Michael Leyva is one of the most sought-after names in Philippine fashion. The renowned fashion designer, who is only 33 years old, has achieved great heights in his young career – creating wearable art for celebrities across the country and curating international shows in Dubai and Los Angeles to name a few.
While others dream of making a name for themselves in the fashion industry early in life, Leyva had a different career path in mind and design was never in his plans.
He graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Tourism Management and was training to become a flight attendant.
It was his older brother Brian who started his journey in fashion – a runner-up in the 2004 Philippine Fashion Design Contest and an active member of the Young Designers Association, who created the Philippine Fashion Week in 2007 and the Bench Fashion Week in 2009.
“It was my brother who influenced me. His dream was really to be a fashion designer, but my parents couldn’t afford to send him to a fashion school at that time. So what he did was apply for an academic scholarship. He is also a student-athlete who is part of the men’s volleyball team. As a result, at Saint Benilde de la Salle-College Fashion Design graduate. Arts and Design” organized by the National Museum in October.
However, when Brian tragically died in 2010, the promising young talent was robbed of his dreams. This change made him follow in his brother’s footsteps.
Despite his grief, he took on the challenge of completing the pending projects that Brian had left before his death, even without a design background.
“At first I was hesitant to do it because I didn’t know what fashion was about. I can do it with my brother’s guidance,” Leyva said, adding that Brian visited him in his dreams, which further inspired him to become a full-fledged designer.
“He was the one who inspired me to do anything to this day. I know that behind everything that is happening to me now, there is an angel guiding me throughout,” he continued.
Later, Leva took fashion courses and was able to get many clients. He has been able to design everything from wedding dresses to work uniforms for hotels, hospitals and airlines.
“I made wedding dresses. When I started in 2012, that was the opportunity that really helped me make money. [it] It was through the wedding industry as it is a sustainable business,” he shared.
He attended some fashion programs in London which made him more eager to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
“I said, even though I have clients now, I still want to study in London to get more experience in fashion. I took it as a challenge to save and study there. So that’s what I did. When I got home, I felt very proud because now I can say I have a certificate in fashion. God is good because in 2015 I started making a name for myself,” he pointed out.
Ann Curtis, Chris Aquino
Bigger opportunities came when Leva started dating celebrities like Ann Curtis and Kris Aquino.
“I had a dream to wear Anne Curtis. She is my muse – to act as a dress in my dream. She asked people around to find me – it was in 2015. I cried when I found out about this. I said. ‘Really me?’ She, Ann Curtis – she’s at the top of the industry. She’s one of the nicest people I know.
Leyva’s name gained more prominence in 2015 when he was able to design Chris Aquino’s Filipina dress during former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“They are also looking for me, who is Michael Leyva? The first day I was called, I first went to church and said, ‘Lord, I hope I am not the first and last for Mrs. Kris Aquino. Because she may not love me later. After that, that was my last day with her. She is very fashionable. She is known as, and wearing my creation for SONA is a big deal, because at that time she will be considered the first lady, so all eyes will be on her,” recalls Leyva.
7- Eric Santos gives a rousing performance of ‘This Is The Moment’.
6- Regine Velasquez-Alcasid ended the show with a rousing performance of ‘I Believe’.
Ann Curtis – Leyva’s close friend and one of his first famous clients – in a Philippine collection made of five-cent coins
Following in the footsteps of his late brother, Brian Leyva, who gave him the show, fate led him to take on the country’s handsome personality.
Vissi Ganda in Lace Wedding Dress with Romantic Veil.
Pia Wurtzbach in a gold bare midriff dress
“So I presented designs, and she chose one. She wanted it to be made of pina and some kind of color. Pina is just a natural color. But she’s the type of person who won’t stop until I know it’s perfect. I painted that pina fabric, she loved it and she thanked me, because it opened up so many opportunities for me. It became history for me. She was named best dressed for that SONA and I was in the news. Since then, she became very close to me, she became my food,” he said proudly.
In addition to SONA, another dress that Aquino has made is He is at the premiere of “Crazy Rich Asians” in Hollywood in August 2018.
His achievements in his young life were more than imaginable and he attributes it all to his late brother. Cause he paid tribute to Bryan during his 10th anniversary grand runway show on October 10th.
Titled “Hiraya: Isang Dekada ng Aming Pagmamahal at Pangarap,” the show took place at Manila’s landmark National Museum of the Philippines, a perfect setting for the objects, which are true works of art.
A truly emotional scene, “Hiraya” — a Filipino word meaning “the fruit of one’s hopes, dreams and ambitions — began with Leyva looking back over the past 10 years of his life as a designer, recalling the challenges he faced throughout.” The process, from his initial struggles as a budding designer to when inspiration was scarce.
He also remembered his many accomplishments in life – all for his loving family, supportive friends and clients, and of course, his late brother.
Marking the beginning of the event, singer Eric Santos performed “This is the Time”. Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach looked like a goddess in an embellished gown by Leiva, who headlined the style festival that unfolded on the runway.
What followed were a number of white couture pieces with boning details and sculptural dresses. Soon, his jewel-toned creations with fringe details, delicate floral embellishments and brush patterned pieces appeared on the runway.
In one of the best moments of the evening, TV host VC Ganda stepped out of the museum’s Tree of Life elevator in a stunning white wedding dress with a chapel-length train and a romantic veil. The style nightmare continued with a series of pastel ball gowns, glittering ensembles and dramatic costumes so immaculate everyone moved and applauded the rooms.
For the final look, actress Ann Curtis wore a Brian Filipinana design made from a five-cent coin, a piece he submitted in the 2006 Young Designers competition.
Singer Regine Velasquez-Alcacid gave a rousing rendition of “I Believe,” ending the spectacular performance.
For Leyva, the show was not only about his accomplishments over the past decade, but also about celebrating the legacy his late brother left on the local fashion scene.
“I was very emotional because what happened was very dream-like reality. My brother was in the LED screen and I was in person. We both finished the show,” Leyva shared.
His journey to get to where he is now has not been a walk in the park.
When asked what was his most memorable moment in those 10 years, he said, “I remember when I couldn’t afford a car. And I have to deliver a dress to an executive village in Makati. Hindi pwedeng makapasok anga taxi. So. I have to walk from the door to that big client’s house. Pagbalik ganun pa rin lalakarin ko ulit. Walang mga jeep or bus stations. So my experiences were tiring but I’m grateful for those experiences. If it wasn’t for those experiences, I wouldn’t be here today. That’s why I like my work to be valued and respected. It made me stronger.
Finally, not only here, he was able to show his natural design skills, his determined spirit, his brother as his constant inspiration all over the world.
Leyva’s work is a true testament to the saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
“Hard work is the key. It’s important to love what you do because you never get tired.
“There has never been a day in my life in the last 10 years that my kuya Brian started Ngzisisi Ako and Ituloi. If it wasn’t for Brian Leyva, I know Michael Leyva wouldn’t exist. I hope I did. Proud,” he concluded.
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