The designer and his muses

Even after a multi-city series of shows in Italy, there was no stopping the tenacious Renee Salud from unleashing another sensational collection in Manila. On 25 October, the “Philippine Ambassador of Fashion to the World” presented Renee Salud X Thai Silk at the Dusit Thani Hotel in collaboration with the Thai Embassy and the charity group Beyond Beauty.

Beyond Beauty

Beyond Beauty is a barkada composed of the country’s most beautiful women, fashion designers and beauty experts.

The iconic beauties include Miss Universe 1975 fourth runner-up Chiqui Brosas, Mutya Ng Pilipinas Tourism 1977 Emma Yuhico, Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez, Miss Universe 1984 third runner-up Desiree Verdadero, Binibining Pilipinas International 1995 Gladys Dueñas and Miss Universe 2005 Miss Photogenic Gionna Cabrera.

“We decided to put a deeper purpose into our get-togethers by doing outreach projects. We just want to share our success and go beyond ourselves,” explained Binibining Pilipinas Universe 1979 Dang Cecilio.

Binibining Pilipinas Universe 1985 Joyce Ann Burton added: “Beyond Beauty is not really a formal group with business papers, although at this point we believe it will lead to that. We are just a barkada of beauties who want to share our 3 T’s with those in need — Time, Treasure and Talents!”

Mama Renee, as the legendary designer is endearingly called, discovered, nurtured and mentored all these awesome women and many more as they raised our flag in beauty competitions abroad. Wearing elegant black ensembles designed by Mama Renee, the beauty queens were joined by designer Nardie Presa and beauty guru Teng Roma in honoring Mama Renee at the opening of the fund-raising show.

The muses

Socialites and socio-civic advocates also paraded down the runway, all clad in Salud’s Thai Silk couture. As Mama Renee’s muses, they stood as living symbols of grace, empathy and philanthropy.

The remarkable women include Jessie Maloles, Mrs. International Philippines 2014; Charo Calalo 2019- 2020 Mrs. Universe Philippines; Mags Cue, fashion-boutique businesswoman; Sheralene Shirata – Noble Queen of the Universe Philippines; and Rose Tolentino Santiago, entrepreneur.

A young and refreshing addition to this lineup is teen beauty queen Karina Aliya Afandi, an Indonesian sensation who considers Manila her second home and modeling workplace. A discovery of Mama Renee, Karina is being trained by supermodel-beauty queen Patty Betita.

“At a very young age she has a very good runway walk. She walks like a professional model, knows her turns, her poses and is very comfortable in front of the camera and a live audience,” Betita enthuses.

“In terms of what she needs to improve on, I guess over time and as she gets into her 20s she will develop her own style and become more adventurous with her wardrobe and explore different looks so she can really be a well-rounded model and beauty queen,” adds a beaming Betita.

“At 13, she’s really amazing! She’s got confidence and she’s in control. She already knows how to navigate the runway so she has a bright future should she decide to become a professional in modeling,” reinforces Mama Renee. “But since she’s young and hasn’t grown to her full height yet, which is an asset as a ramp mannequin, Karina can pursue a career as a commercial and editorial model. She has what it takes — the attitude, the looks and the motivation.”

Teenage overachiever

Karina is currently in junior high school at Elyon School Surabaya, Indonesia. She won the title Putri Anak Indonesia Budaya 2022, or Princess Kid Indonesia Heritage 2022 for below 14 years old category.

“My duties as the titleholder were to educate young generations to give more attention and appreciation towards our Indonesian heritage. I believe what I have done might have inspired lots of young people my age, even though I feel like my reign was too short. I feel that I still have to accomplish so much more in the future to promote Indonesian culture,” Karina explains.

She is also deeply focused on her anti-drug advocacy: “My duties mainly are to promote the anti-drug campaign to the youth and to educate them about the danger of using drugs at an early age. The drug problem has become more serious these days among the youth since more and more establishments that are used for drug transactions are being promoted openly through social media.”

She has had plenty of fun and amazing experiences during her time being Putri Anak Indonesia Budaya 2022: “I met new and interesting people in media, fashion, politics and diplomacy. I have been visiting new places all around Indonesia, ones that I have never been to before. I also attended lots of interesting, educational and glamorous events in my country and in the Philippines.”

Karina will not be joining any beauty pageants for a while. When she reaches 17 years old, however, she might be looking towards some beauty pageants. In the meantime, she will still do what she loves to do the most, which is modeling and acting in movies.

She also just started to learn how to design clothes, studying fabrics and learning how the fashion industry operates. She also dreams of having her own fashion label someday.

“There are no major differences between Indonesian and the Philippine fashion shows in terms of how they are conducted. What makes them different for me personally are the people, different languages, different cultures. But everyone in both countries is very kind, open-minded, supportive and easy to mingle with,” Karina says.

“I always love everything about the Philippines, especially the food, the people and the culture. I think I have almost tried all different kinds of Filipino cuisine. My favorite place in the Philippines is Palawan, a place that my family and I visited in 2019. It is indeed the most beautiful island in the world. I haven’t been to Batanes and I’m really looking forward to visiting the place,” the excited teener shares.

Of her wonderful and unforgettable turn as a muse, a grateful Karina gushes: “Mama Renee is an absolutely astonishing designer whom I have admired since the day I met him. His show was amazing, and I couldn’t thank him enough for my participation as one of his muses! Because of this, I have met and have been introduced to some important people in the Philippine fashion scene.”