WHEN 29-year-old fashion designer Bonita Penaranda first started studying to become a fashion designer, she did it with one goal in mind: to make anyone and everyone feel beautiful.
Studying at Slim’s Fashion and Arts School, Penaranda’s career began with her working as a fashion stylist. As someone from Rizal, she struggled to find a backer, especially in a time wherein social media wasn’t as prevalent as it is now.
“I started from the bottom; I assisted a friend as a stylist for a production, and then I started doing personal styling,” she shared.
Steadily growing her following and her talent, Penaranda went from a stylist learning the ropes to a designer dressing the likes of Julia Barretto, Loisa Andalio, and several other huge names in the industry.
If there’s anything to be learned from Penaranda’s journey, it’s that anything can be achieved with hard work and dedication to your craft, especially if you believe in the message you want to share with the rest of the world.
Inspired by Studio 54
While most designers may be focusing on bridal couture, Penaranda focuses on something special: the after party.
She draws inspiration for most of her collections from Studio 54, a famous nightclub frequented by the likes of David Bowie, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and Andy Warhol. The day it closed was, many say, the day that disco died.
One thing this nightclub was popular for was that it let people in based on how they looked, using a person’s wardrobe as a reflection of who they are as a person.
The Studio 54 style of fashion is characterized by plunging necklines, glitter, and sequins, basically all the things that were the rage back in the 1970s in New York City.
For Penaranda, the Studio 54 style is a confession to the dance floor – a representation of your very being.
For the opulent hubadera
From the start, Penaranda’s goal has been to make clothes that look classily opulent in a trendy, hubadera kind of way. To achieve this, she experiments with different styles, cuts, and fabrix, like bedazzling her dresses or making them out of latex.
“As a stylist, I always do a lot of research when I create something, and then put the identity beneath it,” she said.
“Sometimes clients have pegs, [so] the challenge for you [is] how [you] can make it you.”
As someone who doesn’t see herself as the typically petite kind of girl you so often see on social media and magazines today, Bonita wants to make her clients feel as confidently beautiful as they can be.
She deeply respects the boundaries of each and every person that comes to her, knowing that they understand their bodies and sure of what they like.
“It’s a collaboration – hanggang saan mo kayang maghubad – then it’s upon me to showcase what they wanted to showcase,” she explained.
At the end of the day, Just Bonita is all about elevating a person’s confidence, regardless of the amount of skin showing.
Not without struggles
No matter how fabulous the clothes she makes may be, Penaranda’s success has come with a lot of hardships, seeing as she’s been in the fashion industry for eight years thus far.
Perhaps most recent is the passing of her grandmother, with whom she was very close with.
“I feel like I’m alone [now,] so I have to survive… and fashion brought me to life again,” she shared.
She recounts how. recently, she visited her grandmother’s house. There, she found a dusty old Barbie doll.
Seeing it warmed Penaranda’s heart; as a child, it was that very same doll that she would design dresses for, in that same comfort of her grandmother’s home.
“It humbles me, how I started – I just felt that my dream is coming true, and it is such a good thing, because I’m passionate about it,” she said.
“I believe that’s my purpose: creating and making people beautiful [so] they empower themselves.”
From having to make a name for herself in the fashion industry to struggling so much during the pandemic that she reached a point wherein she only had P20,000 left in her bank account, she continued to take risks.
With the money she had at the time, she started to make her own designs, finally transitioning from stylist to designer.
She started out by selling corsets online, then accepted custom orders, and now she releases collection after collection, showered by love and support from both her friends and followers.
At present, she has her own studio, but still takes styling jobs every now and then. Beauty, brains, and passion – she’s a woman that truly knows how to do it all.
To those who may wish to follow in Penaranda’s footsteps, here’s what she has to say: “Look for what you are passionate about, and what your purpose [is] in life, and I believe that is gonna happen throguh experience. You have to experience life, and look for [the] beauty of it, and create something from that. And if you’re happy doing that, that’s your passion.”