Designer Spotlight: Domz Ramos
Sometimes the best things that happen to us are dreams we’ve never had. That’s the beautiful reality of Domz Ramos, the official swimsuit designer of Binibining Pilipinas – a distinction that many designers only dream of. Fashion designer was never in his plans growing up but this is where life has taken him.
On May 11, Domz Ramos presented his collection at the Luxe Summer Fashion 2019 “Best of the Islands” in Austin, Texas. In a Facebook post after the show, Domz said: “Dream big and believe that God will make a way.”
A quick journey through from his childhood to the present clearly shows why Domz not only believes in this but has truly lived it.
Young gay boy in the city
Even though he never dreamed of becoming a designer, pageantry was always close to the heart of the eldest son of Eugenio and Victoria Ramos. When asked how many siblings he has, Domz jokes, “Three boys. Actually 2 boys and 1 girl and I’m the eldest.”
Domz’s family is rooted in Taguig. Even his great grandparents lived in Taguig. He said that during the holidays, not having provincial roots meant they had no province to visit for vacations unlike other families.
Domz said that his fondest memory about his childhood was when he was accepted as an altar boy. It wasn’t quite the answer I expected from him.
He shared in a mix of English and Filipino: “Our church was only 5 houses from the church. I applied but I thought they wouldn’t accept me because I’m gay. But I was happy when I was accepted. Up to high school I was an altar boy. Later on, I became a lector. I’m very religious and active in church.”
But Domz's more flamboyant side was never too far away. ”When I was in kindergarten, my cousins and I reenact the Miss Universe pageant. Yun swimwear ko (My swimwear) was made of plastic bags and I cut it out. I was it in Grade 2 in 19tralala!”
As a young boy, he loved playing with, you guessed it, dolls.
“I grew up with my Lola and she let me. My mom kasi worked abroad. Ako kasi maka-lola ako and siya rin ang nagbibigay sa akin.” (I'am a lola's boy and she was who provided for me.)
At an age when many young children struggle with finding their identity and feeling a sense of belonging, Domz was fortunate to have this awareness early on in life – partly because of his strength of character that recognized who he was and was comfortable in just being himself. More importantly, he had family who loved him unconditionally and encouraged him. Of course, it helped that he was a well behaved child who was active in church.
He happily shared, ”From the beginning, I felt accepted. I think it was because they did not see anything wrong with it because I was active in church. They knew me and saw me in church every Sunday. I knew the concept of girl and beki. But I never never really dressed up. I only placed a towel on my head and pretended I had long hair.”
The Road to Fashion
One look at Domz today and it would be hard to imagine him in an industry other than fashion. But that wasn’t his career path. His emphathic nature led him to a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from La Salle Dasmarinas. Like many fresh graduates, the priority was to be immediately employed and start earning money. So Domz ended up working as a call center agent.
He knew that this wasn’t his life path and a heartbreak was the impetus for him to apply for a one year work visa to Singapore. Like many young Filipinos, Domz tried his luck overseas and worked at the airport for a year before returning to Manila.
Upon his return, Domz recalled: “For about one year, I wasn’t doing anything. Then when I visited my aunt who was a vice president in Mossimo and told me to apply. I told her ‘Anong gagawin ko dyan (What will I do there), I don’t even know retail or marketing?’ So she put in in merchandising, which include visual displays. Although I was interested in clothes, I became more interested because we change the mannequins' clothes. After that, I resigned."
"At that time, I was watching Rachel Zoe. Wow, meron palang (there was) fashion styling. And I researched and found a course in FIP (Fashion Institute of the Philippines). That’s how it started and I took up Fashion Styling in FIP.”
The job hardly paid the bills. Domz was collaborating with various groups and people for about a year for free. He thought to himself, “Mamumulubi ako nito. Iniisip ko nga babalik na lang ako sa corporate world. Luckily, before a year naka book ako ng isang malaking campaign which was with Hanabishi.”
(I was going broke. I though of going back to the corporate world. Luckily, within a year, I was able to book one big campaign which was Hanabishi.)
Bb Pilipinas years
Domz fondly recalled: “I never dreamed of being a designer. Ang gusto ko lang maging stylist ng (I just wanted to be a stylist for) Bb. Pilipinas. As you know, it’s so hard to get into Bb. Pilipinas. In 2016, we did a shoot with Yvethe [Yvethe Marie Santiago, Bb. Pilipinas Suprational 2014] for swimwear. Nakita ni Sir Gines [Enriquez of BPCI] and they talked to Yvethe. He asked to meet with me and if I can you bring me a sample? I met with BPCI but they didn’t say anything after the meeting. I thought hindi approved. But after two days, I got a message ‘Domz, please come to the office so that we can sign the contract.’”
