Wasn’t it only a little over a year ago that designer Mark Tenchavez launched a shoe line under his Shandar brand? I mean, to me it feels like only yesterday that I photographed his muses (models Marjay Ramirez and Cielo Ramirez, pastry chef Gayle Urgello, and lawyer Christina Garcia-Frasco) for the catalog of his premiere collection—I still remember every minute of the fine frenzy that the stylist Meyen Baguio and I went through while working on that project. Yet when you look at Shandar Shoes’ resume (and the places that they’ve been to, figuratively speaking), it looks like they’ve been around since forever!
For one, they have managed to develop an impressive fan base, which includes local fashion mavens like designer/writer/philanthropist Tessa Prieto-Valdes (who flew in from Manila to host the shoe line’s grand launch middle of last year), and even lady political figures. No less staggering is how about 40% of Mark’s time is now spent doing commissioned works for local designers—if memory serves me right, I think it all started with doing a couple of platforms to accompany Arcy Gayatin’s 25th anniversary collection, and some for Project Runway Philippines season one first runner-up Philipp Tampus’s holiday 2011 collection, and then everyone else followed suit. The newest leaf added to his laurel? Creating multi-glitter lace-up wedge booties to accompany the electrifying pieces from Amato Haute Couture by Furne One during One’s homecoming gala held at the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum early last month! Mark has also become sort of like an official cobbler for local beauty pageants (only three weeks back I found myself in the studio of an Ormoc-based pageant organizer and there it was, a giant shelf full of Shandar “pageant heels”). But I think Shandar’s biggest achievement to date is penetrating the local bridal market: “It’s 10 to 15 brides per month, and that’s not counting the peak seasons!” he enthuses. (And I can attest to this, because my boss Malou Pages [of Shutterfairy Photography, where I have just been promoted, by the way, from apprentice to associate photographer/senior stylist] always shows me photos of the weddings she covers, and I guess it’s safe to deduce that about 80% of Shutterfairy’s clients over the past year have worn Shandar down the aisle.) Not bad for a shoe line that relies heavily on guerilla marketing and word-of-mouth—yes, save for the occasional magazine appearances (Preview, Metro Society, LOOK), their touchpoints are fairly uncomplicated.
I love how Mark’s design sense has evolved, too. Not to say, of course, that I didn’t find the pieces from his premiere collection beautiful (I wouldn’t have agreed to shoot that catalog if I didn’t like the shoes), but his more recent designs are more eye-catching, and more varied, too. You still get the ultra-feminine touches (pretty little bows, appliqué details, serpentine straps) that Mark is known for, but now you get to pair that with ingenious experimentation of textures, layering, and colors—as of late he’s been obsessed with giving unexpected twists to velveteen, playing with lace overlays, and toying with iridescents. “I am also starting to experiment with transparent material, like celluloid,” he shares. “I know people have seen a lot of heels made of transparent material, like Lucite, but that’s not the [route] that I’m taking—I’m thinking of using them for the shoe body and for the details, not the heels.”
Mark credits his growth to his day-to-day interactions with clients, and to his tendency to keep his eyes open to the littlest bits of inspiration. “Especially my bridal clientele,” he shares. “When you’re talking to a bride-to-be, the conversation becomes very intimate because it’s their wedding day we’re talking about here—the one day they’ve been waiting for all their lives! I get to learn about what women really want when I’m talking to these people. I’m lucky, too, that most of my brides-to-be happen to be very stylish ladies—I get a lot of inspiration by looking at what they’re wearing, what bag they’re carrying, etc.” The technical aspect of his job he gets to hone by building good relationships with his designer clients. It helps, too, that he hasn’t abandoned his first love, and that’s making jewelry (tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, rings)—as his skills in jewelry-making expand, so do his skills in infusing surprising details into his shoe creations.
I was lucky enough to be able to preview prototypes from what I think is going to be his spring/summer 2013 collection. We were having coffee one Sunday afternoon this past summer when out of the blue he laid them in front of me! Needless to say, I fell head over heels—quite literally, yes! I wasted no time asking if I could have the honor of photographing these babies—this time with sunny California as backdrop. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for him to say yes!
