Lady Krystle Tanmantiong’s Story on Discovering Her Passion for Design

Creative Director Lady Krystle Tanmantiong tells her tale of her exciting and charming journey through the world of design, from where she discovered her passion in New York to how she returned to her roots in Manila, Philippines.  See what’s trending and how the design and fashion scene is changing in Manila.  And have a glimpse of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur running your own creative design and branding studio ー The Brandyard ー through the eyes of Lady Tanmantiong.

Read on for her personal interview for more about her and The Brandyard, a design studio helping clients with a broad range of design needs including creating a visual identity to rebranding.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started with design?

Growing up in Manila as a curious kid dabbling in anything I could get my hands on. I played tennis, I would sketch and doodle, I would bead myself some bracelets, I even subscribed to National Geographic at 9 years old. I tried anything at least once just to see if I could learn enough to be somewhat good at it. I had dreams of becoming an archeologist, forensic scientist, writer, and architect among many other things, but ended up going to university for a degree in Management Engineering.

I would always end up doing layouts for student org publications and creating posters for fundraisers while I was there though. It became apparent, amidst all my classes in finance, algorithms and math that I enjoyed doing these design projects on the side much more. So one day, I decided to take an elective in information design and met a professor who would encourage me to explore the world of design. Fast forward to graduation and I found myself applying to study at Parsons the New School of Design in New York. That’s where my journey in the world of design started.

Studying and working in NYC, why did you go back to Manila?

I had always known I was on borrowed time in New York. I was only supposed to be there to study, but ended up staying because I was lucky enough to get work.

One thing led to another when I graduated from Parsons, got an internship at a branding agency and got hired on an H1-B Visa. I worked at Landor and got an amazing experience while there meeting people who I’d end up being not only workmates but friends with. It was very hard leaving the brilliant city of New York, but after five years of working there, I came to a crossroads.

When turning 29, and was wondering where I actually saw myself living and what I saw myself doing the rest of my life. My family was still back in Manila. But on top of that, I figured staying in New York was the selfish, individualistic thing to do. Heading home, on the other hand, was about making an impact and giving back. If I end up setting up my own studio, hiring people, then I could make more of a difference then I would as just another cog in the wheel. The design world has so much potential still here in Manila and the time was ripe. People are starting to understand its value. I visited home in the middle of 2014 and I was sure I was headed back for good by the end of the year.

How do you see the design/fashion scene in Manila?

It’s definitely taken off in the last few years since I’ve been back! And it’s amazing to watch. We still borrow a lot of inspiration from Western culture, especially with us having been under American rule for about 50 years. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are now quite a lot of great creative minds in the fields of design, illustration, photography and videography here.

What’s interesting is seeing people who are creating their own aesthetic, and seeing those who are embracing more traditional aspects of fashion in the use of pinya fabric, ethnic patterns, colors and materials, but with a modern spin. This is evident in brands like Filip+ Inna, Gabbie Sarenas and Kathy and Kathy Bespoke. There seems to be a greater appreciation for looking into our roots and reviving weaving communities in textile design, or metalworking artisans in jewelry design and making sure older arts don’t die out.

Which trends in design, fashion, music do you see currently in the Philippines?

In general, I think the hipster lifestyle is still the biggest driver of the trends here. Third-wave coffee shops, quirky or healthy food concepts, simplified/minimalistic clothing trends, locally-made brands, environmentally-sustainable products. There’s also a lot of Korean influence coming in through K-Pop and Korean TV dramas, but most especially, and this is probably globally, they’ve been influential in makeup or skincare.

For fashion specifically, in footwear, I’ve been seeing a lot of mules, shorter block heels, a return to classic shapes as well as simple strappy sandals. In clothing, I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot of brocade recently! And ruffles are still everywhere in stores and in the collections of fashion designers here.

Do you see any trends coming out of the Philippines into the world and vice versa? Which global trends are currently lived in Manila?

Since we have such unique materials like pinya and we have a lot of rattan, mother-of-pearl and coconuts, the tropical design trend that’s been taking on the world has been a great way to showcase Filipino craftsmanship.

The health movement is definitely the global trend that’s hit the Philippines most obviously. Numerous studios offering cycling, yoga, pilates and crossfit classes have sprouted up around the metro. There’s something for everyone! The number of healthy-food or diet-food delivery services has also risen in the last few years. People are also starting to invest in hydroponic or vertical farms to provide organic vegetables that are usually hard to grow in the tropics at a fairer price. It’s great to see people taking care of themselves better.

You run your own studio, The Brandyard. Which clients do you serve, and where do you set your agency focus?

We’re a small design studio that helps clients with a broad range of design needs, from creating a visual identity from scratch, rebranding an existing product or service, or even things like refreshing marketing materials or building websites.

Our most visible clients are Jollibee and Mang Inasal, two of the Philippines’ largest fast-food brands. We’ve helped them on their store visuals, menu design and other design needs.

We also do visual identity work for smaller startups as well as medium to large-sized B2B companies in a variety of industries from frozen yogurt, fashion, and skincare to more serious businesses involving chemicals, construction and medical diagnostic services. We like that we are not tied down as specializing on one specific industry and are able to really create something that’s specific, appropriate, effective and beautiful for our different clients.

How do you see the role of Branding evolving in the Philippines? Do you see any specific trends?

There’s a rise in entrepreneurship in the Philippines, or at least it seems that way. And the younger individuals starting these businesses have a grasp of the power of brand, image and marketing so they’re actually investing in it as part of their creation process. That’s why it’s a great time to be in branding these days because there’s really so much to do, and so many people you can help to bring their goods and services out to the people who want and need it.

What are the three best places to visit in Manila and why?

Oh, that’s a tough one! In Manila, one must definitely head to Intramuros (The Walled City), one of the oldest parts of Manila, to get a bit of an understanding of how this melting pot of a culture got created. Get on Carlos Celdran’s Walk This Way tour for an entertaining take on history. The newly opened Museum of Natural History also seems promising while you’re in the area.

Once you’ve done that, you can head over to Bonifacio Global City which is the newer business hub of Manila and boasts great hotels, a great range of food from Spanish tapas at Tomatito to Mexican-Japanese fusion at CHINO MNL to uplifted Filipino at Gallery by Chele, or …. The nightlife is not lacking either at the giant Valkyrie, Revel, The Brewery and The Island party complex.

Last, for a taste of the hipster, you should head to the Poblacion area for some nightlife. Holy Smokes has some great barbecue, and there are tons of cool little bars that you can pop in and out of throughout the night.


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