PHOTO: COURTESY | AVA PESSINA

Alessandra Perez-Rubio
Co-Founder, Mestiza New York

A project that started in 2014, MESTIZA NEW YORK was created and inspired by a shared Philippine-American heritage between co-founders Alessandra Perez-Rubio and Louisa Rechter. And in just their third season, the brand steadily has gained a cult following from style mavens across the globe. It's not hard to see why—as the swoon-worthy collection of beautifully crafted cocktail attire (perfect for those vacation sundowners!) carries a clean yet ornate aesthetic—with a perfectly balanced mix of practical fabrics and lavish accouterments. Each piece is designed with a nod to vintage wanderlust; from Spanish Matador brocades, 1960’s bell sleeves and Filipino Colonial silhouettes.

If that weren't eye-catching enough, in an effort to honor their Filipiniana heritage, MESTIZA NEW YORK has partnered with the Habi Philippine Textile Council to support female textile weavers in the Philippines. Each season, MESTIZA NEW YORK integrates their hand woven fabrics into the collection. Not only are these exclusive fabrications beautiful, each piece helps to sustain the Philippine cotton farming industry, create jobs and keep a centuries-old artisanal craft alive for us to enjoy.

In an exclusive interview, co-founder Alessandra Perez-Rubio let's us in on her Filipino aesthetic secret, dishes the details on the inspiration behind MESTIZA NEW YORK, plus gives us serious style-inspo with some brands even we have never heard of!

  • VacationStyle: Can you tell us a little bit about your Filipino roots?

    Alessandra Perez-Rubio: Growing up I’d always had one foot firmly planted in the Philippines and the other in California. While I have been in the United States for the majority of my adult life, my childhood summers and holiday breaks were always spent in Manila with my family and friends. I have been in New York for almost 8 years, and in the states for 20, but I still consider the Philippines my home. Louisa and I started MESTIZA NEW YORK to pay homage to our Filipino-American heritage. Louisa’s mother actually grew up in Cebu and over the years we’ve discovered many mutual connections! So much of the collection is inspired by vintage photographs of our mother's and grandmother's in the Philippines in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, as well as the beautiful embroideries and silhouettes of turn of the century Filipino-colonial wear, which is in my opinion a truly iconic moment in Filipino fashion.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMANPULO
  • VS: What about the Philippines inspires you? 

    APR: The term “Mestiza” means a woman of mixed ancestry; I think my background describes the textbook meaning of Mestiza, since I am Spanish-Filipino. But the more I thought about it, the word “Mestiza” embodied my dual upbringing–as well as the aesthetic collaboration between Louisa and myself. I think that silhouettes and fabrications from the Philippines always act as a framework when designing. I do draw it for inspiration in a broader sense, but I try and make the sartorial references not so obvious, so that it translates into the contemporary market in a fresh and modern way.   

  • VS: What do you love most about the Filipino aesthetic?

    APR: I absolutely love the delicate embroideries in the Barong Tagalog done in piña—this is a heavily embroidered formal shirt, which is considered the national dress for men in the Philippines. Season after season I use a beautiful fabrication called silk cocoon, which mimics the texture of piña but is much more sustainable. I also love the bold silhouettes of the Filipiniana Terno and the Maria-Clara. Old photographs and paintings of women in the Philippines at the turn of the century dressed up to the nines in these gowns are incredibly regal.  

PHOTO: COURTESY | BRIDGET BADORE
  • VS: We love that you’re partnered with the Habi Foundation, where part of the proceeds go to empowering women back in the Philippines. Could you tell us more about that?

    APR: Yes we have partnered with the Habi Philippine Textile council where we employ women to weave fabrics for us, which we feature in limited edition collections exclusively on Mestiza. It is not just traditional formal wear that I am drawn to. The Philippines offers the most bold and colorful tribal fabrics woven by hand by these women, each region has their own traditional weave. Every season we try to highlight different regions in the Philippines in our designs.  It is so important to us to give back to the women who inspire the brand.

  • VS: If you could dress one woman, who would it be?

    APR: I would absolutely love to dress Miroslava Duma! I have been following her style for years. She is one of those women that can pull off a basic sweatshirt and sneaks, but looks equally stunning in a couture gown. Her style is eclectic, a true mix of high and low, and most importantly always effortless. 

PHOTO: COURTESY | BRIDGET BADORE
  • VS: What’s your most memorable vacation?

    APR: It was almost 10 years ago but my favorite vacation to this day is when my family and I went to Pearl Farm in Davao. Aside from the beautiful resort, the moments from that trip that stand out in my memory are boating to a private island where the boat captain/chef prepared us a fresh seafood lunch, diving among the most incredibly colorful reefs, and open air karaoke at a bar that juts out into the middle of the ocean until dawn. I know it sounds surreal, something about that place is. 

  • VS: How would you describe your style on vacation?  

    APR: I feel like my New York City uniform is always head-to-toe black, so when I am on vacation I try and break out of my monochromatic shell and be bold an colorful! Caftans, swimsuits, sarongs and always a bold pair of statement earrings

PHOTO: COURTESY
  • VS: Your go-to brands aside for your own?

    APR: There are so many amazing designers coming out of the Philippines right now! FINI has some of the coolest tribal pants and beach sarongs, Ken Samudio makes these incredible jewelry out of recycled plastic bottles; Aranáz makes these gorgeous colorful beach bags, and Betina NY has these bold and colorful t-shirts made by Filipino artisans that are perfect for the tropics. 

  • VS: Favorite travel or beauty essentials? 

    APR: Prim Botanicals makes the best face, hair, and body oil that I never travel without or live without for that matter!

PHOTO: COURTESY
  • VS: What’s next for Mestiza?  

    APR: Well we are excited to have just launched with Neiman Marcus! We are in the process of developing for SS18, and my imagination is bursting with ideas fresh from my recent trip to the Philippines. We are also actually hoping to partner with some Filipino designers to feature some of their collections on our site. Lots of exciting things in the pipeline for us, so stay tuned!

  • ON VACATION… 

    One-piece or two? One
    Caftan or sarong? Both
    Hair-up or down? Always up, in a sleek bun
    Makeup or no makeup? No makeup – just a killer tan 
    Flats or heels? Flats
    Jewelry or no jewelry? Giant, colorful earrings always!
    Underpack or overpack? Overpack, I just can’t help it
    Detox or retox? Retox – vacation is always for indulging…just a little. 
    Stick with what you know or try something new? Stick to what I know – which is a cocktail, the beach and a sunset massage