This shoot right here was kind of guerilla because I didn’t have a lot of time to plan it. Well, actually, I had quite some time—I was in L.A. for 6 or so weeks—but all that time was wasted going around the place looking for leg and foot models to sit for me. I was supposed to ask my sister because she did have some legs on her, plus the shoes were her size, but then she had just become a mother and all her time was devoted to taking care of the baby. A friend from Cerritos, who’d had some modeling experience, said she wanted to do it but just couldn’t find time off from work. And then there was someone from Lancaster who had all the time in the world, but then she was below 18, and I didn’t want to get into trouble with the parents. A friend had suggested browsing through the portfolios at ModelMayhem.com, but I just didn’t know my way around that Website (I think you have to be a registered user in order to send someone a message, no?). I was about to give up when someone suggested Elane Gica, a friend from back home, and this was literally at the eleventh hour, too—we did this whole thing on my second-to-the-last day in L.A.! I know! How crazy is that, right? Thank you, Elane, for letting me borrow your legs and your feet, and for helping me make this happen!
We never got to cover all the locations that I’d planned to shoot at (I’d wanted a couple of beach shots, and Santa Monica was on my list, but we were afraid we were going to be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 10 W, so we had to call that off), but I was happy we got to do some of the ones that meant a lot to me, like the Griffith Observatory (ah, Rebel Without a Cause!), Urban Light at LACMA, and that palmed-line area of N New Hampshire just before it crosses Beverly (Wilshire Center). Of course, I had to make sure there was no missing the Hollywood Walk of Fame, too—that was, like, non-negotiable! These were Mark’s shoes that I was shooting—don’t you think they deserve a little star treatment? Elane asked why I picked Marvin Gaye’s Star (it’s in the east side of the 1500 block of Vine, in case you’re wondering). My answer was simple: “Look at these heels—if they could sing a song it would be Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing,’ don’t you think?” Am I a smart ass, or what?
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I have to mention that Elane doing this was extra special to me, not only because she went out on a limb for this, and not only because she knew the L.A. side streets like the back of her hand, making it easy for us to jump from one location to the next, which ultimately saved us a lot of time (can you believe we only did this for under three hours—from 11AM to 145PM—and so we still had time to hit the UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival after we wrapped?), but because of the fact that she is first cousins with one of my best friends Malou Gica, and working with her that day brought me back to the times that I’d worked with Malou.
Insiders will remember Malou Gica as one of Cebu fashion’s pioneering models, or, better yet, as Elite Model Look-Cebu 1996 winner. She was one of the few people who really supported me when I was starting out as a stylist more than a decade ago, and we worked on a couple of shoots together until we became really good friends. Safe to say I wouldn’t be half of who I am today if not for her.
Malou passed away just two months ago, after a long battle with terminal illness. She was only 34. It was a very heartbreaking time for us, her friends, and especially her family, including Elane here, who, all her life, had looked up to Malou as a big sister. If you are reading this and you knew Malou, please do me a favor and say a little prayer for her journey, and for the healing of those she left behind.
Rest in peace, Malou. You will be missed.
Shandar Shoes Spring/Summer 2013 | Photographed by Angelo Kangleon in Los Angeles, CA, on May 27, 2012 | Model: Elane Lourdes Gica | Special thanks to Janice Larrazabal
When you ask someone about their taste in shoes, you don’t expect them to take it quite literally. But hearing Gayle Urgello say she likes shoes that are “good enough to enough to eat,” well, that doesn’t come as a shocker—what else do you expect from someone who is a serious pâtissier by day and transforms herself into a super stylish It Girl by night?
