The beauty queen is no longer just a muse, but also a style visionary

In one of her last moments as Miss Grand International Philippines 2019, Aya Abesamis wore a stunning multi-colored one-shoulder dress. Inspired by Muslim heritage, the gown by Filipino designer Renee Salud has a simple silhouette that let’s its print be the focus. For an elegant touch, it has a dramatic sleeve that dances in her every move and turn.

Aya Abesamis wearing her mom’s evening gown in Miss Universe 1984

What makes this dress stand out is not just because of its inspiration or its vibrant details, but the history behind it. The dress was first worn by Aya’s mom, Desiree Verdadero, in the Miss Universe 1984 pageant where she was hailed as third runner-up. As someone who’s born in the world of beauty and style, Aya uses fashion not just to dazzle but to mark special moments in her life. And in this case, she paid tribute to her mom’s legacy and hers as well being a proud Binibini.

As her reign has come to an end, Aya is taking her love and passion for fashion to another level as she becomes a fashion designer. Through her brand AAYA, the beauty queen from Pasig City fulfills her dream of crafting beautiful clothes that bring confidence and empower women.

“AAYA is Aya A. in reverse, in Japanese it means ‘beautiful patterns of fabric.’ It was established just last year in October,” she tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Ever since I was young, I was always fond of fashion and the arts. Seeing my parents’ history behind it all, I, too, went through that field of being surrounded and exposed with fashion and pursuing my love for the arts.”

Although she was first accepted by a fashion design school, she decided to pursue a different creative study by taking up fine arts in the University of Sto. Tomas. While this has set her off to a new path, life has its way of bringing her back to the field of fashion as she became a model and a designer for a shoe boutique in New York.

“I saw myself evolving and loving fashion even more aside from just being a model canvas to showcase it on the runway and on camera,” Aya muses. “The way I look at clothes, from the texture and quality to colors, size, price, and also on how I would dress myself and help style my friends, it was definitely something different. I am now slowly studying and being mentored more about it as I go through the process of designing my collections.”

Currently, AAYA has produced two collections. Its debut line features holiday and resort pieces that play with Asian art and culture. Cheongsam, obi belts, and oriental embroideries are made contemporary with modern skin-showing cuts, Western fringes, and playful proportions. The second one, a spring-summer line, stills plays with Eastern dressing heritage. But this time, it has a ’70s vibe with its punk glam pieces, bright dresses that are fit for disco, and garbs in psychedelic prints.

AAYA’s debut collection pieces
Pieces from AAYA’s spring-summer line

“AAYA is an expression of imagination in beautiful patterns of fabric. It replicates places and history that resonate with me. It is a mix of the Asian and Western cultures presented through one of a kind pieces made always with love,” she says. “We believe in slow-fashion, this is why we only make our pieces upon order. Collections are worked through certain seasons, but right now we are trying to explore custom made eclectic pieces.”

Contrary to what many might have in mind, Aya’s style for her brand is completely different from her aesthetic in pageants. AAYA is more versatile and on the risky side compared to the very womanly fashion in beauty contests, according to the designer. Doing it for almost a year now, Aya learned that “the universe will guide you to what’s for you and what you’re passionate about even if it takes years.”

“The struggles and non-stop brain storming through limited supply during this crucial time, it is all worth it and I can’t wait for more ventures to come for this brand and dream to grow,” Aya says.

“Fashion for me is a never-ending cycle of creation and imagination put into a style and form of clothing,” she adds. “The way I see fashion through our post-pandemic world would be something versatile—a need that adapts but is always in style.”

See more of Aya’s designs @___aaya__ on Instagram.

Source: Manila Bulletin (