Since the September 2021 shows in New York, meaning the spring 2022 season, there’s been much chatter about the state of fashion in the city. From fellow writers and editors, to buyers, influencers, and publicists, I keep hearing a version of the same chant: “New York is back!” When we talk about New York being back, we’re talking about designers like Carly Marks of Puppets and Puppets, Christopher John Rogers, Theophilio, and Elena Velez. But what about the hands behind their most fabulous looks? Per usual, hidden in plain sight.
Such is the story of Bryan Datinguinoo and Clarissa Arocena of the garment development studio HIPS, but not if I can do something about it. Before becoming romantic and business partners, this North Carolina-born, Filipino-American duo were high school friends with a shared mutual interest in fashion. “We would talk obsessively about Marc Jacobs or Yves Saint Laurent,” Datinguinoo told me one rainy morning at the Long Island City studio they moved into a year ago. “Then we just liked each other, and…” As he trails off, their one year old baby Ayanni giggles in the background, finishing the sentence for him.
After high-school, Arocena studied Art and Design and Textile Technology in North Carolina, while Datinguinoo became a barber. In 2015, Arocena decided to take the leap and moved to New York, landing a pattern-making internship at Assembly New York. “That was the first time I saw an industry pattern,” she remembers. “What you learn in school, what’s in the books, or even the McCall patterns—the annotations are just not the same.” But the role was unpaid—aren’t they always?—so she found a part-time job as an activewear designer.