In Pursuit of Dreams: Colene Yap Tells Her Journey To Fulfilling Aspirations

Doing Fashion Design in New York may be challenging, but international designer Colene Yap remains committed to pursuing her dreams.

(Photograph courtesy of Colene Yap).

Taking the initial steps

At a young age, Colene Yap has always set her eyes on becoming a fashion designer. Everyone knew of her dream but her parents advised her to take up Business Management in college. The wishes of her parents did not deter her from pursuing her goals. After graduating from Ateneo de Manila University with an Honorable Mention and working at ZALORA, Colene moved to New York to study at Parsons School of Design. “I worked hard doing what [my parents] wanted, so I would work even harder doing what I wanted!” Colene shares.

It was a tough decision as she enjoyed working as the youngest manager in ZALORA Group. Yet she proved that letting go of one thing can bring something better. And it is by far, one of the greatest decisions she made. She explains, “It feels like everything happened at the right place and time.” She was able to juggle an internship at Marchesa Notte while studying and eventually earned an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Design from Parsons with flying colors.

LEFT: The three-piece outfit from Following Maria collection. RIGHT: One of the evening couture Colene designed. (Photograph courtesy of Colene Yap)

Remaining committed

Among her creations, Colene is most proud of a three-piece garment, a part of her “Following Maria” collection. The concept of the traditional Filipina inspired Colene to design style pieces that weave a contemporary take on it. The outfit consists of sleeves, a top, and a skirt in soft pink and coral hues adorned with intricate blooms. Though the outfit can be worn to formal affairs, it can also be taken apart and be paired with casual pieces. This execution together with merging different styles is Colene’s ideal piece. She adds, “What I knew, had a connection with, and couldn’t live without was activewear.” The young designer loves keeping in shape and is presently working as an Assistant Fashion Designer at Bandier, a stylish fitness emporium.

Though fashion design may be tough, it pushes Colene to work hard. She believes that success comes with the right treatment of the materials she works with. “Clothes can be a commodity, so it’s about making sure whoever is buying it really loves it and connects with it,” she says. Thus, she personally visits her clients to fit them. She also sends them photos of the clothes to involve them in the process. This commitment of the designer exemplifies her passion for her work. When asked for advice she can give to aspiring designers, she exclaims, “Prepare to be challenged, but hold on!”

Lingerie pieces designed for one of Colene’s classes in Parsons. (Photographs courtesy of Parsons School of Design)
Colene at Bandier with one of the activewear pieces she created. (Photograph courtesy of Colene Yap)

Realizing dreams

Colene is much like other designers–there are also times when she struggles in her work in the fashion industry. After all, she admits “fashion design in New York is tough.” The highly-competitive environment oftentimes influences her to compare herself with people in industries. Yet she knows she must turn this attitude around to pull herself up. “I just have to remind myself of how much I wanted this, and how the struggle is only temporary!”

Pursuing her dreams took different turns in her life yet Colene remains strong and committed. “To accomplish one thing, we usually have to sacrifice another,” she shares as based on her experiences. That is why she understands the struggle to keep working to realize your dreams. She says, “For now, I’m enjoying all the stress, hard work, creative expression, and beautiful design that come with this meaningful life.”

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