Cover Evangelista wears Hermès Couvertures Et Tenues De Jou Carré double face twill and Michael Leyva orange puffed-shoulder mini dress | Mirror from Moss Design House

Style icon Heart Evangelista speaks about how the power of fashion and style can leave a lasting impression

She walks into a room and instantly makes her strong presence felt. There is that air of elegance that radiates from her, one that runs uncontrived. This is exactly what fashion means for Heart Evangelista, or Love Marie Ongpauco Escudero in real life. “Fashion for me is self-expression. It is a very powerful weapon that when you step into a room and without saying anything, people [in that room] kind of know already who you are. It really makes a huge difference,” she says.

This actress, philanthropist, social media darling and visual artist, who has appeared on countless glossies including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, movies, television shows and just recently, on two billboards in Times Square where she’s seen proudly showcasing Philippine-made bags is, no doubt, one of the icons of fashion and style in the country.

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Her style is easy to grasp—classic but never boring; funky but never over the top; safe but always on point.

Taking cues from style icons such as Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Onassis and Mira Duma, as well as Filipino lovelies like Dawn Zulueta and Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez, her personal style evokes timeless elegance with an edgy flair. “I like to accentuate the classic look. I love my suits. I like how a blazer can perfectly pair with a nice skirt. In a way, it’s kind of timeless and not just about the trends. When you look back, you’re not ashamed of what you see because it isn’t dated,” Evangelista explains.

For her, there are three pieces that you should always have in your closet: a pair of nude pumps, which can give an illusion of elongated legs; a fitted blazer that can up your game all the time; and a nice pair of white slacks. She emphasised that there is no need for too many items in your wardrobe if you just find the key items that you can mix and match as well as those that never go out of style. This gorgeous lady who is on US Harper’s Bazaar’s “real crazy rich Asians” list in 2018 admits she has a luggage filled with essential clothing as well as a hanger of designer blazers that are ready to be pulled out in case there’s a fire or an earthquake. “My dad’s house actually burnt, and I was so traumatised that I always think about that. In fact, I have all my tweed jackets in one whole hanger just in case. I’ll carry all of those out and I would definitely save some of my favourite bags. I always think of the worst, so I do have a suitcase underneath a particular cabinet, and I dump it all in there,” she shares. 

When it comes to bags, shoes and jewellery, Evangelista advises to invest in the pieces that endure the test of time. “If you hold on to the right pieces it’s not just going to last a lifetime [but] it’s something you can pass on,” she says. She started her bag and shoe collection with her hard-earned money early on and is happy that she was able to secure iconic pieces that she can still enjoy to this day. “Even if you are grey and old, holding away a black Hermès Birkin is still so elegant looking,” she says.

(Related: Hermès Fall-Winter 2021: The New 3-in-1 Birkin and Hermèsway Bags)

Growing up she already knew that fashion has a special place in her heart. “Ever since I can remember, I would always enjoy dressing up, getting into my mum’s clothes and making her skirts into an off-shoulder blouse,” she says, recalling that this fondness has brought her to a lot of trouble including a time when she wore her mum’s high heels, fell off the stairs and bumped her head onto a glass table. “I just love, love, love dressing up. It’s something I truly enjoy.” This explains why you would always see her in her usual polished, glamorous look—be it on TV, in the grocery or elsewhere. She jokes, “The only time you’d see me dressed down is if I’m really sick; but even if I’m in the hospital, you will still see me wearing my high heels.”

In her youth, Evangelista had the rare chance of earning her own money when she began her stint in the entertainment industry. “I started working early so I did get to experience shopping for myself. When I turned 26 or 27, that’s when I really started to shop but not as much. Now, I allow myself to purchase a bag or two a year. I’d rather wait [and] save for something I really like. Now I go for quality instead of quantity,” she relates.

With her line of work, it is a must to be seen wearing some of the most covetable pieces and, in most cases, pieces that she personally invests in. But how does her husband, the former senator and currently the representative of the first district of Sorsogon, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, takes this? “He does understand that it’s [part of] my job and that I also work with a lot of brands. What’s really nice about him and in which I consider myself very lucky is that he’s very open,” she shares, adding that they, as a couple, actually do an annual “meeting” to see what they both bought for the year. “I feel very stressed every time [we do this], but you know it’s a good balance.”

Although she auditioned for the role of Araminta Lee in the blockbuster film Crazy Rich Asians, she cites the character of Astrid Leong, admitting, “I can definitely relate to her and how she hides her purchases [giggles].”

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Optimistic about the Philippine fashion scene, she says, “Our designers have always been very good. The nice part about this is that the world is definitely opening up like it’s a big stage and the whole world is watching. So now Filipino designers are given a chance to be seen and to be featured [globally].” Case in point: her recent billboard appearance was for a brand called Ia’s Threads, a sustainable line of bags made in the Philippines and designed by Ia Faraoni, an award-winning Filipina designer and entrepreneur based in the US. “To see that and to have a billboard [in New York] for my very first time, which features Filipino-made bags, It’s just ‘wow’! It’s a time to celebrate our nationality,” she enthuses with pride. While she is the face of many international brands, Evangelista adores the works of Filipino designers such as her good friend Mark Bumgarner, Inno Sotto, Joey Samson, Cheetah Rivera, Cary Santiago and Martin Bautista. “My list of favourite Filipino designers can go on and on. I think our Filipino designers are going to do so much better in the coming years because there’s just more opportunity and spotlight these days,” she says.

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Speaking of local, Evangelista proudly talks about Maison Love Marie, her very own project that aims to promote the artisans of Sorsogon. “When I lived in Sorsogon for two months, [I witnessed] how they were doing so much [crafts] for other provinces and for export to other countries. I want to put the spotlight on them and let people know that they’re making these things. It’s really more of a collaboration because they’re the ones who know what they’re doing and what they can and can’t do. I just work around with their talents,” she says. Sorsogon is the southernmost province of Luzon and is known for handicrafts made of abaca and seagrass as well as for pili nuts and its derivatives such as edible and beauty oils and other delicacies. “Pili is the pearl of Sorsogon. There’s so much you can do with it,” she says proudly.

In the American reality television show, Bling Empire, Anna Shay once said, “Don’t let the clothes wear you. Don’t let the skateboard skate you. Don’t let the car drive you. Don’t be impressed by things.” Evangelista couldn’t agree more, saying: “I love Anna and how she is very low-key. These are just things. It’s a blessing. It’s part of our life and I do enjoy what I have. But it’s not exactly what makes my soul shine.”

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So, are we seeing her in Hollywood any time soon?

“Hollywood is a destiny. It should be written in the clouds for you,” she wraps up.

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