hybrid of both — we can run a company but in the end be able to celebrate womanhood and allow ourselves to be vulnerable from time to time. It is no wonder why so many people are in love with Filipinas!

You are already a very accomplished woman; is there anything else that you would like to do? What are your future plans?

Most immediate is that I will reprise my role as mentor/host of next season’s Mega Fashion Crew on ETC. For our magazines, I’d hate to give the competition a rundown of my strategies, but people can definitely expect a bigger, more broadly stroked Mega in the very near future. Personally, I still harbor dreams of studying abroad, even for just a short course, and I definitely want to learn another language.

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Contact Cyrus Panganiban at 0915-143-1299 or visit; Amanda Padilla at 0917-830-7131, Angelo Ramirez at 0929-293-5868 and Katchie Mejias at 0917-902-8363.

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