Chiara Martinez: New-Fashioned

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“Partner,” Chiara replied promptly when I asked her about her designation. “That’s what my mom always says.”

It’s a fitting description for the role she plays at Jojo Martinez Shop, working alongside the eponymous fashion designer who is her mother. Known for exquisitely dreamy gowns, Jojo’s creations are regular staples at milestone events and wedding fairs — all of which came to a halt when the pandemic broke out.

“We did not think it would last as long as it did,” Chiara recalled. “We thought it would just be a few weeks, so there was not much concern during those initial stages. It felt like it was a forced staycation for all of us.”

Survival mode finally kicked in after a month. “It was really disconcerting that there was no business for [that long] and you start wondering how you are going to survive economically,” she continued. “Looking around a shop filled with gown for parties that will not happen or tweed jackets for travel that might not commence anytime soon, we felt a sudden urge to adjust our perspective and focus our talents on things that will actually help with the current situation.”

In the early days of the lockdown, Jojo saw the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical and non-medical personnel alike. “We thought that this is an avenue in which dressmaking can still contribute,” Chiara explained. “Mom asked a friend who worked for an organization handling PPE distribution regarding approved materials for the construction of the suit.”

The mother-daughter duo went with polyester silk, which was readily available, washable, and affordable. It was also approved for low-risk exposure, ideal for non-medical hospital staff and volunteers who are not highly exposed to the virus, as well as civilians who wanted an extra layer of protection.

“So we got to work and received orders for it all over the country, which really shows how much of a need this really was!” Chiara said. The Jojo Martinez Shop offered the classic bunny suit with an option for pockets, but their overlayer coat became a hit with civilians for its fashionable cut and versatility. “PPE but make it fashion and in style!” said an Instagram comment by Jason Roy Cabuguas, who copped the first overlayer especially for men.

While Jojo was focused on creating the PPEs, Chiara was visible on social media posing for photos and answering inquiries for them. They’ve also since ventured into doing pajamas and accessories while getting back into making gowns for events.

“Sometimes boats are rocked to eliminate excess baggage. So, don’t worry too much when this happens. After the storm, what you’re left it may just be exactly what you need.”

Chiara manages her time and tries to keep a very strict schedule during work days. “Or else I will easily fall into activities that are not profitable anymore once prolonged — binge-watching, reading, scrolling through social media,” she quipped. “So I really make sure that my hours are planned during the day and save the aforementioned recreational activities for the evening when my energy is spent.”

She unwinds by reading a book, devouring BTS content especially at the end of a long day, and spending time with her new puppy, Chanel. “She’s a quarantine puppy so I don’t exactly know how to break the news to her when things do normalize,” she admitted.

A year in the pandemic, and Chiara continues to be grateful. “I am most thankful for the Lord whose promises never fail. When He says he will carry you through, He does. When He says He will provide, He does. When He says He is the peace that passes understanding, He is.”

Quarantrends I picked up: Delivery! It has to stop, hahaha! I love getting food or stuff via delivery because it feels like I got a present even if I paid for it. Haha, is that sad? It sounds sad! [editor’s note: It does not.] Dalgona coffee has to be one of my favorites. Also TikTok — I don’t make videos but I scroll through that thing quite often.

Something that surprised me about myself: I was always a homebody, but I did not know the extent of it until it was tested by quarantine. I was also amazed at how people truly mean to me. More than anything, I missed being with people the most, Church, family, students, workout buddies… so I’m a homebody pero clingy haha. Maybe I found out that I contradict myself sometimes, too!

Something I’m looking forward to when it’s safer: For the shop, events! We love making clothes for these and we love doing capsule outfits for our clients who travel. For me, being in a classroom again. I miss this the most. 

Wise words for people who want to pivot their business and adapt to the new normal: Not claiming any sort of expertise in this area, because, man, this rocked boat is still rocking, but I guess thinking about our experience in Jojo Martinez, I can say sometimes boats are rocked to eliminate excess baggage. So, don’t worry too much when this happens. After the storm, what you’re left it may just be exactly what you need. 

Chiara Martinez is a partner at Jojo Martinez Shop. Follow her on Instagram at @misschiara.

Wearing bunny suit by Jojo Martinez. Photography by Rae Cabradilla-Padin | @raecabradilla

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