Few people would have the courage to give up a comfortable job and enter a field in which they have absolutely no experience. But Tippi Ocampo took the risk, changed careers from advertising creative director to fashion designer, put up a successful fashion house of her own, and never looked back.
[related|post]Ocampo, who was then the creative director of a Metro Manila-based advertising agency, was about to be promoted in 1999 when she decided to take a much-needed sabbatical. Feeling particularly restless in her job, she thought that a vacation could give her some respite and help her decide what to do next.
A DREAM, NOW A BUSINESS?
All along she had dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, but now, in mid-career, she realized that she was nowhere near to realizing that dream. Then out of the blue came news that revived her spirits. A friend and fellow designer, Patrice Ramos-Diaz, told her about a local competition that would prequalify participants to a major fashion design competition in Paris, the 1999 Concours International des Jeunes Createurs de Mode. Knowing Ocampo’s design talents, Diaz suggested to her to give the competition a try.
To prepare her for the local competition, the organizers, the Fashion Design Council of the Philippines (FDCP), made Ocampo undergo training with such fashion design notables as Inno Sotto, Pepito Albert, Lulu Tan Gan, and Jojjie Lloren. Under their guidance, Ocampo used P8,000 of her personal savings to buy the materials and created her very first custom-designed gown.
Ocampo was chosen as one of the five representatives of the Philippines in the Paris competition. She did not win a prize in the competition, but the experience of pitting her talents with other fashion designers from all over the world changed everything. It gave her such a strong adrenaline rush that it was no longer possible for her to go back to her old job. As she herself puts it, the experience made fashion designing her passion for life.
She recalls that moment: “I was at a crossroads. I had to choose between going back to something I was used to, was good at, and was well paid for, and trying my hand at something really new and exciting. I chose the latter because I figured that I would be regretting it more if I never even gave it a chance.”
Because the Paris competition was a prestigious event that received a lot of attention, Ocampo’s participation in it greatly boosted her fashion-designing career. She was not only invited to join organizations like the FDCP itself and the Young Designers Guild (YDG) but was also asked to participate in shows that enjoyed extensive media coverage. And major glossy magazines such as Preview and Cosmopolitan featured her and her fashion designs in their pages.
“Falling upward is the only way I can describe the succession of events after the Paris competition, and I say this because they weren’t part of any business plan at all,” she recalls. “It was a very humbling experience to be at the receiving end of all the opportunities and the many chances to learn that came my way.”