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Wo/Men of Pearls: Pauline Suaco-Juan, Fashion Icon and Thought Leader

The renaissance of Philippine fashion journalism was marked by the rise of inspiring editors, brilliant journalists and future forward thought leaders. Among those luminaries who continue to shape the industry is Pauline Suaco-Juan. After her stint as Editor in Chief of Preview Magazine, she took on the role as Executive Director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM). It was a major transition that expanded her sphere, making a difference in communities outside of fashion and design. 


As the head for the country’s export promotions’s arm, Pauline’s experience and expertise contributed to CITEM’s fortified digital marketing strategies. Her transition from private sector to public service was by no means a walk in the park, especially as events of 2020 unfolded. It has, however, led to a deeper appreciation for her life’s work and purpose. The fashion icon shares, “I didn’t plan this, but I’ve come to understand that my life’s work has been–and will be about–telling the Filipino creative’s story.” 


She’s at a crossroads now as she ends her term. But the ever watching eyes of the fashion industry continue to fix its gaze on the next chapter in Pauline’s story. 



  1. What keeps you busy these days? 


Transitioning—from government service back to the private sector that is! I’m currently finishing up my term as Executive Director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), which is the export promotions arm of the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry. 



  1. How did you come to find your current career of life’s work? 


I applied! After fifteen years in the publishing industry as editor in chief of Preview magazine, then the Philippines’ leading fashion glossy, I was looking for a way to give back. Manila FAME—CITEM’s premier trade show for home, fashion and lifestyle—has always been a marquee event for the country’s design community. As an editor, I used to comb those halls for up-and-coming talents to feature. Having launched the website and social media coverage of Preview, I thought I could help the agency embark on digital marketing. 




  1. What is it about your work or career that you enjoy the most? 


It’s been an absolute honour to work with and cultivate our communities:



  1. What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”


Well, the biggest one was definitely the pandemic. It was sink or swim. What do you do when physical trade fairs are canceled? We built five digital platforms in two years from scratch, all while training the team from scratch as well.



  1. For people who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?


This isn’t so much advice as it is a testimony for anyone contemplating taking the leap from private sector to public service. I can’t quite describe the feeling when our websites went live. I remember I was close to tears. Am not knocking all those years I spent in Preview—those were the golden days of print in the Philippines, and so fulfilling creatively. The feeling though after launching CITEM’ websites was more profound, mainly because of how many people the platforms could help.



  1. What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mold?


I didn’t plan this, but I’ve come to understand that my life’s work has been—and will be about—telling the Filipino creative’s story. One of the instances that led me to realize this was during an open house we had forPreview. One student shared that he had always felt alone in hisbarrio, and that the kids in school used to make fun of the way he dressed. Reading the magazine made him understand that his tribe was somewhere out there, and that the words and images we produced allowed him to hope and enabled him to find his place in the world.



  1. How do you balance work and family life? What are the activities that enable you to bond with family?


It takes a village—and I really wouldn’t be able to manage without my superyayas (nannies) past and present. They’ve put in blood, sweat and tears and loved my family as they do their own. It isn’t an exaggeration to say I owe my career to them as they’ve enabled me to concentrate at work while holding down the fort at home.



For my family, bonding always happens over the dining table. No matter where we are, we come together when food is on the table. We’re that type of family that talks about where or what to eat next, even as we’re consuming the current meal.



  1. How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?



A proper mani-pedi has always been my jam. My me-time haven is Nail Spa (full disclosure: I am one of the co-owners), the last place I went to before the world went into lockdown in March of 2020.



  1. How do you describe your personal style? What are your three wardrobe essentials?


I am all about accessories, particularly shoes and jewellery. These are the details that eloquently tell your story. Working in CITEM changed the way I shop. Before it was all about the design; now provenance is equally if not more important. I now make a conscious choice to support Filipino brands and designers; everyday I must wear something Pinoy.



Wardrobe essentials? I want to say a dress, a suit and of-the-moment shoes, but really my mind is fixated on a black maillot, black sunnies, and a wide brim hat. 




  1. What for you makes a good investment piece? Kindly cite examples of pieces in your current wardrobe? 



Something handmade by an artisan. A piece with a story to tell that allows you to add your own story when you pass it on. Something you really really love even if irrational. Case in point: the fully embroidered and beaded denimAmihan dress from Filip+Inna, which was the first garment they co-designed with their artisans, and, 10 years ago, I bought the last piece off the rack even if it was one size too big (so it fits perfectly now).




  1. What do pearls mean to you?


They’re my birthstone. I always feel pretty when I wear pearls.

  1. What is everyday luxury to you?


Natural materials, natural ingredients, sustainability