Kate Ngo creates a hub for young designers from all over
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
SINCE her days as a design student in England where there’s constant lookout for the next-big-thing in the industry, Kate Dorothy Ngo has envisioned to recreate a similar kind of energy elsewhere: put a spotlight on young blood and give them a venue for that much-needed spark.
“A playground for young designers,” the 22-year-old Cebu-based designer likes to call it.
In comes Astogroup, an online fashion hub launched by Kate that showcases the works of rising designers in apparel, bags and accessories, and that aims to bridge the gap between them and their clients.
“(Usually) people patronize those who have been in the industry for a long time, creating little avenue for the new ones to start if they don’t have the marketing genius or connections,” she said. “Here in Astogroup, everyone will have equal opportunity to be seen and grow.”
Astogroup had its soft launch February, only a few months after Kate came home from her studies overseas. A graduate of marketing from the De La Salle University in Manila, she then pursued product design and space planning in Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, followed with design entrepreneurship in Northumbria University.
“After college I worked for our family business, still discovering what I wanted to do next. I’m blessed because I have supportive parents. I processed my documents on my own and went (abroad). I juggled a lot of interests while I was there,” said Kate, who pursued interests such as painting, photography, and backpacking across Europe.
These days Kate is helping in her family’s ventures in real estate and hospitality. She is also working on projects of her own, such as designing residential spaces for friends and, of course, Astogroup.
Growing roster of designers
Kate herself scouts and screens the designers’ portfolio for the brand. Then tapping her love photography, she too does the photo shoots of the designers’ collections, in a studio she had set up on the second floor of her parents’ warehouse.
“We now have 20 designers on board,” Kate proudly said. It is a growing roster that goes across borders: the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia and Sweden. She said this lets her create a good mix, from vintage to contemporary styles, to summer and skater wears, and even cartoon prints.
“Usually they’re recommendations,” she said of the screening process. “When I was away, I had a Thai classmate, and I asked her if she knew (a rising designer) in her community. Friends recommended friends and it started from there. Although, the site is open to designers who want to send in their portfolio.”
With a project operating on a global scale, Kate has also been traveling regularly, something she has been accustomed to since an early age. Coming from a well-traveled family, she has also gone on student exchange programs, in China when she was in high school and in France when she was 19.
When not busy with work or travel, Kate can remains at home, either playing her piano until late in the night, or painting, a hobby she said she enjoys usually when it’s raining. A couple of paintings hang in her studio-slash-office downtown, some are finished, some aren’t, the artist preferring to add bits and pieces gradually.
The young designer has been playing the piano since she was seven years old and studied painting under the tutelage of Kimsoy Yap at the Cebu Academy of Arts. Having grown up with an appreciation for the arts and an eye for good taste, look backing, Kate lightheartedly said, “I’m thankful our mom made us do all these things before.”
Photography: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Hair & Make-up Artist: AJ Airraveche
Assistants: Chelzee Salera and Abby Kionisala