It should be no shocker, too, then, that accessories designer Mark Tenchavez of Shandar picked her as the second of four muses to inaugurate his shoe line. Before I could have a taste of her baked goods, it was her delish taste in footwear that had drawn me to her. I’d bumped into her a couple of times before, but it wasn’t until three years ago, at a mutual friend’s “crazy shoe”-themed birthday party, that I knew she way my kind of girl—while everyone else in the guest list stepped into the scene in strappies and gladiator sandals, she kicked it knee-high boots in patchwork suede and velvet, at once giving new meaning to “hot fuzz” and being a throwback to Penelope Tree (or Talitha Getty, if you will). Ever since then I’d become hooked, Facebook-stalking her like a crazy fan, waiting for her to put up the next photo album just so I could see what shoes she had chosen to wear to which occasion. At one point she even had this one album that served as her bucket list at the same time, filled with screenshots of gorgeous shoes that were not hers yet but presumably were going to be hers soon—outlandish-looking wedges from British high street fashion brand River Island, studded ankle boots from Spanish brand Bershka, electric blue Jeffrey Campbell booties, etc.—with hilarious little captions that said, “Hello there! Why are you so beautiful?” And so, you see, she was a natural choice for Mark’s team. No one had S-H-O-E-S written all over them like this girl did.
At first I’d wanted to shoot Gayle wearing nothing but laidback jeans, to differentiate her set from those of the other girls to be featured in the same catalog who were going to be wearing designer cocktail pieces, and to contrast Mark’s ultra-glam shoes. I’d even wanted to shoot her in her chef’s whites and toque blanche. But Mark and the stylist Meyen Baguio had a different agenda—they wanted abbreviated hemlines, Jenny Humphrey-style, to underscore her gams, which, to them, were “her best asset.” They also disapproved my chef’s uniform idea. I’m glad I followed instructions, because, as it turned out, Gayle indeed had some of the prettiest legs I’d ever seen (the third party guy who does all my retouching would later thank the heavens, saying Gayle’s legs required little to no airbrushing), and she had already been photographed in chef gear for a magazine feature a couple of months back. I can’t say I wasn’t happy with the clothes. Meyen did a great job mixing designer and ready-to-wear pieces, and I loved that she made the bold move of raiding Gayle’s own closet and ended up pulling out a delectable little skirt that the designer Barbie Alvez had made for Gayle for Preview’s 15th anniversary party. The skirt emphasized Gayle’s legs, and went really well with Mark’s stunning wedges in regalia patent leather and royal purple/satin sheen gold animal-print textured suede.
We shot on two different occasions, the first at Gayle’s parent’s house (an “imposing manse,” as one society writer had described it) in Maria Luisa, which had a patio that offered the most incredible view of the mountains, the second at the Banilad branch of their café/bakery Cream ‘n’ Cupz. We meant to do it all in one afternoon, but we couldn’t shoot in their kitchen that day—or ever!—because Gayle’s boyfriend Gerald, who is Singaporean and is also a pastry chef (they met and fell in love in Sydney, where they took the same classes at Le Cordon Bleu), was hard at work at something. There were two more shoes to shoot, so we had to push back to a different date to give us more time to look for a kitchen to shoot at—yes, although we were skipping the chef’s whites idea, we still wanted to feature that side of Gayle, and so a kitchen setting was a must. I’d wanted one that was quaint and homey. It took us weeks scouring the metro for that kind of kitchen, and I was about to give up when Meyen gave me an old Vogue of hers that had this one spread by Norman Jean Roy of Raquel Zimmerman helping out California-based chef Travis Lett in his Abbot Kinney hub, and that’s when I realized that a modern kitchen with stainless steel surfaces wasn’t a bad idea after all! Luckily this was the exactly the kind of kitchen that Gayle had at Cream ‘n’ Cupz, and so we had to look no further! It got me pumped thinking about the setup—it’s always nice when you get to shoot someone in their workspace, their “habitat,” kind of like how Hedi Slimane does it, visiting his favorite installation artists’ studios and taking pictures of them at work.
