March 2018 Cover Story Part 2: Heart Evangelista, Muse to Artist
The term ‘influencer’ has been tossed around on and off the web for quite some time now. Many internet personalities with a growing following develop an affinity with this buzzword, tacking it onto their social media accounts and mixing it in with the rest of their biography in the ‘About Me’ tabs of their websites. The online Cambridge Dictionary defines an influencer as someone who affects or changes the way people behave. This annoints the term a little more gravitas than we normally associate it with, given how casually it is bandied about. Heart Evangelista-Escudero, Kim Jones, and Liz Uy, who have been on the radar well before the advent of social media, are influencers in every sense of the word, especially in the fashion sphere. We flock to their Instagram accounts, eager to know who they are wearing, where they are travelling to, and what their next projects might be. Yet these women are more than what they wear; they are representative of years of hard work, a drive to put one’s self out there, and a vision that continues to resonate with a wide audience.
She entered the showbiz industry at the age of 14, endearing local audiences with her portrayal of the chic, ultra-feminine Missy Sandejas in ABS-CBN’s teen-oriented series G-mik. Though Love Marie Ongpauco-Escudero (or Heart Evangelista-Escudero, as she is most known by) was already a fashionista as a little girl—she wryly recalls falling down the stairs while parading around in a pair of her mum’s high heels, paying for her trouble with seven stitches along her right eye—she believes that playing Missy was the ticket to discovering the earliest form of her style identity.
“I was always preferential to the classics, but I was highly experimental when it came to my fashion choices,” Evangelista-Escudero shares. “I was surprised when I found out that people were taking notice of what I was wearing because I felt that I was all over the place back then. And at the time, the local fashion scene was still a bit on the conservative side. We weren’t really expected to dress up unless it was for a show, event, or magazine feature.”
At a time when the internet was not what it is today and online searches would yield very limited results, magazines were Evangelista-Escudero’s primary guide to the fashion world. Her mum and her sisters collected various titles, and she would browse through them to keep herself in the know. Relationships with designers would come later; her debutante gown was designed by Inno Sotto, whose work and friendship she continues to enjoy today.
The actress-entrepreneur was able to explore another facet of her stylish side when she was invited by good friend Mark Bumgarner to paint on his gowns for a fashion show back in 2016. Her artistic talent was no great secret; she’d dazzled art enthusiasts in Manila and Singapore through successful exhibitions at the Ayala Museum and Chan Hampe Galleries. Friends would even flock to her to have their Hermès Birkin bags painted (“It can be a difficult canvas. When the image in my head is so complex, I have to work on scaling it down because the bag accords me only a limited space.”) despite the long wait. A long-time audience member at fashionable gatherings, Evangelista-Escudero found herself exhilarated and nervous to be on the other side of the equation. “The opportunity to team up with Mark came at a time when I was preparing to show a different side of me—the artist—to the world,” she says. “Art and fashion are two of the things I love the most, and it felt absolutely gratifying to get a chance to bring them together.”
She is currently working on a home line and a clutch line, the latter of which she hopes to release later in the year. Both collections will be under the Love Marie brand, a move she describes as only natural, for Evangelista-Escudero feels she finally understands who she is now. “Many people continue to dismiss wanting to wear and make beautiful things as mere vanities, but that is not true at all for me,” she reflects. “Style is an innate, powerful force; fashion is a way of expressing that. How we dress and carry ourselves can make a world of a difference as to how we are perceived. And in this day and age, it has become much easier to put ourselves out there because we have all these social media outlets. The key is to stick to your guns and be your most authentic self—there will always be someone out there who will find you relatable.”
Photography: BJ Pascual | This story is first published in the March 2018 fashion issue of Philippine Tatler, available in all leading newsstands and bookstores, and downloadable via Magzter, Zinio, and Pressreader.