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02/18/14 Tinay Villamiel of Bleach

After seven years of cranking out offbeat apparel, Tinay Villamiel was burnt-out and looking to shutter her Greenbelt 5 store Bleach Catastrophe. Though fashion was a bust, an erstwhile attempt at home accessories had been both inspired and successful. Villamiel went back to the drawing board and last month reopened her boutique, selling a clever array of curios and furnishings.

With “catastrophe” nixed from the name, the refocus shows Villamiel right at home in homeware, and through the stuff of departure at that. From nostalgia-tripping vintage illustrations on trays to Parisian jaunts with French words silkscreened onto pillows, each item offers furniture playful punctuation.

Amid renewed enthusiasm for Bleach’s clean slate, NOUS sits down with Villamiel to talk new life in lifestyle stores and getting inspiration on the move.

Your family has been in the t-shirt business for a while now…   

Yes, in the ‘80s, yung dad ko nag-setup ng silkscreen printing. T-shirt fashion then was all about the American flag, U.S.A., mga ganun. Yung dad ko would go to flea markets sa U.S. and bring in souvenir shirts from San Francisco. That’s where we started talaga. Just a t-shirt store.

Was that what got you interested in design?

What inspired me was when I went to fine arts school. I used to draw na. Tapos when my dad found out that I wanted to take fine arts in college, isinama niya ako sa museums—MoMA, Guggenheim, ganyan.

Who were your artist influences growing up?

American abstract expressionists like Rothko. Agnes Martin—siya yung naalala kong inspiration ko from before.

What led to Bleach’s shift from arty clothing to a full-on lifestyle store?    

I collaborated with Cecile Van-Straten for two capsule collections. Tapos minsan nag-suggest siya, ‘Ano kaya, gumawa ka ng home items?’ So that year, inaral ko and nag-try ako, tapos nag-click siya. I feel pag-fashion, hindi ko talaga forte. When I talk about the Bleach clothes, I’m not really that proud pero when I had this lifestyle store, parang dito talaga enjoy. A friend told me na naging secret masyado yung Bleach Catastrophe. Part of me also wanted to reach out to our local market.

Did you also notice a lack of lifestyle stores? 

Yes. Especially when we travel, tapos nakakapunta ako sa mga streets with quaint shops na pagpasok mo, inspired ka. You have to buy something just to be part of the store. Tapos sa Hong Kong, yung Initial Café—clothes tapos may café sa loob. Sobrang inspired ako sa place na yun. Sa Japan, Harajuku, pero yung street na mas-quiet. Or Daikanyama.

What influenced your first lifestyle collection?

Yung isa, rustic na interiors. And then yung series ng trips ko to cafés, nag-accumulate so pati look ng store, warm and rustic. At the same time, yung all white, of course, was very Margiela. And then na-in love din ako sa gold, so may gold na polka dots na theme.

What products do you think were a risk but did well? 

For me, very safe yung collection. Tingin ko lang na medyo bago sa local market is mga Margiellic na craquelure, yung all-white theme. Well-loved actually yun.

What are you focusing on now? 

Right now, we are already developing the next collection and set of themes or stories. Nasa product development na so exciting din. Ngayon, the design process is easier. We want to inject popular themes but reinvent it. Unlike before, very visual arts talaga yung kanyang inspiration.

Can you tell us about some ideas you’re working with for the new collection?

Surprisingly, fashion designers yung tinitignan ko ngayon. Kung anong pwede kong i-communicate through a fashion collection but for home. Like for instance, Céline, Christopher Kane, prints ng Givenchy. Nag-inspire din sa amin mga interiors ng people na fini-feature sa lifestyle blogs or magazines. For one interior—ano kaya ang babagay dito? Babagay ba ‘to sa bahay ni

I’m curious—did any changes in your life also influence the shift to lifestyle items? 

Sabi nga ni ate Cecile [Van Straten], mentor-friend ko, ‘Feeling ko when you turned 30, nag-mature ka lang.’ Before, I was about to close Bleach kasi hindi ko natututukan. How I wish I could devote my time. Tapos nainis pa ako sa pressure ng business—yung rent na kailangan mong i-maintain. We actually talked to the admin: ‘I think we are closing.’ Tapos after nun, pag-uwi, wait lang, pwedeng one last shot pa?

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