MM Milano is a brand from Milan, Italy, that conveys sustainable fashion, music & film production, and global talents at memorable events around the world. As a result, Chona Bacaoco, the Founder and Chief Designer, is responsible for designing the Brand’s individualized fashion collection. Using natural organic fabrics and traditional Filipino hand weaving techniques along with sustainable fabrics, she combines the best of both worlds. As a world-renowned designer, her work has already been recognized as “Best International Designer” and “Designer of the Year”.
As part of MM Milano’s Talent Agency & Consultancy, Chona and her team Andreas and Martin work to develop Global Talents in different sectors such as modeling, singing, acting, designing, dancing, and writing.
Through trivial times and extreme hard work MM Milano rose to higher grounds with their ecocentric and ethical vision, lets understand how being a relevant part of caring for the environment and still managing to establish creativity in several aspects of an industry has made MM Milano who they are today.
What was the initial plan for mm Milano before transforming into this unique combination of creative industries?
MM Milano has always been about giving people – including myself – the opportunity to express ourselves in a secure environment where nobody will judge you for your individuality and ideas. However, the scope had been more narrow at the beginning. When I moved from Hongkong to Milan, after another time of not fitting in, I felt the need to help people like me, and make sure, no one ever will feel excluded anymore. Therefore, I opened my Talent Agency in Milan and I soon became known for managing talents from all different kinds. Inclusion and sustainability are core values for MM Milano and for me personally.
I was always very interested in the entertainment industry, however fashion design was what my heart beats for. I never went to fashion school. I got to be who I am today because of my mother and my father. To follow my passion, and focus on the ideas of inclusion and sustainability, I then felt time was ripe for me to express my creative vocation. That’s why I founded my brand MM Milano. I am now able to express my creativity through the dresses I design, make sure they are produced in a sustainable way, and bring them to life on stage through our very own Talents from MM Milano Agency, whom we provide with unique opportunities on the world’s biggest stages, to present themselves the way they want, not following any stereotypes.
New opportunities arose when I got connected to my business partner, the music composer and business consultant Andréas Volkmar. Since then we have showcased at international fashion weeks including LA, New York, Milan, Paris, London, Dubai and Eastern Europe, incl. organizing our own MM Milano events – called HOME of Fashion Week, together with our Talent community and international partners. We are now finally able to link my passion for fashion with the wider entertainment industry. For example, some of our fashion shows such as the one in Dubai 2020 have been enriched by dancers and singers performing on stage. MM Milano together with a professional Production Company, started producing its first-of-a-kind Fashion Film in 2021, starring MM Milano Talents.
We understand that mm Milano is spearheading the motion of sustainability. Can you add on to why this initiative is so vital to your brand? And how have You managed to incorporate it into your brand?
Sustainability is an essential pillar of MM Milano, and very important for the entire team, both at work and in private life. Sustainability is, if at all, not easy to define. And there are a lot of discussions going on in this space about what is right and what isn’t. We as individuals and as a team at MM Milano, have therefore taken our values and practices of sustainability that seem to have worked in private life, and are applying them to our professional lives. We have defined core values for the brand, which do reflect on sustainability not only from an ecological but also societal point of view. These values are:
Inclusion & diversity, social- and environmental consciousness.
These values are part of every decision and planning we make, and have been intensively discussed.
For me, Chona, personally, sustainability has its origin in my childhood. I grew up and was raised in the small island of Guimaras, Iloilo in the Philippines, famous for the world’s sweetest mangoes and popular for the wild nature. The deep blue waters of the ocean, the white sandy beaches, the intense sunlight glare, the deep green of the tropical vegetation. These elements blended together, matured within myself through phases of my life and became the foundation of my concept of beauty and sustainable designs. In addition, my father, a conscious man advocating for sustainable living practices his entire life, had been my greatest inspiration. He taught us how to cultivate, grow and harvest our own vegetables, introduced me to the world of healthy nutrition practices, and made everyone aware of the importance of reuse and reducing waste.
I therefore have a mission driven by increasing inclusion, diversity and sustainability in this industry, encouraged through my designs and personality. And I really try to live what I preach. I am on a journey, a mission, of bringing together my sustainable fashion and the global talent community we created at MM Milano.
With the future of the industry, we noticed your recent unisex collection, what are your beliefs on why fashion needs to be more gender neutral?
MM Milano’s slogan for our fashion department is “fashion that brings together”. A so-called unisex collection makes it obvious, that we designed these creations for everyone without connecting any gender to them. MM Milano does not differentiate its collection based on gender, but on the story behind the clothes. And at the end, the story will be told by people that wear the dresses. We don’t want to predetermine who will tell this story. Everyone should feel and express themselves as they wish – the industry should not prescribe who is allowed to wear which kind of clothes.
In her dresses Chona brings in personal experiences and emotional memories. She designs with the goal to add something positive to an already consistent character of a human being and let them feel included in our community. This applies to our customers as well as to our talents on the runway – they all tell their own personal story through our clothes by letting them express the way they feel.
In an industry where connections Play a vital role in growth, what are your perspectives on how to reach out and work with prominent Figures to build a repertoire?
We are on our journey following a clear vision where we believe that kindness, trust and having great powers of endurance are key determinants. Along our way we have already met so many beautiful souls and we made the experience that the value of a person or a company should not be measured by the extent of somebody’s prominence, although we understand how important prominence and reach are in terms of advocating for and creating a brand. However, we adapt our marketing concept to our highly valued environment and supporters and not the other way around. The number and reach of prominent people is key for certain activities under e.g. the marketing concept, but not the decisive one for success and our determination to stand for our values.
In regards to your talent agency’s joint workshops, to keep up with your social responsibility, could you tell us what was the most memorable outcome of these workshops?
We call it success when teenagers use the hashtags #sustainablefashion, #hablon (one of MM Milano’s natural organic fabrics that are hand-woven by small groups of Philippine local weavers) and #kindness in their social media posts. It is a great feeling when we see that our talents understand the way MM Milano works and join us on our mission.
We are looking forward to carrying out season 2 of MM Milano’s HOME of Fashion Week this year where we combine fashion, music and film in one event including a sustainability workshop.
As an example of turning your passion into a career, what more would you like to say to many others trying to pursue a career in something they’re passionate about?
It’s important to really believe in what you are aiming for! Don’t let others take your confidence and trust in what you are doing. If it feels right, it will pay out – sooner or later. It might be a longer journey, but sustaining, being out there, and continuing is the most important to get there!
Based on the fact that mm Milano was the first ever brand to compose and play its own runway music, talk to us about how doing Designing to music composing and event planning in-house has made you grow as a team?
Our emotions and all our dreams, experiences and ideas are combined into a story that we want to tell at our events and shows. Chona is very expressive through designs and Andréas through composing songs. We inspire each other and it gives us the opportunity to also learn from each other. Together with Andreas’ brother Martin Volkmar, all three build a strong team that knows each other’s dreams, emotions,… This opens a way for the team to build a story and to develop the team spirit at the same time.
What is the vision behind your company? And what are the action plan ／ milestones in your mind to achieve it?
We want to build a community of conscious people while bringing together fashion, music, film at MM Milano’s unforgettable events, and create unique career opportunities and experiences for our Talents.