Domz remembers the first time he saw his creation on the Bb. Pilipinas stage.
“During the press presentation, I cried because I never dreamed of it but it was given to me. When the first candidate came out, I was nervous because the swimsuit might malfunction or something might fall off. But in the muddle of it, I was already teary-eyed. I realized that even if you didn't dream of it, if it's meant for you, it'll be given to you. When I saw my swimsuits on the Binibini stage, I told myself that nothing should change and that I should remain humble."
The 2016 pageant saw his first collaboration with BPCI.
Since then, he has had the privilege of dressing up all the Binibini queens and candidates. When asked if he has any favorites, Domz said, “Maxine was memorable because she was kind. She never complained. Another is Rachel Peters. She's quiet and she's nice. I admire her because she has substance and presence."
Domz says that he makes sure that the swimsuit designs for Bb. Pilipinas are flattering for every body type. When asked what his advice is for the everyday woman picking out a swimsuit, he said, “If kung feel mo yun swimwear, just wear it. No one can tell you na hindi. Kung feeling mo carry mo, then don’t be afraid of wearing it. Sexy for me is not just with the body. It’s your confidence and belief in yourself.”
DR Swim’s 2019 swimwear design inspiration for the Press Presentation were cherry blossoms that embody lightness, femininity, and beauty. For the swimsuit photoshoot, DR Swim decided on a high fashion concept featuring animal prints and accessorized looks, ditching tradition and pushing for less conventional designs.
When asked about his expactations for this year’s crop of beauties, he says, “I always believe in Filipinas and the Binibinis. They are always good and the best. I’m not expecting anything but just happy that they will be winning the crowns, regardless of the title. Yun to be a Binibini itself is already enough.”
DR Swim and the future
Although Binibining Pilipinas is the main pageant that DR Swim supplies to, he is able to provide swimwear to other regional pageants throughout the country. For now, DR Swim doesn't have a retail shop.
Domz said, “My swimwear is really for pageants and the only time you can experience wearing DR Swim is if you join a pageant. We don’t replicate designs. I’m happy that my business is with pageants. But I also give 20% of my proceeds to charity. Although, in the future, I might consider ready to wear swimsuits. Meron mga (There are) offers but I want to take it slow. For sure, it will be another brand but not DR Swim.”
When working with the various pageant organizers nationwide, Domz said: “I ask first the organization what their requirements are, what their color requirements are. Then I will look for fabrics and from there, I will design. I order my fabrics in China and meron special print which is exclusively for Binibini. I supply to alot of local big pageants like Bacolod, Romblon, Mindoro, Pangasinan, Dumaguete, many. I always request to have fittings at least a day before. Gusto kong siguraduhin tama yun fit (I want to make sure that fit is right).”
When he is at provincial gigs, one of his other responsibilities is usually to be a judge. When Domz arrives at these events, he doesn’t disappoint. But you’d be mistaken if you think that his frivolity is merely out of vanity. Let’s just say it is frivolity with a purpose.
“Usually, parang naging trademark ko na siya. Everytime I become a judge, their first requirement is to be “fasyown”. They were telling me that there were a lot of gays in their community waiting for me. So, in a way ayaw ko (I don't want) to disappoint. Yun parang role model at inspiration ka din. Kasi one time, may nagsabi sa akin “Pwede pala kahit beki can you can judge a beauty pageant. (Because one time, someone told me, 'Even if you're gay, you can judge a beauty pageant),” Domz shared.
He continued, “I’ve been receiving alot of messages that they are inspired by me. Ako kasi (For me), I reply to them kahit busy ako at hindi ko kilala lalo na yun mga bata (even if I'm busy and I don't know the kid). Kasi I want to be inspire. I keep on telling them na mag-aral ng mabuti para paglaki mo maging respected ka at may purpose sa buhay (I keep on telling them to study well so that when they grow up, you will be respected and you have a purpose in life).”
The blessings that came his way whave been tremendous and Domz and paying it forward. It wasn’t an easy path to success. But then again, is there ever an easy one?
But it was his very own path that he followed. It was a series of life changing events that led from one thing to another. But it was Domz’ willingness to accept new challenges and enter new doors of opportunities that eventually brought him the success he enjoys today. — Rappler.com
Voltaire has 10 years experience in the fashion industry. He previously worked with a luxury clothing and accessories brand in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated magna cum laude from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, major in Fashion Design. He also holds a BS in Applied Economics and BS in Marketing from DLSU. He is now doing real estate but finds ample spare time to pursue his passions.