With each carefully stitched piece, Happy V. Andrada's designs radiate empowerment and serve as an inspiring ode to womanhood.
Savvy Filipinos might recall Happy V. Andrada from their high school days, being featured in the style guide pages of Candy Magazine, a teen publication that debuted in the 1990s.
Whereas those who are closer to her might fondly remember Happy as the resident fashionista who helps her classmates mix and match clothes for afterschool hours — then for weekends out, then for soirees, then eventually, for prom night, debut, and graduation ball.
Of course, the innocence and wide-eyed days of high school eventually morphed into the drudgery of adult life’s daily grind.
By that time, childhood passions usually take a backseat as people say things like, “there’s no money there,” or “get a real job.” And while fashion design is traditionally a feminine profession, barriers remain in as much as what society considers a "real" job.
Happy, on the other hand, was always encouraged by her mother, a fashion and interior designer, and architect, to pursue a career in aesthetics. From getting the young Happy to design kits and cloth scissors, to supporting her all throughout fashion school in Central Saint Martins in London.
Today, Happy works with a small but dedicated team of Filipino artisans and handles a steady stream of clients. At times, the atelier would even turn down rushed jobs if it means a compromise on quality. After all, each piece is made with intentionality, and Happy even reuses materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
With such attention to detail, her work has graced runways across continents such as the cultural centers of Milan, Paris, Seoul, Tokyo, Toronto, and Singapore, to name a few.
Versus more affordable – but less personal – fast fashion pieces, with Happy, wearers know their money is not only going to a bespoke and sturdy item but also sustaining the livelihoods of some of the nation’s most talented patternmakers and seamstresses. Not to mention, raw materials suppliers such as pineapple farmers.
During the 2020 pandemic, as a Filipino artist, Happy and her team event went beyond their usual offerings and produced custom hand-painted personal protective equipment (PPE) upon the request of healthcare workers, including many from abroad.
In addition to her visionary bridal gowns, Happy also showcases her design prowess in creating stylish everyday wear and accessories. Plus, with her Filipino heritage, she seamlessly blends traditional designs and materials like pineapple weaves and barong with modern styles; thus, creating timeless pieces that can be worn beyond formal occasions.
Her passion for traditional designs actually started at a young age, but she was disappointed to find out that they were only worn during history week. Nevertheless, she continues to draw inspiration from her heritage, "even if the designs are inspired by the old, you can still wear them as they are timeless and comfortable. Besides, I design things that I would personally wear."
"Most pieces are one of a kind,” she expounds, "we have a few lines, like the Rizal bomber jacket line, but these are also handmade. And in all of our work, we want to be sustainable and eco-friendly."
Pieces are made to order and take a lead time of at least three weeks in order to not overwork the crew, as well as to also ensure that no detail is missed and no thread is loose.
Good things, after all, are worth the wait — such is the ethos of slow fashion embodied by Happy.
That being said, her schedule is packed with individual commissions and group requests such as wedding entourages seeking her signature style, so she and her team never find a dull moment in their workweek.
A woman of few words, Happy smiles with her eyes and speaks through her work. While she and her team are mostly found in their studio, she also spends considerable time traveling, personally measuring clients, and getting to know their personalities as these bleed into each bespoke item.
Each outfit is waiting for the perfect person.
Looking at any piece crafted by Happy, whether it's a headband or a barong bomber jacket, one can't help but notice the intricate details and exquisite craftsmanship. With an innate sense of whimsy and a keen eye for design, her pieces exude poise and elegance, and are infused with her passion for empowering both her team and her clients.
Her unique creations are truly a testament to her unwavering commitment to her craft, and her ability to turn any kind of wear into works of art.
“Happy looks good on you,” reads a neon sign under a mirror at Happy’s studio in the heart of Quezon City — but it can also be said that the work made by someone empowered exudes happiness and is happy.
Happy’s environment surely built her, and she pays it forward through her work which is ultimately a place of play. As they say, empowerment is about giving someone back to themselves; so Happy, empowered as she is, helps clients and artisans alike find themselves through her craft, her vocation, her life’s work, and her calling.
"Each piece is a collaboration," Happy beams, "each artisan focuses on their specific strength, with the freedom to discuss and get into what they can do."
So yes, Happy — as happy as Happy is — looks good on you.