Growing up as a child of immigrants in Middle America, I didn’t think I’d ever be a fashion writer — it was a dream that felt far from attainable. No one in the industry looked like me, and it led me to assume my dreams were meant for someone else.
Social media changed my experience with that, though — I found women who represented me, my heritage, and my cultural experiences. Now, in a position where I am speaking for an industry I never thought I'd be a part of, I hope to celebrate the women who continue to pave the way for the rest of my community. Following Filipino American History Month in October, we're paying tribute to he diaspora with a series of profiles on Filipinas in fashion who deserve recognition year-round. This includes the space taken by social media and blogging, too, which create an increasing sense of inclusivity and progression in our industry.
Among the women leading the way is Olivia Lopez. Widely considered one of the OG style bloggers (her #ootd posts can be traced back to the days of MySpace), Lopez leads an enviable existence. If you take just one peek at her Instagram — covered in perfectly curated neutral hues and still life film captures — it’s easy to see why. Her life is filled with luxuries most only fantasize about: transatlantic adventures, five-star accommodations, and chic designer duds.
But before she came a blogger to watch and now a formidable brand in her own right, she was a young Filipina immigrant adjusting to life in a new country. Refinery29 caught up with Lopez to discuss her upbringing, the moment she knew she was a creative at heart, and how she cultivates appreciation for her culture.
Where were you raised? What was your upbringing like?
I was born in Manila and moved to Southern California when I was seven. My upbringing was varied. My family moved several times, but when it came to the holidays, we always celebrated in a Filipino manner: karaoke, buffet style catering, and the tradition of kissing every tita/tito on the cheek. I also adapted to the American school system and culture, and since my stepfather was from Europe, we spent all our summer vacations abroad.
How did your culture influence (or not influence) your life path and career?
Filipinos have mixed roots that stem from our occupations by the Chinese, Spanish, and Americans. Because of this, I find Filipinos are exceptionally open and welcoming to others, especially foreigners. As a traveler and writer, these are the main metrics of any successful hospitality enterprise: the feeling of being seen and welcomed. It’s no surprise that I love to play host and seek out these elements in my job. Most people find Filipinos are genuine and warm, which is something I admire about our culture.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in fashion/as a creative?
Fashion is a fast-paced industry, one that requires a constant level of professionalism, punctuality, and personality. I knew I wanted to work in media when I got my first taste of the press perks while I was editor of my school paper. I received a pass to cover a local music festival, and I thought, is there anything that could be better than this?
How did you end up doing what you’re currently doing?
I started my first internship at a local newspaper when I was 15, then assisted a buyer for an e-commerce startup at 16. I ran my blog on the sidelines while exploring all my different career curiosities. The two have always worked in tandem. As my interests expanded and evolved, so did the site and the direction of my career. I’ve always loved media, and am fortunate the scope of my job can be varied.
Have you worked with many Filipinas in your career? Do you have a community of Filipinas you can turn to and collaborate with?
I didn’t have many Filipino friends growing up, but I’ve started to find them now in adulthood. I started a Kamayan dinner series while I was living in Los Angeles with friends in the industry who are craving a connection to our culture. We’ve found a lot of unique yet also universal “isms” that we experienced through our childhood, like back scratchers, the ointments our Lolas use, etc.
Are Filipinas fairly represented in the fashion and creative worlds?
I’m proud to see more Filipinas in the media, with the likes of friends like Jen Rubio on the cover of business magazines. What I would love to see more of are modern Filipino brands looking to our own culture as sources of inspiration. I often find that in Manila, people are always referencing the West as sources of inspiration and trends. But there are so many beautiful aspects of our culture that could be contextualized in a modern way.
What does your Filipina heritage mean to you? How do you stay connected to the culture and the motherland?
I’m incredibly proud to be Filipina, and come from a culture that values humble hard work and humor. To stay connected, I am hosting my birthday dinner next at a Filipino restaurant in Los Angeles before flying to Manila after. I also love to karaoke even though I’m a terrible singer. But I make up for it with passion (and deaf hearing). I understand Tagalog, but unfortunately only remember the unsavory phrases.
Do you believe in work-life balance? Or do you think it’s a myth? How do you approach managing those two elements?
I love what I do, but it’s life-consuming. I’m no expert on work-life balance, but I do listen to my body, and I’ll do anything I can to ensure I’m not fatigued or on the verge of illness. I also have always prioritized friends and family. I make sure I stay in close contact with them no matter where I am or what’s on my schedule.
What advice do you have for Filipinas looking to break into fashion and other creative spaces?
You are the architect of your own life. Curiosity and good work will always pave the way to opportunity.