The Beauty Secrets of Model-Designers Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez and Jo Ann Bitagcol Revealed

The Beauty Secrets of Model-Designers Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez and Jo Ann Bitagcol Revealed


A heart-to-heart conversation with model-designers Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez and Jo Ann Bitagcol. How did they make the transition to their chosen careers and what’s the secret to their timeless beauty

This is an excerpt from MEGA’s May 2024 Issue Designer Profile

When did your fashion journey start, both as a model and as a designer? 

TDLG: Oh my gosh! (laughs)

JAB: 1996. Ewan ko siya! (laughs)

TDLG: 1996? I already retired! (laughs)

JAB: Retired na siya. Senyora na siya by that time. Takot kami sa kaniya. (laughs)

TDLG: Oh my gosh! (laughs) I gave birth in 1996. I retired when I got pregnant in 1995. So, my fashion journey started in the ’80s. 

JAB: ’80s talaga, Ms. Tweetie bird?

TDLG: Yeah, well.

JAB: So when I entered, a decade ka na no’n

TDLG: Yeah! Even before I joined Ford Supermodel Philippines, I was already doing some shows and a lot of print work. That’s what I did first, then TV commercials and runway shows—although not as often as I would have wanted.

JAB: Basta ako nakikita kita sa [TV series] Okay Ka, Fairy Ko (laughs)

TDLG: Yes! And in the middle of all that, I was hesitant to do the show, but then I eventually agreed. So simultaneously, I was doing a TV show, as a “comedy actress”—(laughs)

JAB: Oo, comedy siya! (laughs)

TDLG: —and working as a professional model. And then I taught myself to do this (designing) when my kids were still babies in the late ’90s. It became a business in the 2000s.

JAB: Ako rin. Transition photography mga early 2000s. The printing of photos on scarves was in 2019, then translating them into something wearable happened during the pandemic. Until now. 

How would you describe your design ideology? What’s your brand about?

JAB: I started with photographing barongs and Maria Claras. It has something to do with honoring heritage and culture. I plan to be consistent on that muna, and then we’ll see.

TDLG: I started using mixed materials, indigenous wood, and a lot of kamagong. That to me was my signature mark in jewelry. I mix it with semi-precious stones. So, that is my look: a nod to what’s Filipino. It’s a reminder that we can be modern but still touching base with what’s uniquely local and still handmade and artisanal. I started with jewelry because I wasn’t really much into accessorizing, but it was a mere expression of my creativity in the beginning. If I were to use something, this is how I would use it or like it. It had evolved into something bigger and a bit more of my lifestyle already. Whatever collection you see from my brand, it’s something that I would personally use—it has a lot of my taste, heart, and work.

JAB: Oo nga. I like that. Gusto ko rin ’yon. 

TDLG: I put so much of—

Together: —myself—

TDLG: —into it. So, when someone asks me, and I’m sure it’s very much the same with you—

JAB: Yes.

TDLG: “What’s your favorite piece?” Ang hirap! It’s like asking me, “Who among your children is your favorite?”

JAB: Yes, baby natin sila, e

TDLG: Every single piece, iisipin mo ’yon, e. Like you, di ba? Itong tela na ito [touching the sleeve of Jo Ann’s top], you have to choose the color of the thread and the zipper that suits it.

JAB: I can relate to that, yes.

TDLG: It’s a whole synergy of many different things. To me, it has remained a very personal business because I want everything to have my touch. 

How do you usually start your creative process?

TDLG: I get excited with components,  when I see stones, materials, or different grains of wood. All of a sudden, my mind starts wandering. How can I manipulate this and turn this into jewelry? It’s been done before, but I’d like to make something unique out of it. How do I combine pieces and materials together? The mixing of colors excites me a lot. I’m able to inject fun into dressing. Sometimes we become too afraid to indulge into color and instead play safe by being neutral all the time. I just want to introduce that it’s okay to have fun and to use semi-precious stones at night—it doesn’t always have to be sparkling diamonds. You have those nights when you just want to look more fun and youthful.

JAB: Wala akong pattern or formula for process. My main thing is my goal and objective for the project. From there, it will evolve into something else step by step. The process itself surprises me. You discover as you go along.

TDLG: It’s really like that creatively. Every step of the way you see opportunity. Little discoveries that can improve and translate into something you have envisioned before.

JAB: With the material, let’s say the tela, you can see, “Oh, this can flow pala this way or maybe I can reverse the design.” Things like that.

TDLG: It takes on a life of its own.

Get to know more about designers Tweetie de-Leon Gonzalez and Jo Ann Bitagcol in MEGA’s May 2024 issue, now available on ReadlyMagzter, Press Reader and Zinio.

Photographed by ARTHUR TSELISHCHEV. All clothes by JO ANN BITAGCOL. All jewelry by TWEETIE DE LEON-GONZALEZ. Creative Direction PATRICK TY. Fashion Direction RYUJI SHIOMITSU. Art Direction JONES PALTENG and BRIE VENTURA. Styling BITHIA REYES. Makeup XENG ZULUETA. Hair BRYAN EUSEBIO. Model RACHEL MIRANDA and PMAP. Sittings Editor BAM ABELLON and MARIAN SAN PEDRO. Editorial Assistant JONNIE NGO. Special thanks to UMA NOTA MANILA.

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