Roenna Nepomuceno’s classy, classic couture

‘I like to emphasize the silhouette of a woman.’ Photos by Elton Lugay

By Kay Habana

Fashion designer Roenna Nepomuceno came to America in the 1970s, settling in Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley, a white picket fence neighborhood with very few Filipinos.

She initially worked as an engineer for a military-based company designing tanks and fiber optic cables. Then, she managed a hotel for almost 10 years. Roenna would later come to a moment of reckoning where she felt she wanted to do something different.

She met Crisanta Malig who is a Bay Area fashion designer and founder of Fashion Arts and Youth Enterprise, which trains children ages 8 to 15 who have an interest in fashion. She would become Roenna’s mentor. Since she attended The Academy of Fashion right after high school, Roenna pursued her interest in fashion design. She’s always had passion for sewing and did her first craft at 10 years old. She started sewing for other people by the time she was 12 years of age. The “underground seamstress” got paid $10 for every dress made.

I met Roenna at the recent BMW Fashion Week in New York, an event that she said opened up a lot of opportunities for her. She was dressed in red pencil skirt and a crochet top. Classy, classic, comfortable. No wonder each piece from her Roenna Designs collection is a reflection of her personal style.

“I love classic pieces, flip flops, comfortable dresses,” she told me. “I don’t really create anything avant-garde. Most of what I create are like church dresses. I like the Jackie O. look, sunglasses, clean lines.”

Roenna loves draping. Her design process involves envisioning what she would like to wear then proceeds from there. She likes to work with different fabrics, but indulges in her favorite chiffons and silks.

“I like to emphasize the silhouette of a woman,” she said.

Her boutique in Sunnyvale, California keeps her busy. The store holds her array of bold and beautiful designs, as well as her Coffee Scrub Delight skin care line. Asked where she would like to go with her designs, Roenna replied with a playful shrug. She likes to live in the moment, she said carefully.

Asked if she foresees bringing her clothes to the Philippines, she said: “It’s probably something in the horizon. I’m always open to anything.”

New York-based Kay Habana is a segment writer at Power ng Pinoy. She can be reached at

The author (left) and the designer flank Miss New York

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