VINTA’s Caroline Mangosing: Re-imagining Filipiniana

Kristina Rodulfo, Next Day Better

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'Caroline Mangosing of Toronto, Canada, juggles art and performance with an artist's eye, a business woman's mind and a community organizer's work ethic'

The following text is from New York-based Next Day Better, a content partner of Rappler’s #BalikBayan

I grew up in a community where Filipino youth only identified with their culture through delicious food, magic mics, and Manny Pacquiao. 

None of my friends spoke Tagalog, knew traditional dances and history, nor cared to ever learn. This is not an uncommon story for children of Filipino immigrants, a population of more than 10 million worldwide. Thanks to the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture, however, this is not the case in Toronto, Canada. Through fashion, Filipina Canadian designer Caroline Mangosing tries to build a stronger bridge between tradition and today’s Filipino Canadian youth.

Mangosing is the executive director of Kapisanan, a charity based in Toronto’s Kensington Market, and is also the founder of VINTA, a ready-to-wear and bespoke fashion line inspired by traditional Filipino clothing. 

She juggles the two with an artist’s eye, business woman’s mind, and a community organizer’s work ethic. On Kapisanan’s site she’s endearingly given the nicknames “The Whip,” “Sgt Doña,” and “The Tiger.” She doesn’t take her role lightly. “It better be something you are willing to dedicate your life to; it’s not easy,” Mangosing said. “This work is not just a hobby. It has to be your life’s work.” 

FILIPINIANA. Mangosing did not think to simply recreate Lola’s Maria Clara. She reimagined Filipiniana. Photo courtesy of Caroline Mangosing

One hundred percent of VINTA’s profits funnel into Kapisanan’s operations. For every Barong Tagalog or terno sold, a program connecting Filipino Canadian kids to their culture stays alive. Kapisanan grants the cultural experience I only dreamed of while growing up. There are Tagalog language classes, traditional dance opportunities, critical Filipino history programs and boundless chances for cultural expression through singing, dancing, and poetry. Aside from that, it even provides resources for artists to turn their creative dreams into financial realities with “Artrepreneur” workshops. Mangosing emphasizes the power of mentorship, citing Kapisanan’s Clutch program as her favorite.

See some of VINTA’s designs below: 

1) Canadian musical theatre darling  Mae-Anne Dionisio in the Empire Chic Maxi Terno 

2) Ma-Anne Dionisio in VINTA’s Vintage Terno

3) This piece is a part of VINTA’s 2014 collection

Clutch is a free 6-month artist and leadership development program for Filipinas aged 17-24 centered on cultural identity. The women get hands-on experience with professional artists and present a final exhibition seen by hundreds. This is Kapisanan’s signature program, one started by Mangosing and others who began at “the K” initially as volunteers. Every year, Clutch alumni come back.

Mangosing’s story at Kapisanan starts with her as a board advisor and volunteer. Her friend’s mother was on the previous board, made up of an elder generation looking to pass it on, and Mangosing was on the hunt for new opportunities after producing indie film and TV programs. Kapisanan nearly shuttered with little more to offer than a costly, empty 3,500 square foot space and no programs. She reflected on Kapisanan’s new beginnings, “I jumped on the sinking ship and turned it around….It has become my own personal challenge and journey.” She continued, “I stay here because I know that there is nothing else out there that would keep me inspired and challenged.”

Mangosing knew she had to ditch the old ways of running. Prior to being a registered charity, Kapisanan was a non-profit amidst dwindling public and private grants. “I learned that it’s good to disrupt, rebel, and be a kontrabida, because it shakes up the old ways that need changing,” she said. “I refused to change the direction of what I wanted just to be qualified for a grant. I took a very entrepreneurial approach.”

When one of the elders warned her that Kapisanan could not be run like a business, she flat out disagreed. “I am a rebel at heart, and i think that’s what made my work at Kapisanan successful.” she said.

You could see that success with the launch of VINTA in 2013 at Canada Philippine Fashion Week. She noticed a need for traditional clothing after parents came to her seeking them for school productions. Mangosing did not think to simply recreate Lola’s Maria Clara, however. She reimagined Filipiniana dressing with that same refreshing perspective that turned Kapisanan around for the better. The kind of buyer she’d hook was the second generation Filipina who has never worn any cultural clothing looking for a dress to wear at a wedding.

Her inspiration for the designs come from history – her childhood, to be exact. Growing up in the Philippines in the late 1970s and early 1980s exposed her to Imelda Marcos’ signature look. As she researched for her own designs, the former first lady kept reappearing.

“She was devastatingly chic,” Mangosing said. “But, I attribute her power harnessing to the dress she always wore. If she didn’t have the terno, I don’t think she would have been as iconic. So, I was set on bringing back the terno and sharing that power with all the Filipinas out there without the political baggage.”

Whether talking about fashion or the arts, her passion is uncompromising. It’s clear she not only sees opportunity – she sees a mission. –

Kristina Rodulfo is a NYC writer and editor with a journalist’s curiosity, novelist’s creativity, and tweeter’s perspective. Her number one passion is being a storyteller for the Filipino community. Follow her on Twitter: @KristinaRodulfo.


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