OK, I will come clean and say that another reason I was psyched we were doing it at her café’s kitchen was the prospect of getting free samplings of her delightful cupcakes. I hadn’t had red velvets since West Village’s world-famous Magnolia Bakery almost two years ago, and I’d heard Gayle’s babies were quite the treat, and so I figured it was about time for a sweet little relapse. And, boy, did I relapse! At least now I know I don’t need to wait for my next trip to the Big Apple to enjoy that one sinful bite! (I must not forget to Gayle’s wait staff: Thanks, you guys, feeding us—and for being so patient with us and helping out with the props, too!—and I hope we lived up to our promise of having minimal impact to your BAU!)
Speaking of red velvet cupcakes, these were exactly what Mark had in mind when he was designing the shoes that were going to be named after Gayle. Well, before I knew they were going to be named after her we kind of kept on calling them the “red velvet shoes” (like, “Hi, Meyen! Have you seen the ‘red velvet shoes’ already? What do they look like?”), so don’t be confused—they’re one and the same style. Like their namesake cupcakes, they’re creamy, full of texture, at once bright and noir, almost sinful to look at, and impossible to resist (well, kind of like their namesake muse, too, if you come to think of it): peep-toe wedges in lava/Falu red textured suede with coquelicot patent leather straps. She wanted something that was good enough to eat—well, that was exactly what she got! Needless to say, they were my favorite pair. I think it annoyed everyone that it took me two or so hours sprawled on the floor just taking pictures of them. Yes, I get obsessed like that. But, hey, who could blame me? How else were you supposed to photograph something you were head over heels with but to do it quite literally, with your face in the ground?
Another thing I fell head over heels with was working with the makeup artist Jessie Glova. He did the second session, when newcomer Hans Ferrer, who’d done the first, couldn’t make it due to scheduling conflicts This was my first time to work with Jessie, despite the fact that I’d known him for years. He just took one look at Gayle, one look at the shoes, one look at the clothes, and then he got to work—I have so much respect for people with this kind of aptitude, because I know very little about makeup, and explaining to a makeup artist what kind of look I want can be a real pain in the backside, and so someone who just gets down to work without needing to be told is just a joy to work with. He also loved to tell jokes. I think it was Christy Turlington who once said that the one thing she loved about the late Kevyn Aucoin was that he was always trying to make people laugh, whereas “most makeup artists try to prevent you from laughing while they work”—well, Jessie had that thing, too, wherein he could get you laughing nonstop and still be really skillful with his hands. The end result was just fabulous. I almost cried when Gayle hopped out of the makeup chair—I’d never seen feline eyes done this beautifully. (PR and marketing whiz and eventologist extraordinaire Jaja Rama would later comment on the behind-the-scenes snapshot that Gayle posted on Instagram that she looked like the English actress Tamsin Egerton, a.k.a. Guinevere in the TV series Camelot.) And as if that magic touch wasn’t enough, Jessie asked to tag along for the shoot, despite the fact that he was expecting more clients and was busy laying the groundwork of the new salon that he was about to launch in a little over a month. On set he acted as coach, teaching Gayle how to smile with her eyes, how to give out the right pout, how to twist her hips, etc. We had it all too easy, thanks to him! I don’t think we could’ve done the kitchen countertop set effectively if not for Jessie. I cannot wait to work with him again.
Gayle Urgello for Shandar | Photographed by Angelo Kangleon in Cebu City on March 28, 2011, and on April 28, 2011 | Styled by Meyen Baguio | Hair and makeup by Jessie Glova (to book Jessie, click here) and Hans Ferrer (to book Hans, click here) | Special thanks to Blenn Suan and Nestor Castillano
Behind-the-Scenes Instagrams Clockwise from top left: Stylist Meyen Baguio helping out with the props; the set that never made it to the catalog—shoes against colorful menu blackboard—although now I kind of wish it did; makeup whiz Jessie Glova working his magic; we invited stylist Blenn Suan to help us with the set concept, and he ended up being sittings coach, too; Meyen taking a break between sets; Nestor Castillano overseeing the shoot from afar (Gayle’s parents house is sooo huge I think I got lost three or four times); Hans Ferrer doing a quick fix to Gayle’s hair; I won’t lie, that’s me trying to show Gayle how it’s done, but failing miserably anyhow—thank God Jessie was there to take over the reins.