by: Benlito Hobayan
A couple of years back I used to hear the names of Armand “Uno Singco” Simpliciano and Faygar “Fay” Reyes thru a common friend Roberto “Barbie” Felix Jr. – a freelance stylist and make-up artist. Being a person who grew up in a family whose primary source of income is tailoring, having a mother as a Seamstress who single handedly supported us when my dad got sick, and being an avid fan of photography and hobbyist photographer at some sort. The interest to meet these young enthusiastic individuals has always been like a natural allure for me.
Personally, I am not a really big fan of Fashion Runways, so even if I have always known Jelmar “Angel” Orig and Barbie for some years, and with Barbie’s constant invitations to attend their shows; I was hardly convinced to join them, hence it took a little longer until I meet them personally.
Our first meeting was rather odd and unplanned. I was with my friends in Khobar Corniche for a weekend night walk, when we bumped into Faywho at that moment happened to be waiting for Uno Singco to come as they planned for a coffee night. It was then a random occasion that brought us together and jumpstarted a friendship of people with unique characters and different facets of professional disciplines but bound with common interests and that is art and fashion.
Fast forward – a year later. This unique clique of Fashion Enthusiasts had morphed into formidable team of fashion personalities in the Middle East, specifically in Saudi Arabia.
Getting to sit with these interesting personalities for my first article is quite an honor. Being neophyte writer, and a part of the clique is what makes it more exciting as I get to know them more on the professional side.
The Birth of STUDIO12:
Like most people, I was pretty much curious of how Studio12 started, specially that we are in a country where Vanity Culture is not much appreciated let alone tolerated.
Uno Singco, Fay, Barbie and Angel had proven that sometimes it takes a bit of courage on the side, creativity and love for the art on the other, sprinkled it with a dash of decency & respect for the people around you to be able to step out and defy the norm without offending customs and tradition. It was a regular weekend morning grind for the clique, having breakfast and making jokes of their “adventures” the day prior, when the idea of putting up the studio came.
Uno Singco being a seasoned photographer; Fay a renowned fashion designer -having dressed famous celebrities in the Philippines and armed with experience in the Middle East Fashion circuit, including Dubai, Saudi, Bahrain and other parts of the gulf; Angel the most sought after make-up artist in the local fashion scene and Robert being an equally talented stylist who have done several runway shows -were the exact components to form a formidable team. With the right talents and unique personalities, their collaboration made STUDIO12 Fashion House came into fruition.
Motivation of STUDIO12 founders stems from their love of the craft; Uno Singco, Angel and Barbie had always loved the glamour in fashion; but fate brought them to a slightly different path. Seeing the opportunity to finally get back to the craft they love most is their draw of inspiration. Fay on the other had always been fortunate to the things she loves most, sharing her talent with her closest friends is just an icing on the cake as attention she gets from her creations have always been a show to behold from her loyal audience.
In a group of unique personalities and different artistic impressions, clashes of ideas are often inevitable; but, STUDIO12 had withered them by having their common understanding and acceptance of each individual talent and appreciating every input to make their project as an expression of their unique artistry. The unparalleled teamwork is what sets them apart from other groups, bringing them usual success in every endeavor.
Life Balance and Cultural Boundaries
Maintaining balance in all facets of our lives is always a challenge. STUDIO12 is not immune to such predicament. Uno Singco, Angel &Barbie are all having regular day jobs that requires them to be focused for the whole week, which gives them only two day each week the opportunity to express their artistry in the studio. In addition to that, Fay being in the Fashion Business has a more flexibility in her time, but her fitting schedules and special requests from her clients sometimes get’s in the way.
But, this does not deter the group from producing quality work of art. Scheduling photoshoots and projects during the weekend becomes their weekend bonding activity. Doing the things that they are most passionate of, and being with the people they love in a place where family is what you choose to be with not who you are born with, becomes a stress reliever rather than an additional money generating job to add into their responsibilities.
Artistic impression can sometimes be challenging specially when Culture gets in the line. Middle East is a relatively young culture in terms of Appreciation of Vanity and artistic impression due to it’s strict culture. Although in some way we can consider the Middle East being advanced in Fashion, for their exposure to famous brands like Dior, Valentino, Galliano and other big names in fashion world; Vanity is still frowned upon in the general populace. STUDIO12 takes into serious consideration this aspect by always being in-touched with the “artistic reality” of the region, ensuring that concepts do not cross the cultural boundaries. Making the models understand their rights and at the same time opening to them the beauty of art thru photography and fashion is an enormous challenge that they often face.
Since it’s inception in December 2019, STUDIO12 had successfully published 2 Magazine Covers and 9 magazine features internationally. For a relatively young organization, such a fate is a monumental success considering the challenges the studio faces.
Asked what advice they can give to aspiring artists faced with several adversities; the answer was simple, keep the flame of your passion burning; love what you do and do what you love. Know your limits, respect traditions. And most importantly don’t be afraid to be different, because being different makes you stand out.