It was a slow day for accessories designer Ken Samudio. Tapped to be one of the delegates to the International Fashion Showcase in 2014, he packed his floral earrings and coral clutches and flew all the way to London, only to ogle at the stylish crowd flocking from one booth to another, ignoring his. Feeling bummed, he decided to go out for a break and explore the city instead.
As he was devouring a very juicy, very British pulled pork sandwich, he got a call. A certain Sara Maino was inquiring about his pieces and calling him back to his booth to explain them. Samudio, at that time, was oblivious that it was Vogue Italia’s Senior Editor and hawk-eyed talent scout. Still, he hobbled back to the event venue and met with Maino. Their discussion led to a few email exchanges which then gave way to him being shortlisted to be part of Vogue Talents, entailing a profile on the esteemed magazine’s 50th anniversary issue. A curated conglomeration of emerging talents, the alumni included the likes of J.W. Anderson, Sara Battaglia, and Shourouk. It was quite a big deal.
But it didn’t stop there. Out of the 200 handpicked talents by Vogue Italia, Samudio was selected to be one of the 12 designers to show at Palazzo Morando during Milan Fashion Week. Fast-forward to today, he is currently carried by Moda Operandi, Luisa Via Roma, and Yoox, among others. His Spring/Summer 2018 collection highlights iterations of his iconic Fleur de Lis earrings and signature marine-inspired pieces: naturally tinted seashells, mother of pearl seahorses, and Swarovski crystal urchins. We bug him with our questions on a business trip to New York as he prepares for a trunkshow at Bergdorf Goodman. Clearly, there haven’t been that many slow days for him lately.
Can you tell us about your background?
I have a degree in Bachelor of Science Major in Biology.
But did you have formal training on accessory design?
No, I never had any formal or informal training in fashion. Zero.
What made you want to pursue this path?
I really hate having to answer to anyone. I guess I wanted to be my own boss from the very start. People say I have the gift of having good business acumen coupled with creativity. I say It’s really about making a living from your passion. I can’t see myself doing something else at this point to be honest.
What has been the biggest challenge in being a Filipino accessory designer?
A big challenge for us is trying to prove that our country is not just a mass-manufacturer of second-class goods, that we also have a sense of design and are capable of crafting them. An even bigger challenge is having to make a name for yourself outside the country before getting recognition locally. It would be nice if designers got first-hand support from our own.
You’ve already done a lot and carried by different stores here and abroad. At what point did you say to yourself, “Okay, I made it.” Or is that moment yet to come in the future?
To be honest, I really wouldn’t considered that I have already “made it.” I still think that there is so much to do, so much to show, and so much to discover and to explore. That hunger for creativity and the passion is what keeps me as excited of what I do today as I was when I started with a 5,000-peso starting capital several years ago.
What is the Ken Samudio aesthetic? People associate you with your marine life inspired pieces.
I’m probably one of the few designers who don’t sketch. Whatever I come up with are remnants and images of my past experiences. Throughout my college life, I have been exposed to the beauty of nature especially the underwater, hence my love for corals and sea creatures.
What do you value as a designer?
To be true to yourself and your aesthetic.
Let’s talk about your recent campaign. What’s so special about it?
It was very special because I have tapped the genius of young game-changers like photographer Renzo Navarro and stylist Renee Ultado. The collaboration was carefully planned for months and every detail and input were put into consideration. I was blown away by the result.
Why did you decide to produce it with such a young team? What was the vision?
I wanted to create visuals that impart the cool yet very Filipino aesthetics of the brand. I wanted to see the collection from the eyes of young creatives. A fresh take. I have high hopes for the local fashion industry.