This Student Designer Created a Heart Evangelista-Approved Bag

This Student Designer Created a Heart Evangelista-Approved Bag


Reese Collins Latonio gives MEGAStyle all the details about the Bow Bag that captured Heart Evangelista’s attention—and the rest of the world. 

In the fashion scene today, a slew of emerging designers keeps us interested, inspired, and constantly guessing. These bold and strong new voices often are still beginning their fashion journey, releasing and putting out unconventional and captivating designs meant to upend the industry. There’s no doubt they’re worth keeping an eye on, especially when Heart Evangelista, a global fashion icon, approves of said designs. Reese Collins Latonio, a student designer, has begun to embrace and take up space in the local fashion scene—a sentiment embodied by the Bow Bag.

RELATED: The Best Travel Bags For Men, Depending on the Destination

The designer

Collins is a junior from the University of Philippines Diliman taking up BS Clothing Technology. Hailing from a science high school, he shares that taking a step into the fashion industry was like navigating uncharted waters. Unfamiliar, yet explorative.  “I moved away from the formulaic and empirical aspect of science to what is often considered its diametric opposition in art, and began to understand the importance behind creative freedom and self-expression. The last three years have just really been about discovering myself and the impact I want to make in the fashion industry,” he says. Coming into the program from the province, the young designer also reveals he barely knew how to draw and sew—but the desire to learn and continuously take another step out of his shell keeps him going.

Reese Collins Latonio in his own creation for his sewing and branding class final project

At fifteen, fashion was already on the vision board for Collins—garments are physical components touched by the most visionary of minds, but nothing compares to the feeling that the creation evokes. As a transmasculine designer who grew up in Leyte, the young designer shares that fashion has been an integral part of his character. “Being transmasculine, I recognized how it shaped the way someone looked at themselves, their self-worth or dare I say how they live life. Fashion is a choice that people make everyday, and I want to help people make that choice to feel good about themselves. Also, I think having a personal love for and connection to what you do makes the world a much brighter and more colorful place.”

“I really am just a boy with a dream and a portable sewing machine.”

Reese Collins Latonio

Like all creative pursuits, what’s most rewarding for Collins is seeing an idea come into fruition by his own hand—even when it fails. Being surrounded by peers and mentors who emanate the same passion, sureness of self and skill, and love for a craft also keeps his fire alive. “The humanity of it is captivating, where there’s this recognition of being more than your worst piece of work—that everything, so as it is touched by your hand, is magical and loved,” he says.

The antithesis of it, however, makes that intense fire to produce something so erratic at times. Thinking and inventing are two different things, two different processes, and when there are people involved who don’t see the same vision as you do, that’s when the ridges start to show. “I take a break, then I’m back at it again,” he tells MEGA Style. “And usually I still end up loving it. I consider myself very lucky to have a flame that has yet to burn out, something I wish won’t ever happen, but I believe it’s a must in this industry to know when to take breaks and stick up for yourself.”

The design philosophy

There’s a certain beauty attached to the ebb and flow of design—no creation is alike. Each design incorporates not only the professional expertise or skill level of a designer, but also an essential part of his personality and character. Their philosophy serves as the primary driving force, the foundation of any successful endeavor, and the anchoring point for every setback. For Collins, it’s this: “Fashion is more than just the clothes you put on your body. It’s a story, a tale—in my classes, I get to learn the various subcultures that exist in fashion and the resonance it finds in the people who choose to participate in it. You can see it sometimes in the conceptualization of my work, where I have a track record of using concept ideas to express in my personal collections.”

Collins posing with his own handmade picnic blanket-basket 

To become conscious about yourself as a creative means taking responsibility for the act of your own creation. “I tend to gravitate to designers and collections whose theatrics carry the show like Thom Browne or John Galliano, who view fashion as a medium for storytelling and a canvas for ideas,” he tells MEGA Style. “There’s so much skill needed to sum up worlds of history and folklore into a draped garment or a tailored suit, a talent I wish to work on until I possess. To me, a collection that showcases technical skill is good, but a story is what makes it great.”

Collins also touches on how fashion is a tangible safe space that grounds a person; that it’s intimate, personal, and contains multitudes. This particular form of expression has allowed him to become more comfortable in his transmasculinity, to break the glass of who people expected him to be and find that out for himself. “It’s a language that speaks to everyone who is as fluent as they make themselves. It transcends boundaries. That’s the way I’ll always view fashion, because that’s how I fell in love with it.”

