Out of Print

Allow Loris Peña to Reintroduce Herself

by Jonty Cruz
Photos by Shaira Luna

L’Officiel Philippines’ newly appointed editor-in-chief shares her thoughts on the state of fashion today, what it’s been like taking on the job, and why she’s being pragmatic about her role.

Loris Peña was in between jobs when she decided to apply for a role in Elle Malaysia. Her dream ever since she was a kid in Iloilo, opening the latest issue of Preview and obsessing over the magic of print, was to be a fashion editor. She loved discovering new talent in the pages of fashion magazines and she always hoped to be part of it some day. She had already spent four years in Status, a local lifestyle magazine that was the closest thing Manila had to Nylon or Dazed & Confused at the time, and was looking to step up her game and do more fashion editorials beyond streetwear. Unfortunately, someone from Elle Malaysia thought otherwise.

“I remember the conversation I had with the creative director of Elle Malaysia and he was telling me that my style was so Dazed and so Nylon, and ‘di raw ako bagay for glossies. I took that as a challenge. That's why I was so bent on joining Preview after that and to really prove people wrong,” says Loris. “My personal style is not correlated to the type of work that I can do. Yes, I like to wear sneakers, I like streetwear, but that doesn't mean I can't style high fashion.”

That incarnation of Elle Malaysia subsequently closed as a new publisher looks to relaunch it later this September. Meanwhile, Loris went on to work in Preview as an associate fashion editor from 2014 to 2018 and joined L’Officiel Philippines in 2021. Last month, she was announced as its newest editor-in-chief.

Loris takes on the role after serving as its fashion director for three years. In her inaugural editor’s note in the pages of L’Officiel Philippines’ March 2024 issue, she invites readers to join them in “celebrating the boundless possibilities of storytelling.” The note itself doesn’t just read as inviting but collaborative. Often choosing to speak on behalf of the whole and only using the singular “I” to introduce the larger world of her team.

Over email, I asked L’Officiel Deputy Editor, Tin Dabbay, what she’s most excited about with Loris at the helm. She says that she looks forward to doing “more stories with her that synchronize fashion with other industries and disciplines such as art, design, travel, and culture.” And when it comes to working with Loris?

“Loris is a dedicated editor whose eye for fashion can successfully take L'Officiel Philippines to its new era. Cheesy as it sounds, she really puts her heart into it. The best magazines are a labor of love – so it just follows that the ones leading them must not only have the eye but also the heart for it.”

The following interview has been edited for clarity.

Out of Print: Congratulations on the promotion, Loris! Could you share how you got the job?
Loris Peña: Okay to be really honest, I've never dreamed of becoming an editor-in-chief. That was never in my goals. My background is that I'm a stylist, I’ve been a fashion editor and then a fashion director. The next thing for me, I thought, was maybe creative director but not EIC. But the local team were the ones telling me that it had to be me. “You’re already doing so much. You’re also client-facing and a lot of the job of an EIC, as far as you know, involves PR, so you'd be perfect for the job.” But to tell you honestly, maybe a few months ago, I was already thinking about my exit plan, because I'm not getting any younger. How long will you be able to sustain being an editor, ‘di ba? As fashion director, I thought maybe I have three to four more years and then I don't know maybe go to brand? But when I was thinking about the offer, I said okay, maybe this is the sign that I was looking for. Maybe this is really what’s next for me.

So what happened when you were formally confirmed as EIC?
The announcement of my promotion came out on a Tuesday, and then Wednesday, I had to fly to Korea to do a Bulgari project with Pia Wurtzbach, Nadine Lustre, and director MV Isip who was doing our social content. That was my first “formal week” as EIC. I hit the ground running and flew to Seoul to do event coverage and shoot for social.

It seems like you had to do the job even before you really thought about whether you could do the job or not.
Okay, I've always known I could be a head bitch in charge. [Laughs] But the question I asked myself was did I want to be? Because honestly, I’m okay na hindi ako yung star. I just want to do good work. And my thing is that I want the work to speak for itself. I have my own insecurities but yeah now that I'm here, I'm actually learning along the way that it’s important to keep yourself open to these things.

Do I think right now if I can do the job? I think so far yes. But I'm taking it day by day. I can’t think about things that have not happened yet, so I’m focused on the things that I need to work on. I’m not thinking about the gravity of the role because I think if I do, well, it's just gonna affect my work. The goal is to publish the magazine, to make sure that we're okay business-wise, everything in the office is running, that we're able to print on time, and deliver whatever things that we need to the clients, and to make sure the content is aligned with what we're trying to do.

