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Fashion Designer Alexis “Bong” Monsanto on Dreaming Big

Alexis Monsanto

Growing up in Mindanao, Philippines, Alexis “Bong” Monsanto had already traveled at a young age to all the main islands of the Philippines and Southeast Asia.


“I’ve seen traditional costumes, visited museums, savored the cuisine and delicacies, the architectural wonders, watched zarzuelas, stage plays, and musicals,” he recalled. “I went to Manila during summer breaks and saw my first fashion show in a hotel near Harrison Plaza. I said to myself, ‘I can do something like that.’”


As a youngster, Monsanto described himself as a leader. “I produced and directed plays/shows, choreographed dances, and designed costumes as well as created and led events at a young age. I won several competitions in my province and the region in my formative years.


“All of these exposures became the training ground for my artistry in concept and design, leadership in my company, and in producing and directing my runway shows today.”

Alexis Monsanto Stephanie Beatriz from "Brooklyn Nine Nine"Alexis Monsanto Stephanie Beatriz from "Brooklyn Nine Nine"

Alexis Monsanto Stephanie Beatriz from Brooklyn Nine Nine

Monsanto’s native hometown of Jimenez, which was the oldest village in the Misamis Occidental region, boasts the oldest Baroque Catholic church built by the Augustinian Recollects in 1862 and heritage houses with horse carriages traveling in the main streets.


“It had a very Spanish influence, so classic. It manifests in my designs which are both timeless and classic,” Monsanto pointed out.


We interviewed the fashion designer by email. The following are excerpts from our conversation.


You came from humble beginnings in the Philippines and then studied fashion design at the Otis College of Art and Design in the U.S. What made you decide to become a fashion designer and who was your inspiration?


Three months before graduating from B.S. Medical Technology (pre-med degree), I was offered a position as an assistant fashion designer for a prominent boutique in Cebu City, Philippines.


The owner of the boutique, Leonardo Igloria, took me under his wing and showed me how to create on-the-spot sketches and designs for clients. He taught me the basics as to how to design, draw style lines, attend fittings of a garment, add trims, and design embroideries in building a garment for a certain client.


I worked full-time in his boutique and eventually grew my own clientele list. In my infancy designing years, I was inspired by the work of Gianfranco Ferre at Dior, Emanuel Ungaro, and Valentino. They are classic and very feminine.


But my life-long dream of becoming a fashion designer in America led me to pack my bags and move to Los Angeles where I earned my Fashion Design degree and MFA at the Otis College of Art and Design.


What challenges did you encounter as an Asian immigrant beginning a career in mainstream Hollywood fashion and how did you overcome them?


I have always been grateful for the many freedoms and opportunities offered to me in the U.S. but there were many challenges for me to overcome as a young Asian immigrant in Hollywood.


I had to build my reputation and a new clientele in a fresh culture of glitter and glamor. I didn’t know anyone in Hollywood. I just smiled and worked hard at any fashion job I could get.


I showed my superiors at work my full capacity as a design assistant, sample room coordinator, and a first-through production patternmaker until I earned the position of senior designer. I made sure to get along well with my co-workers and show them my prowess in fashion design, taste level, and market research to develop products that were competitive in the marketplace.


You have also dressed up some Hollywood celebrities as well as Olympians. Can you share some of your memorable encounters with them?

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Olympian track and field athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee attended the Golden Globes in 2018 wearing a black cowl neck number from the Alexis Monsanto Atelier. In 2020, she requested me to design again for her. She wore a fuchsia ruffled hour-glass number for the Globes. She is beautiful inside and outside. We still text and say hello to each other.

Kate Beckinsale

Actress Kate Beckinsale attended the Princess Grace Awards party in 2011 in my ivory patches silk organza bustier dress.

Simon BilesSimone Biles

Olympian gymnast Simone Biles attended the Globes in 2017 in my gold Grecian deep V-neck number. The same year, she got her ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete of the Year and attended in my one shoulder electric blue hi-lo creation.


The same week, she went to get her award in Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. She wore the plum bias banded dress I made. I love her to death. She is a super incredible human being. Her parents are also very nice. She sent me tickets to Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) to watch her compete.

Canadian actress Emily VanCamp wore a Kelly-green dress when she attended the first 3D fashion show that featured my designs in 2011. She wore this dress on the set of Revenges first episode in season one. She is a very sweet girl and easy to work with.

Karla Mosley from “The Bold and the Beautiful”

Actress and singer Karla Mosley attended the Daytime Emmy Awards in 2017 and performed the opening number wearing my laser cut top chiffon ball skirt gown. She was very sweet and extra nice. She had me come to her condo and brought me to the red carpet and backstage.


Olympian swimmer Missy Franklin and her fiancé Hayes Johnson attended the Globes in 2019 in an old Hollywood glamour, very classic style gown and suit, respectively.

Laurie Hernandez

Olympic gymnast and DWTS champion Laurie Hernandez attended the Golden Globes in a red ballgown laser-cut number.

You recently had a show during LA Fashion Week, which benefited Project Angel Food, a non-profit organization that prepares and delivers healthy meals to feed people impacted by serious illnesses. How do you choose the charitable organizations that you help?


I am grateful for the many opportunities I have received in my life. I want to maximize the blessings bestowed on me by helping organizations that have the greatest scope of impact on society. Project Angel Food provides a service that is crucial all over the Southland for so many needy people, no matter what their race, creed, or background.


What are your next projects?


There is never any downtime in the world of fashion. I design five collections every year: Women’s Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter, Resort/Holiday, Men’s Spring/Summer, and Fall/Winter. But now, I am also working on a TV show for a major network and expanding my home collection of products for the growing e-commerce market.


Your dream projects?


I just finished one of the dream projects on my bucket list – a fashion show overlooking Hollywood at the world-famous Yamashiro. I am currently developing a TV special for next Spring, along with a big runway and fundraiser show. It’s an ambitious dream project, which will further my AMLA Production. Onward to another big challenge in my career!