The Bow Bag

Born from leftover leatherette scraps, Collins put together his first commercial baby—the Bow Bag that Heart Evangelista personally loved. A simple and quick project, but the motivation for the design makes it all the more special: “As a transmasculine person, I wanted to try and gain confidence to reconnect with my femininity. Around the same time, I even made myself my first ever skirt to help further that objective.” Consequently, in contrast to the femininity of the bag, the leather is Collins’s logo, the first piece of fashion he ever tried on that made him feel like a man. The statement of the bow itself? The designer tells MEGA Style that the femininity of the coquette aesthetic is a safe space for him to discover that. The mixture of the leather material and the bow birthed this project.

The original Bow Bag in red

The original Bow Bag is red, and closet staples cream and black became a standard for pre-orders. Collins also shares that a limited edition lime green is underway and he’s currently looking into a brown, as those are his personal color preferences as well. “The pink version of the bag actually went viral too with 100k views and I thought that was a lot already so imagine how shocked I was over 1.3M views with Heart and the love she showed my bag,” he shares.

The Bow Bag in pink

When asked about his reaction to Heart’s interest and enthusiasm in his creation, Collins admits he was scared and almost cried. When the star came to discuss her influence and expertise in the luxury fashion industry to Collins’s class, he thought it was the perfect opportunity to “gift her a bag I created myself to show appreciation for sharing her insight on a world I quite frankly know barely anything about. I was absolutely in shock with how sweet she was about it,” he quotes.


an absolute pinch me moment !! hearing @Heart Evangelista compliment my bag and even want to wear it around already when i just gave it was so precious to me i can’t believe she loves it. thank you so much heart for your support 🥹 this is the leatherette maxi bow bag in cream !! the waiting list is available on my instagram, but you can otherwise dm me for it !! #heartevangelista #bowbag #coquette #leather #leatherette #leatherbag #handmade #smallbusiness #commission

♬ Jungle Back on 74 – Shay’s Dance Archive

Collins shares how overwhelming the whole experience was, calling it a ‘pinch me’ moment and a rush of adrenaline. “She was extremely nice about it, and even offered compliments while showing it to the team, to the class and to the camera. I tried to keep it for her so that she could bring it with her when she left, but she just truly wanted to wear it. That’s what struck me the most, I think—that she really was joyful seeing the gift because she was looking at my own personal maroon bag. Knowing she had already set her sights on my Bow Bag before I even gave her one of her own was just a testament to her earnest appreciation of fashion, and I feel very lucky to have been that recipient,” he shares.

Heart Evangelista with the cream Bow Bag and student-designer Reese Collins Latonio

Right now, Collins has expanded his production team to take on the pre-orders for the Bow Bag—an opportunity he makes certain he has a good grasp of. He reveals to MEGA Style that he had his assumptions at first that the Bow Bag was going to gain some traction due to the handcraft, excitement, and heart that just seeps in his work, but not to this extent. His first post generated 20,000 views, and he made a decision to take a few commissions. Then: “My next video got 120,000, and I was shocked that people really wanted this. So imagine my thoughts now at 1.3M views thanks to Heart Evangelista,” he states.

The designer further shares that he’s been in contact with Heart a few times, stating that the fashionista knows how grateful Collins is to her. “We’ve exchanged a few messages—most of which have been me thanking her, and she’s given me a lot of tips to help me prosper as I still am admittedly trying to find myself in the very chaotic world of running a business at 20,” Collins admits. “It’s just the beginning after all, so I’m very much open to growing pains. But hey, when Heart Evangelista throws you a life buoy, you swim to catch it.”

What’s next for Collins

Young and still experimenting with his creations, Collins says that a graduation collection he’s proud of is the next goal—hopeful that it will be “produced with so much love that it bolsters me further into the fashion industry the same way my Bow Bag did.”

The local leatherette Bow Bag in its entirety is a statement that elevates any look

On the vision board however, he dreams of going to Central Saint Martins one day and each of the major fashion weeks to catch a whiff of the star talent circulating those cities. “I’d also love to make a name for myself as a transmasculine fashion designer—maybe even the first Trans Filipino designer at any of the international Fashion Weeks,” Collins shares. “I mentioned the intimacy I have with fashion and that desire to find meaning beyond clothing is my creative ethos. I want to be so proud of my work that it translates into my creation, to the point that I can elevate myself into a position where other trans people, other budding designers can look at me and go: ‘If he could do it, I could too.’”

Meanwhile, as for his own brand in the fashion scene, Collins imagines his name to be the balance of “fashion-as-self-expression and fashion-as-storytelling, the go-to fashion house when people think of creative theatrics and sartorial storytelling,” he says. “I want to dress key players in the industry who share my sentiments about fashion, and usher in this idea of fashion being both an art in its concept but science in its technical skill. I want to be able to fulfill the reason I came into it in the first place: help people make the choice to feel good about themselves through fashion—and become financially stable doing what I love.”

Photos and Featured Image: REESE COLLINS LATONIO (Via Instagram)

Order your print copy of this month's MEGA Magazine:
Download this month's MEGA digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]