By: Susanah Cheok
Marie Michelle Calica Sotto has been a bridal gown and ready-to-wear designer for 15 years.
The green collar stylepreneur recently founded and runs a very popular live shopping party called Michi Calica Live Sale on Facebook, where she curates and sells select pre-loved designer and non-branded clothing.
Says the youthful and spirited Michi, a bi-coastal ‘venturer”, who lives between Manila and La Union, surfing capital of the North, “Michi Calica Live Sale is a live fashion show where my young crew, Erin and Iana (our daughters) move clothes very fast in the format of a dance party. This has grown very popular during the pandemic. It is very entertaining. We have a cult following of Michi Calica brides, women I’ve designed wedding dresses for, and the group is growing.” The weekly live fashion show, with a unique shop and party element, happens every weekend, “with two to four hours of high-energy, pure good vibes”.
The businesswoman, real estate agent and surf instructor recently forayed into art as another avenue to express herself. As a self-styled artist, Michi creates triptychs as big as 6 ft by 3 ft, some even three times as large.
Adversity had forced this bonafide beach babe to dig even deeper into her creative soul.
She shares, “2021 was the year I beat thyroid cancer, but I lost my voice and forayed into abstract expressionism. I was very frustrated about living with vocal cord paralysis but am grateful that I can express myself through my art. I posted a few pieces online and friends and loyal clients just kept buying. Now I am making huge commission works. Currently, I divide my time between my art studio in the city and the province. All this while re-stocking Michi Calica Live Sales with pre-loved merchandise and planning its social media marketing campaigns.”
We see the alarming devastation of climate change and we must do our part in slowing down this matter. We can do it in our own daily lives.Marie Michelle
Michi grew up among siblings who were eco-conscious. “In my teens, I heard my eldest sister Mica talk about the future of the environment. She’d read a book about ways to lessen carbon footprints; green practices like using eco-bags, minimising the use of air-conditioning. She mentioned how styrofoam was very bad for the environment. And I got really curious and looked deeper.”
It became ingrained in her to also start caring for the earth by incorporating meaningful green-living methods into her life. “On a daily basis, I have a compost for all my fruit and veggie scraps. This part of my day gives me a lot of satisfaction. I ask for used coffee grounds from a neighbour who sells coffee to mix with my dried leaves, food scraps and I turn and water this daily."
“For meat products, I have an area that feeds beach dogs. They eat everything and nothing goes to waste. Of course, I also wear a good amount of pre-loved clothing. My weekly live sale unabashedly makes pre-loved clothing and accessories fashionable, ethical and fun to buy and wear."
Michi finds it particularly fulfilling that they are creating awareness for sustainable fashion in a fun and relaxed way, attracting an audience-customer base that transcends the generations. Michi’s commitment sees her posting an OOTD that promotes her select, curated, pre-loved pieces on IG every day. Proof of her faithfulness to sustainable fashion is the fact that last year, she bought exactly one brand new piece for her wardrobe; the rest were all pre-loved.
“Sustainability is an urgent matter,” says the nature-lover who rises before 5am daily to pray, keep silent and be thankful. “We see the alarming devastation of climate change and we must do our part in slowing down this matter. We can do it in our own daily lives. I was very struck by the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth C Kline. This book talked about the danger of working conditions in the sweat shops of Bangladesh and South East Asia, and how they even hire minors for very cheap labour. This is blatant greed and it appals me to the core. I don't buy fast fashion, but we do resell them in our live sale.”
All of Michi’s pre-loved clothes are from the Michi Calica Live Sale, which are authentically pre-worn and second-hand. “I collect them from fashion friends, designers, stylists, editors and also clients. Then we re-sell them in MCLS and our genuine circular fashion items are also incredibly affordable.” In the past, Michi even had her own defunct line of sustainable clothing called MiChi (Mi = I, Chi = core energy).
Michi’s nonchalant chic, beach babe style makes her look like she’s permanently on a fashion cruise. “I only wear natural fabrics like cotton and linen because they feel and look great. I love the wind-crushed look of 100% linen. I like roomy and airy pieces with uncomplicated silhouettes, mixing neutrals with funky prints and brights. I also love straw hats for the beach. My current favourite colour is seafoam green. I can do high and low and have ditched all my designer bags here in the province, “ she says.
Besides shopping at her own live sales, she also sources for new pieces from her clients and following. Living a sustainable fashion life has inevitably made things more interesting for Michi and her crew. “We had a series on 'closet cleansing' and boxes of clothing are sent to our HQ on a regular basis. My team and I just curate and catalogue all the pieces. Not all are apt for selling though. I find random great pieces through my hunt, such as a beautiful Philip Lim top, a Dolce and Gabbana dress, pieces from Issey Miyake, Missoni, bridge lines of Armani, Ralph Lauren, you name it! I love treasure hunting for my clients and for myself."