Chynna Mamawal is a business-savvy fashion designer who has made her mark in the local and international fashion industry as a purveyor of one-of-a-kind classic luxury evening gowns, bespoke suits, and wedding dresses. Yet, as with diamonds and fashion designers of such caliber, Chynna’s journey was not without intense pressure.
Growing up in a Filipino-Chinese household, Chynna picked up a mix of Filipino and Chinese values from her parents. Her father, being the Chinese half of her blood, raised her to be financially literate and business-minded. Meanwhile, her mother’s side of the family reeled her into her penchant for fashion. She shared: “… on my father’s side, they were always the business-minded, and my mother’s side, they were always the super stylish ones. So I’m the youngest in the family, and every Christmas, we have a reunion. All my cousins are from different parts of the world so we would go [to] the Philippines to have a reunion and they would always dress me up.”
They would buy me nice bags, nice shoes, nice clothes from different luxury brands, and they would dress me up like a doll. That’s how my interest in fashion started. It’s pretty crazy because, when I was eight years old, I knew that I wanted to be a designer.”
The Stylish Path of Uncertainty
Since then, her career goal had always been to become a fashion designer. In college, she originally wanted to be a lawyer, yet seeing how she styles herself and how easy fashion comes for her, she decided to take a business course first before studying at a fashion school. Taking this career path was met with resistance from her father at first. She echoed some of her parents’ responses: “Why don’t you just join the family business? Are you sure the path you’re taking is the good path? No one is a fashion designer in our family. No one can guide you. At least if you enter a business where your aunties are, your parents are, […] we can help you with connections or we can guide you.”
Eventually, her father relented and agreed to cover her tuition fee on the condition that she paid for other expenses such as the materials and fabrics she needed for her classes. With her father’s blessing, she studied at a fashion school.
Chynna expressed dismay over the cost of the materials to her father: “So I was telling my dad: ‘I think it’s better if I pay for the tuition and then you pay for the materials.’ But my dad said: ‘No, no taking back. If you want this so bad, you have to show me.’”
To stay afloat, she had to take side gigs. Her evident grit and passion stoked fires down to the midnight oil. “I think I did a really great job [at] my fashion school. I was always the first one to go in and the last one to go out to the point that the owner of the fashion school where I studied at gave me a copy of the key.”
Chynna’s Businesses and Job Stint at SM
In her third year, she sold her pieces at the mall where Curves, her label, had its own physical store. “… it was doing really well to the point that, after graduating, I still continued the business.”
Five years into the business, Curves burned down in a fire. All the business permits were unsalvageable after the fire tore through her store, forcing her to close down and take on a job at SM. There, she quickly assumed the role of SM’s marketing manager after her predecessor resigned just a month after Chynna joined the company. One of the Sy siblings of the SM legacy, Teresita Sy-Coson, personally mentored her.
“… it was actually a great blessing for me because imagine the one mentoring you is Teresita Sy-Coson and I really learned a lot from her and she’s very inspiring… after a year and a half or almost two years when I felt that I was ready, I resigned.”
Her resignation led to the establishment of her numerous businesses—CM, a garments factory, CASA, and the jewel of the crown, Chynna Mamawal Atelier, which catered to the Philippines’ upper-crust socialites, politicians, and celebrities.
CM and CASA are ready-to-wear brands that are more accessible than Chynna Mamawal Atelier. CASA is 100% locally made from packaging and fabrics to photographers and seamstresses. On the far end of the spectrum is Chynna Mamawal Atelier. “We carry a lot of fabrics from different parts of the world so I really travel around the world to source the best fabrics we can use for gowns and suits because […] I’m very, very perfectionist.”
The Chinoy Formula
When asked how she finds balance in her career as a fashion designer, she answered: “Usually people say you’re either left or right-brained, but I’m very lucky that my mom is very creative […] and my dad is very [business-minded]. After making a collection, I shut down the [right brain] and I have to think business now. Is this gonna sell? How much do I have to sell this? Will people actually wear it and all that?”
I think through the years of doing this and growing up [as a] Chinoy really helped with my business.”