Introducing Ica Villanueva, the celebrity stylist responsible for BINI, AC Bonifacio, and some of the most sought-after artists’ coolest outfits.
In the world of fashion, where the status quo is continually challenged and style trends are remade with every step down the runway, there’s a new force that’s challenging the norm. Introducing Ica Villanueva, the Filipina celebrity stylist who’s not just following trends – she’s defining them. With a client roster that boasts big names like BINI, AC Bonifacio, and other sought-after artists, Ica is at the forefront of redefining what it means to be a cool girl in fashion.
From runway-worthy creations for BINI’s emerging stars to eye-catching ensembles that turn AC Bonifacio into a fashion icon, Ica Villanueva’s work is redefining cool in the local scene. Her styling is a bold departure from the ordinary, a harmonious blend of personal style and audacity. With a knack for making killer choices, Ica’s influence in the fashion world knows no bounds. Read more about this celebrity stylist below.
I’m Ica Villanueva, a freelance fashion stylist with 8 years of experience, and I serve as the Visual Director of the Ppop Group, BINI.
Tell me more about your foray into the world of fashion and how you became a celebrity stylist.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Economics from UST, but I began my journey in styling when Chookie Benepayo invited me to join her sister’s styling team. Afterward, I worked as an assistant to Rex Atienza for four years before eventually deciding to go freelance. I started building my clientele through ABS-CBN shows, and that’s when my career began to take off. Street style is my core, and I gained recognition primarily through my work with Yeng Constantino and AC Bonifacio.
The term Cool Girl Fashion is intriguing. How would you personally define it, and what inspired you to redefine it?
I think it’s not solely about depending on or following fashion trends. It’s about creating your own unique look by using existing materials, adding structure, texture, or layers. It’s more about making smart choices and experimenting with interesting or unusual elements, all while blending them with our personal style and core.
Your work has received a lot of attention recently. What do you believe sets your styling approach apart from others in the industry?
I think that what truly distinguishes me is my commitment to smart styling. I’m a firm believer that style can be achieved without breaking the bank. I have a passion for artfully blending textures and layers, crafting innovative DIY outfits, and leading styling endeavors. My signature touch often leans towards the delightfully unpredictable in fashion.
Could you share some of the iconic looks or clients you’ve worked with that exemplify your artistic vision?
My clients include A-Listers like Niana, BINI, and AC Bonifacio. I strive to keep their looks consistently cool, for instance, by pairing gowns or dresses with sneakers, brogues, boots, or even a stylish bonnet. I fondly recall styling Yeng Constantino for the Star Magic Ball, where she wore a striking red tulle gown paired with red sunglasses and a quirky cat clutch.
The concept of self-expression through fashion is powerful. How do you empower your clients to find their unique style and voice?
I always advise them to reflect on who they really are. I believe it’s important to establish a strong and open relationship with your clients so that they feel comfortable communicating their preferences and identifying which pieces are flattering for them. I also assist them by offering suggestions and pegs they might appreciate. I encourage them to try pieces out before making a decision to ensure they see what works for them and what makes them feel comfortable.
Styling celebrities often involves understanding their unique personalities and preferences. Can you share insights into how you connect with your clients to create looks that reflect their individuality?
First, I try to get a sense of their personalities, as I want to respect their space. It’s important to give off a vibe or aura that makes you approachable, so they feel comfortable with you. Communication is truly the key. I take my time to get to know them and ask for their feedback on what makes them feel more confident and comfortable.
Can you share insights into the process of adapting your styling approach to suit different personalities and image goals?
By appreciating and properly highlighting the advantages of their body, adjusting the cuts, lengths, and tightness of every fit to suit their personalities, I like to establish a strong rapport with my clients. I also ask them about their clothing preferences and the unique or different styles they’d like to experiment with. At the same time, I provide my feedback and opinions regarding their desires.
Working with renowned stars can be both exhilarating and demanding. Can you recount a particularly memorable experience or challenge you faced while styling a celebrity?
Styling BINI, an 8-member girl group, was definitely challenging at first. Not only was it my first time working with 8 girls, each with strong and unique personalities, but I also had to establish a distinct style for each of them while ensuring their outfits harmonized with one another.
The entertainment industry is known for its high-pressure environments. How do you handle the challenges and demands that come with styling A-list celebrities?
I’m a self-confessed crammer—haha. I’m just thankful that all my clients trust me and understand my creative process. I feel blessed knowing that they don’t pressure me and appreciate every outfit I prepare for them. I believe that I work and think best under pressure because it pushes me to create more pieces and sparks a creative switch within me.
As a Filipina celebrity stylist, have your cultural roots influenced your work in any way? How do you incorporate your heritage into your styling?
Since I was young, most of my clothes came from ukay-ukay, and I used to upcycle and revamp them. I believe ukay-ukay is very Filipino and offers a unique source of interesting and one-of-a-kind pieces. I also incorporate recycled materials, such as bottle caps and plastics, into my outfits.
The fashion industry is rapidly evolving. How do you stay ahead of the curve and keep your work fresh?
By incorporating interesting and unpredictable pieces, you can make an outfit or styling stand out from the rest. This might involve experimenting with different fabric choices and unconventional ways of matching pieces. For example, instead of heels with gowns, I’d opt for boots, deconstruct a jacket into an asymmetric skirt, incorporate gender-fluid pieces, or use accessories in creative ways, such as pinning earrings onto clothing.
In an era of social media, how has the role of a celebrity stylist evolved? How do you navigate the influence of digital platforms on fashion and styling?
Posting high-quality photos and videos of OOTDs has become crucial with the rise of TikTok and IG Reels in the realm of social media. Additionally, reaching out to local brands and designers for collaborations provides opportunities for lesser-known and underrated Filipino stylists.
Collaborations are also crucial in the world of fashion. Can you tell us about some of the creative collaborations that have been particularly meaningful in your career?
With local designers who exhibit remarkable creativity, such as the outfits for BINI, I collaborated with Rocketsets (PpopCon) to recycle bottles and other plastics for use as body harnesses and accessories. I also teamed up with Renan Pacson (Karera) to incorporate metal bottle caps as accessories.
What advice do you have for aspiring stylists, especially those looking to redefine established fashion norms?
When you give, give it your all. Also, stay true to your core. Nowadays, it’s very easy to get caught up in the system, but always, always stay true to who you are because that’s what will make you unique and help you stand out.
Also, never lose that passion and fire in your heart. Stay hardworking because nothing in life comes easy, and shortcuts aren’t the path to success and a sustainable career. Most importantly, be respectful by maintaining the right attitude toward everyone you meet and work with.