What I really want to do is showcase my team. We have star players here, so why keep them on the bench? I want to make use of Tin Dabbay, [Beauty Editor] Belle Rodolfo, and [Fashion Editor] Yanna Lopez. That’s what I want to change. Especially with the new owners, they're very supportive in creating content and doing original stories but at the same time, it has to reflect in sales, right?

So would you say you want it now? Since you did say that you thought you could do it but that you had to think about whether you wanted to be EIC or not.
I think you have to own up to your decision, so the answer is yes. Because I'm already here and I'm doing the job. Let’s see how far we can take it.

I’m really taking this as a sign since I was looking for something more. I wanted to do more things, meaning outside of fashion editorials. I wanted to develop more skills. That's so vague, right? But I feel like this position will allow me to do just that. So yes, I think I made the right decision but ask me again at the end of the year. [Laughs]

“I’m in the process of embracing the role but also at the same time I can’t pretend to be anyone else. I mean I work in fashion. I know for a fact that when I became EIC some people were like ‘Bakit siya?’” 

Loris’ editorials during her time as Fashion Director of L’Officiel Philippines: Kathryn Bernardo and Dolly de Leon photographed by Charisma Lico; Janine Gutierrez photographed by Andrea Beldua, Liza Soberano photographed by BJ Pascual; Maine Mendoza photographed by Charisma Lico.
As someone who grew up following EICs that came from a copy or editorial background, I’ve always been curious about the fashion director or stylist turned EIC. I wanted to get your thoughts on that.
Growing up, I was associating the idea of an EIC to someone like Pauline Juan. And then later on, I learned of EICs that are or were stylists before. For example, the stylist of Rihanna, Mel Ottenberg, became the EIC of Interview magazine. Or if you think about Edward Enninful, his background was also in fashion before he became an editor. So I realized iba’t ibang characters pala ang pwede maging EIC. Hindi siya naka-box to what I thought an EIC was growing up. Kaya siguro, I was so intimidated by the role before because I know I don’t fit in that box. Now I think I’m on the path of knowing what kind of EIC I want to be. Number one, I want to be the type of EIC that works well with her team. I never want to be someone that’s gonna reject your ideas because I just want whatever my vision of how things will be. I want to be someone who makes sure that their voices will be heard and that the stories they want to tell will be amplified.

Number two, I’m in the process of embracing the role but also at the same time I can’t pretend to be anyone else. I mean I work in fashion. I know for a fact that when I became EIC some people were like “Bakit siya?” I don’t really care but I think they were coming from a time when they thought editors were only a certain way or a certain look but we’re not there anymore. This is a new era.

What would you say is the X-factor that stylists or fashion editors bring to the role of EIC?
There's a surprise to it. Because they don't know what they’re gonna get from you. I think the advantage is people won’t see you coming.  I read this quote from Mel Ottenberg about how he wants to do things a certain way. He wants it to be fun. “Are we having fun? Let's have fun.” Because fashion is supposed to be fun. I want to do that too. No holds barred siya.

I don’t know if you know about this already or not but I heard that in Candy magazine. the title of Editor-in-Chief was changed to Content-in-Chief and it made me curious what you think the role of an EIC is today?
I think the role is not exclusive to print anymore. We have to think of the bigger picture and that includes digital and that includes content. So for them to change the title of Editor-in-Chief to Content-in-Chief, that tracks. I think we need to be really conscious about this. If you're still in print, the sooner that you accept digital, it will probably hurt less. That’s the reality of it. If there’s a story you really want to tell, the fastest way to share that is to have a digital component. Print and publishing is always evolving. The minute you stop or are not open to it, that’s when you die.

We really need to adapt to the times. If you’re working for a magazine and you want to keep it alive then you have to make sure there are other components to it as well. I think that’s the challenge EICs face now.

Would you say you’re being more pragmatic in dealing with the next couple of months?
Yes. In my mind, I want to be able to create and release all these great stories. I want to push for certain things but I feel like I’ll only be able to do that maybe starting September? The continuity of the business now is very important. That’s the number one goal

Loris’ inaugural editor’s note was published in the March 2024 issue of L’Officiel Philippines featuring actress Park Gyu Young on the cover.

Do you have a personal mission statement or thesis for L’Officiel Philippines?
My thesis talaga and I stand by this, is to reintroduce what new luxury means. I’m also excited to discover new talents, whether it's a new photographer, new designers, or even new faces because aren’t we all tired of seeing the same group of girls all the time?

What does new luxury mean?
For the longest time when you say luxury, it sounds like it only caters to a certain group of people. And I think with new luxury, that’s where Virgil Abloh was so great at. He made sure that Louis Vuitton was not just for rich white men or whatever. New luxury isn’t alienating. You’re allowed to have space. There’s so much value in creating these luxury pieces that I feel it should be shared to all. Maybe there are just 50 people who can afford to buy it but it doesn’t mean that only 50 people are allowed to appreciate it.

