Unrestricted, art turns into wearable style

September 13, 2022

Self-described as approachable and a diligent quick learner, Clio de Leon initially did not wish to join the world of style and fashion.

As a grade schooler, her visual arts pieces were displayed in her elementary school premises. This boosted her confidence, which made her realize then and there that she wanted to pursue a career in the arts.

However, come high school, her interest shifted to fashion — and her path was cemented.

FASHION innovation: A detachable collar, ideal to be paired with any shirt.

A graduate of a Fashion Design and Merchandising, magna cum laude, at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, her education was an eye-opener of an experience that inspired, guided, and assisted in her search for her own designer identity that incorporates the traditional arts.

Today, she has launched her eponymous brand, CLIO DL by Clio de Leon, which specializes in womenswear, from RTW to custom-made.

“I wanted my brand to be versatile and not restricted to a particular style or category. I like to juxtapose designs where I combine feminine details with masculine cuts, and minimalist silhouettes with artistic prints,” she said in an interview with the Daily Tribune. “I tend to favor an androgynous look where I can easily mix and match feminine and masculine silhouettes.”

“As I do not want to be confined by the constraints of feminine style, I made the decision to buck the idea of traditional femininity. I also coveted to inspire women, make them feel confident, liberated, and empowered whenever they wear my pieces,” she continued.

With her innate and continuing interest in the arts, Clio draws each and every single design and pattern with a pencil, her favorite tool at work. “I have always been a traditionalist who enjoys sketching everything out before finalizing,” she said.

PITCH BLACK: An ensemble from her collection


GARDEN FAIRY: Ephemeral garments


REVERENCE: A pure-concept dress, complete with a head accessory


FEMME FATALE: A black suit and skirt combo



Given the opportunity, she would love to visit the fashion house of Dior. “From the conceptualization stage to the looks on the runway, they really inspired me to succeed in the fashion industry. What I adore about Dior is they also create artworks by hand and then transform them into clothing,” she said with gusto.

She looks up to Margaret Zhang, editor-in-chief of Vogue China, as style icon. “She was a photographer, stylist, writer, and dwelt on other projects before she was named head of Vogue China. She portrays herself as someone freed from the restrictions of the norms and the conventional ways of what society has established in the arts and design field, while still appearing serious and professional in her work, and this aspect of her that made me look up to her,” said Clio.

VISUALIZATION: A display of the Clio DL collection

Clio destresses by meeting up with friends and spending time with family on weekends. “I try to socialize, pamper myself, and watch a lot of movies, Kdramas, vlogs and anime.”

We recently sat down with Clio to talk about her brand, what it means to be a fledgling designer, and more:

On pandemic struggles:
There is pressure to create and produce something original and unique each time I release pieces, artworks or collections. I know that many other creative people will also be able to relate. When you picture it, it was extremely difficult to combine the need to produce new work with a lack of inspiration during the pandemic.

On the creative process:
Even though conceptualizing can be stressful, it is what I enjoy and appreciate the most. I am fond of constructing narratives and meanings for the majority of my creations and collections.

On choice colors:
My personal closet is black, white, and blue. However, when it comes to my textile prints, they are colorful. I think that my astonishment at the Studio Ghibli’s Japanese animated films has influenced me to create imaginative artworks.

On advice to aspiring fashion designers:
Live in the present moment! Don’t get stuck in the past, but don’t look too far into the future. Just keep giving it your all. It will undoubtedly direct you toward the path you were meant to follow.

On knowing your worth:
As a fashion design alumnus, I want to impart to the incoming graduates something I learned when I graduated: know your worth. It can be very challenging for us to promote our worth, establish our names and even earn a living from our creativity, specifically when we are young and new designers in the industry. Never give in to those who devalue you, especially when you know your dedication.

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