April 21, 2017

Manila’s True It Girl: Mai Mai Cojuangco on Who She Thinks Is Cool


Before Katie Holmes, Natalia Vodianova, and Kate Hudson, there was Mai Mai Cojuangco and her sisters Mikee and China as the faces of local retail brand Kamiseta. Long before we even coined the term It girls or influencer, Mai Mai already lived up to the description. So, what has she been up to?

Mai Mai is based in Florence, Italy, but would regularly come home to visit family, friends, and to handle her start-up business—a helpful social messaging app that allows you to speak up about what you are feeling, may that be sad, happy, or glad. Now she’s back with another passion project that we can’t wait to get our hands on, a collection of leather bags called Demetria (her second name, BTW) in collaboration with local clothing brand Idée.

As a girl who used to collect tin cans with her Kamiseta campaign photos (I divulged that below!), I took the chance to do a quick interview—one reason was for me to fawn over Mai Mai and the other is for us to get to know her a little more. How often do you get to catch up with such a busy lady? Let alone the OG It girl.

What has Manila taught you about style?

To be honest, I’m not sure what it has taught me. I believe that I’ve always dressed the way I did (and still do) because of how I always was (and continue to be) in terms of a person, my character.

I can be creative about dressing up, unafraid about sticking out a bit, or just sometimes dressing up based on my moods or even the weather and being practical about it.

What draws you back to this city? 

My family and my loved ones, then work, which is my startup called Sympies, and most recently this handbag project I began with Idée.

How has life been since moving to Italy? How is it different from the Philippines?

Life has been an adventure of ups and downs for me. It’s very, very different living in Italy, especially with a daughter. You tend to miss your family even more when you have a child and are away from home.

Having a strong and firm kind of family support allows you to grow and do other things professionally and personally and without that, many things become a bit more complicated.

Aside from family time, what’s keeping you busy in Manila? 

My startup has kept me quite busy for the last two and a half years. It continues to evolve and has its own set of challenges. And now, the handbag collection called Demetria, which I have just recently begun. I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity to collaborate with Idée. 

Work in Progress 🏃🏽‍♀️💁🏽👜 #workinprogress #construction #creativity #artisans @mingovenden

A post shared by Mai Cojuangco (@mai.cojuangco) on Mar 31, 2017 at 5:33am PDT

What does it mean to be an It girl? 

I guess it means “A girl other girls want to emulate”?  Or someone that guys would want to date, but will never ask out? [Laughs]

What does it take to be an It girl?

Perhaps having a personal style that works. There’s got to be something about her that people can’t quite figure out. She has that something that’s unique, natural, and uncontrived.

How does growing up as an It Girl change in the age of social media? 

There is certainly much more exposure and a lot more work. It’s not just about magazine covers, but also Instagram posts, blogs, Snapchat, [Instagram] stories…all of that. It’s a lot of content and editing, it’s a major production, almost.

How was it compared to your time?

Well, there was no social media at that time. There was surely much less or limited exposure. It was much, much simpler.

You and your sisters were the faces of local retail brand Kamiseta, what was that like? 

It was a fun time in our lives. More time spent together, for sure! We got to wear clothes we liked, earn, and traveled as girls.

Do people ever bring it up? What do they usually say?

Oh they just say, “Ah, I remember you from Kamiseta! The billboards! They were so nice!” It’s really quite sweet when they do that.

I used to own those Kamiseta tin containers. Did you ever keep them as memorabilia? 

No. I kept the posters.


Happy Birthday @china_cojuangco Abadoo lots Nice pose @mikeecj 😍😍😍 #sisters #birthdaygirl


A post shared by Mai Cojuangco (@mai.cojuangco) on Apr 22, 2016 at 4:49am PDT

You were tagged as the “Crush ng Bayan,” how do you think did it affect you personally? Especially with your male colleagues referring to you as such?

Personally? I was very flattered. Then, like always, it passed and my brain always went back to normal—pushing and challenging myself again and again. I never for a second thought that I could be “great” because I was “crush ng bayan.”

Who are the people you consider cool? 

People who are open and accepting about the fact that everyone can be different and respecting—that is cool to me. People who risk their lives saving others are cool to me. People who are positive and grateful are cool to me. People who I can learn from are cool to me. Artists who aren’t afraid to express themselves are cool to me.

What do you think does cool mean?

Cool to me is all that above.

What’s your nighttime regimen like? 

I use an oil cleanser to rinse, and then apply oil to my face. My skin is very dry. What I put on depends on how my skin feels or what the weather is like too.

What would be in your capsule wardrobe? 

T-shirt, jeans, a scarf, cool trainers or a pair of loafers

One thing about being a woman you want your daughter to always remember? 

You can do and be anything you want to be.

How has life changed since you became a mother?

There are certainly more serious responsibilities in raising a child. There are the daily mother duties like driving, school, homework, checkups, play dates, and all that. My mindset has also changed:  I do (and not do) things to set an example for her. I want her to be proud of me one day.


“I want a fringe like mama!” 💇🏽 Mai ❤️ Demi #motherandchild #love #adore #fringe #girls #partners


A post shared by Mai Cojuangco (@mai.cojuangco) on Apr 14, 2017 at 11:32am PDT

What’s one memorable life lesson you learned as a mom?

As a mom? That my capacity for love has no limits

Beauty products you stole from your mom that you still use? 

Sunscreen and moisturizer!

How long does it take for you to get ready? 

It depends. My skincare regimen takes the longest, I think!

What’s your daily look?

Nowadays, I drive a lot when I am in Florence for the handbags and as always for my daughter. It’s about comfort for me most of the time. My last outfit before coming here were a pair of trainers, jeans, a t-shirt, a scarf, and a leather jacket.

What’s a photo of yourself you wish never existed? 

That’s a difficult one! Best to ask me which is that one photo I like of myself. I am highly critical of my pictures.

What’s your diet and exercise routine? 

I run on the treadmill, do self-defense classes, and karate. I avoid as much pasta and bread as I can.

What’s next for your brand? What are you excited about? 

I’m excited about everything. Expansion. Driving myself even crazier with the work. The possibilities are endless.



Photo courtesy of Mai Cojuangco’s Instagram account

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