How would you describe the fashion industry today and where does a fashion publication fit in?
I think the fashion industry today is still growing, and they're still learning as well to be more inclusive. That's a whole different topic, right? I think they're slowly learning. They're slowly opening their doors also. For us, while our focus is on global fashion we also want to champion Filipino talent and that they’re included in that discussion.

I want to talk about that idea of championing Filipino talent especially in light of Michael Cinco calling out celebrities and influencers who don’t pay Filipino designers.
A few years ago, I attended Paris Fashion Week and I was literally told that the Philippine market was not a priority. Thinking about it now, I’m really grateful to our managers at LO and our owners for always including us in their plans because they do look at the Philippines and they see us as a global power player. Maybe we don't know that yet. We don't recognize that, but they definitely see the potential in the PH market.

So yes, I agree with Michael Cinco and kudos to him for speaking out. Filipino designers should get paid especially if it is a custom look. The best way to support local talent is for people to buy and wear their creations. While posting/mentioning/writing about Pinoy designers goes a long way, the goal is to help them sell their creation. Nothing comes free nowadays. Celebs and influencers, open your wallets! 
Given the news of big names departing their labels like Dries van Noten or Pierpaolo Piccioli leaving Valentino, how do you see these departures in the context of where the fashion industry is or where it’s going?
While I have a feeling that Pierpaolo is just moving somewhere, Dries' departure is somewhat bittersweet. It's sad to see him go, but I also think Dries has nothing more to prove; he has given the world what he can. So his exit is probably a long time coming, considering he is the only remaining active member of the Antwerp 6 while everyone else is pursuing art or furniture. I am excited, though, for him to announce the new designer for his brand. As with anything in fashion, the old guard steps down and passes the torch to the new generation to take the lead.

Funnily enough, I spent my last birthday in Antwerp trying to figure out what’s in their water and how so many talented individuals come from there. Unfortunately, I have not figured it out. BUT the fact that it’s a small city is so pleasing to the eyes, relaxing, and so 'chill' that you can’t help but be inspired when you’re there. It also helps that everywhere you look, people are stylish.

I think I ask because their exits made me wonder about the sustainability of one’s creative career. Have these exits or planned exits given you thought about what it takes to sustain one’s career and one’s creativity?
It’s important for creatives, designers, or even publications to have a business partner. As creatives, we are not equipped to do both. One will eventually suffer. So, the advice I would always give to designers or fellow creatives is to have 1. A great business partner/manager and 2. To have a strong support system. Having a life outside of your creative work is important, especially [if you want] to continue to be inspired. As creatives, we rarely talk about the mental gymnastics it takes to run a business while staying creative or just staying creative and releasing great work back to back. That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of having a really great team around you and taking breaks here and there.

The same goes for publications. It is important to have a supportive business partner who understands and values editorial integrity but also, at the same time, to really steer the business in the right direction. Additionally, having a team that’s eager to tell stories and do the work is crucial. The magazine is made by everyone and not just myself. It takes a group effort to release an issue, and the credit goes to the whole team and not just the EIC.

Before we wrap up, I wanted to ask you about a recent interview The New York Times did with designer Phoebe Philo where said she doesn’t see it as necessary to talk about her work. “Someone telling me a story isn’t going to make me like it more.” As a fashion editor what are your thoughts on this?  Should the work speak for itself? And what for you does storytelling have to offer?
Phoebe’s statement, I think, comes from a place of either being over it or not caring to explain herself anymore. I believe she has the right to feel this way and let the work speak for itself, especially if that is her preference. However, for those designers and fashion journalists who want to talk about their work, that is also our preference. It doesn’t make you less of a designer if you don’t want to explain your thought process behind creating a trench coat, but also, you can’t dismiss someone for wanting to share their experience creating a dress inspired by a book they’ve read. Fashion is such an intimate experience, and all experiences are valid.

My only concern about creating a story behind a product is ensuring that the quality matches the greatness of the story. Sometimes, we can get lost in the story and end up buying more into that than the actual product itself.

My experience working with brands here is that they often have the same group of people in mind to feature. That’s why it’s important to champion young creatives and talents and introduce them to brands.

As a magazine, we want to use our platform to feature local designers and their work. With the increase in the number of issues in our magazine to nine this year, we will have more space to include as many young talents as possible. The fashion industry in the Philippines is growing rapidly, and the space is big enough for everyone.︎

Jonty Cruz is a creative director based in Manila.