In this MEGA exclusive, Michelle Dee’s stylist Ryuji Shiomitsu unveils a wardrobe crafted to mirror the vibrant diversity of the Philippines in her Miss Universe journey
Miss Universe is where the glitterati twirls and tiaras sparkle, but it’s not just the contestants basking in the limelight—it’s also the creative minds behind their ensembles. Stylist Ryuji Shiomitsu steers Michelle Dee’s fashion ship for her Miss Universe journey in El Salvador, providing us with a backstage pass to the meticulously curated wardrobe that’s as vibrant and diverse as the Philippines itself.
Balancing personal style and national pride
Shiomitsu and Dee decided to redefine the conventional pageant wardrobe, opting for what they playfully dubbed “Miss Universe Fashion Week.” The concept aimed to break free from stereotypes, offering a real wardrobe experience instead of the expected pageant attire. “The overall concept of the wardrobe for Miss Universe was to think out of the box,” he reveals. Reflecting El Salvador’s climate, each outfit was carefully crafted to resonate with Michelle’s style and the essence of the destination.
One distinctive feature of Michelle’s wardrobe is its commitment to Filipino designers. Shiomitsu explains that from outfits to accessories, they exclusively collaborated with local talents, such as Jewelmer, Francis Libiran, Vin Orias, Jaz Cerezo, and Ulysses Caragayan among others. This conscious decision not only holds the richness of Filipino design, but also presents a united effort—an embodiment of the Bayanihan spirit. “It is truly a showcase of Filipino design, ingenuity, and talent.”
Highlighting the collaborative spirit, Shiomitsu reveals that the gowns for both the Preliminary and Finals were crafted by Mark Bumgarner, promising instant iconic status. “Collaborating with Mark Bumgarner, Earl Semitara, and the whole atelier was truly amazing,” he shares. “From sketch, to initial fitting, to the finals, it was truly a masterclass of fashion design.”
Embracing the unexpected
Challenges were an ever-present companion for Shiomitsu, with time emerging as the most conspicuous hurdle. Despite the relentless ticking of the clock, the team adopted a philosophy that elevated their approach—what materialized in the Philippines was destined to take center stage internationally. This mindset underscored not only their proficiency, but also their adaptability and resourcefulness.
Shiomitsu’s favorite aspect of working with Michelle Dee is encapsulated in the calm and collected demeanor of the Miss Universe Philippines herself, something he aspires to. “It made it easy on my end to decide what look she would like.” It has made their collaboration a professional yet joyous journey. The connection they share is evident, with each fitting revealing the magic that resonates between them, recognized by the universe. “When she tries it on, there’s this aha moment.”
As Michelle Dee prepares to make her appearance at the Miss Universe 2023 pageant in El Salvador, Ryuji Shiomitsu’s perspective reveals more than just the aesthetic appeal of the wardrobe. It encompasses a nation’s essence, its cultural richness, and the surprising marvels embedded within Filipino fashion. It’s a celebration that goes beyond the runway and represents the spirit of the Philippines globally. Shiomitsu leaves fans with an enticing promise: “Expect the unexpected.”
Photos: MICHELLE DEE and RYUJI SHIOMITSU (via Instagram)
Featured Image: MICHELLE DEE (via Instagram)