M&S Davao Style File: Joji Ilagan-Bian, succeed in style

EDUCATOR, businesswoman, hospitality industry maven, religious devotee, leader are just the few titles we can attach to Joji Ilagan-Bian’s name.

She singlehandedly created an empire from her first business venture she founded in 1982—the Joji Ilagan Career Center, a school that made quality education and personality development within everyone’s reach.

“Power dressing is what I would call my style.” 
Joji in Animal Print Top under Window Pane Jacket & Side Zipped Cotton Crop Pants in Tomato from M&S Collection.

Today, the center has grown to a foundation with a chain of schools across the city— the Joji Ilagan College of Business and Tourism, Institute of International Culinary Hospitality and Entrepreneurship (ICHEF) and Joji Ilagan International School of Hotel and Tourism Management, and the Stockbridge International School, the first international school in Davao opening in the coming year.

Joji, or JIB as she is popularly known, has never been busier, even if she has her daughter Nicole to run the company with her. But through all these, she is the personification of all things she champions – be driven and succeed in style. Smart, chic, dapper, elegant are a few more adjectives to attach to her name.


“To keep looking young, experiment on colors and prints and be surprised at the results.”  
 Joji wears a Classic Multi Paisley Top, M&S Collection Cotton Crop Pants in Fresh Blue with an Orange Double Zip XBody Bag from M&S Collection to match the look.

Made up, well dressed and stylish, JIB faces her everyday corporate challenges and personal engagements with propriety. She is perennially sharp –both her business acumen and fashion sense—and at ease with the “old world glamour” trait of “always looking one’s best before stepping out of one’s private sanctum.”

“Power dressing is what I would call my style of dressing since I spend most of my time attending business meetings, conferences and social events. Its important that I use clothes that convey confidence and professionalism,” said JIB.

“Invest on classics and build pieces of your wardrobe around them.”  
Joji’s picks know no season— M&S Collection ensemble of Zigzag Print Top & Black Skater Mini Skirt.

Here, she shares ten of her personal rules on style and beauty she abides by.

1. The kind of occasion or event is not the only factor that you will consider in determining the degree of formality of informality of your wardrobe. The culture and lifestyle of the city, province or country is equally as important.

2. Always strike a balance in achieving what I call “quiet elegance”. Whether I’m in denims, smart casual or high fashion clothes, I make sure the look is seamless from the hairdo down to the shoes.

3. Invest on classics and build pieces of your wardrobe around them. 

Pants and skirts are staples in my wardrobe. I can achieve the look I want by switching tops or blouses. Pencil cut, knee length skirts make me look taller and slimmer. Wear it with a t-shirt and I’m all set to go to the shopping mall. I switch the top to a silk blouse and I can go to cocktails or evening dinners.

To keep looking young, experiment on colors and prints. Mix and match and be surprised at the results. I ‘lose years ‘ by just doing this, try it.

4. I love white because the color is ‘ fresh and clean’. It’s easy to accessorize with colored pieces. Be careful with white of you are on the heavy side, it’ll make you look bigger. Black is your best bet if you want to look slimmer.

“I love white because the color is ‘ fresh and clean’, easy to accessorize and pair with colored pieces.”  
Joji pairs her soft white M&S Collection 5-Pocket Jeggings with a pale blue Per Una Ladder Ombre Top & M&S Collection Painted Flower Scarf in Mint. Prism Arm Eyewear, Block Stripe Scarf in her Zebra Shopping Bag from M&S Collection.

5. Pearls are a woman’s best friend. “Power pearls” are anything from size 11mm to 16mm in a single strand. The perfect length must hang within the neckline and not over.

6. Play with accessories. Arm and neckpieces, earrings and rings, I have them in different sizes and colors. I love how these can put life in my wardrobe. I am a great fan of chunky accessories, which I find perfect for my tall and slim figure.

7. Bags and shoes can make or break an outfit. A staple in a shoe collection must be black, brown and nude or beige. Nude or beige tones make legs look slimmer and longer. Wear dark colored sheer stockings with your black shoes to make your legs appear slimmer.

8. Shop alone and never with a friend or you’ll end up buying their choices. Avoid “sales and bargains” nor do “speed shopping’ or you end up buying items that are not worth it.

If you are traveling abroad and you love something, buy it. “I’ll come back for it” will never happen.

Do not shop when you are emotionally upset or you’ll end up with tons of things you do not need.

Shopping is a source of great joy and excitement even if I end up buying nothing.

“Shop alone and never with a friend or you’ll end up buying their choices.” 
Joji’s look of choice for casual days: Striped Shirt & Skinny Jeans from Indigo, M&S Collection Leopard Print Belt & M&S Collection Reversible Poncho.

9. On make-up, study your face and its contour. Learn the art of blending and contouring. Put emphasis on what is beautiful, your best asset, and ‘downplay’ features that you think are your ‘ liabilities’.

Avoid too heavy make-up that masks your face. The secret in makeup is one that looks natural.

Invest in high quality make up brushes as well as in your cosmetics

10. Most importantly, dress like you are always on top of your class. A high level of self-esteem is always the key to success. Hold your head high and enjoy the moment. You will always look elegant with this kind of posture. It is not the size of your brain that will propel you to success but on how big your faith is.

“Dress like you are always on top of your class.” 
Elegance in classic black & white. Joji wears M&S Collection pairing of Double Layer Top in ivory with Black Bootleg Trousers. Spiral Stone Silver Necklace & Patent Side Bar Bag from M&S Collection & Black Platform Court Shoes from Limited.


Fashion: Marks & Spencer 2015 Autumn Collection available at SM Lanang Premier & Abreeza Mall

Photography: Kenneth Hao, Licentiate Wedding Photographer of Asia/2015 Tanglaw ng Inspirasyon Photography Specialist of the Year Awardee

Styling: Joji Ilagan-Bian & Otoy Mercado

Shot on location at the Marco Polo Davao Hotel


[For more lifestyle & travel stories, visit http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/ and http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/]

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 17, 2015.