Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In the wake of the demise of print magazines, it’s revelatory how former editors have remade themselves. Moving online is the logical move, but some old-timey editors (not naming names) have decided that they don’t want to have anything to do with the era of clickbait journalism. Others, like Pauline Suaco-Juan, have emerged from a brief retirement to conquer new worlds, parlaying the skills and knowledge gained from years in publishing to energize, of all things, a government agency.
Suaco-Juan, who was at the helm of Preview magazine for 15 years, is perhaps the last of her kind — a fashion editrix who set the tone of fashion coverage and sparked careers in photography, design, makeup, modeling, styling and much more, becoming the stuff of legend. Junior staff members feared her, and employees from less stylish Summit titles shook as she walked down the office hallways in her signature statement footwear.
Unlike the Miranda Priestly archetype, however, Suaco-Juan was neither imposing nor mean. She was exacting, but she was uplifting, and many a Preview girl flourished under her wing. Non-fashion colleagues had the utmost respect for her because she stood as living proof that one could be intelligent and also make their whole world about fashion. She has a master’s degree in Media and Communications from the London School of Economics and a closetful of Louboutins — so if there was one reason to be intimidated by her, it’s that she can pick apart your article and tell you what you shouldn’t be wearing.
After an epic decade-and-a-half run as editor-in-chief, Suaco-Juan stepped down from Preview in Jan. 2016, ahead of Summit’s full digital migration and the shuttering of its most beloved print titles, which culminated in May this year.
“I was living my doña life, traveling with the kids,” she says of the two years she didn’t have an office job. Her Instagram posts during this period revealed journeys through places like Sevilla, London, Morocco, and Prague, wonderfully art-directed and thoughtfully captioned the way only a true editor would.
Meanwhile, The Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) was actively looking for an executive director, and had contacted Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Rajo Laurel, both members of the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines. Laurel told CITEM they had full-time jobs — but he knew someone who didn’t, and called Suaco-Juan up. “So I submitted my resume to Sec. Mon [DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez], and after a long series of interviews, here I am.”
Right now, here is the Y Café, where Suaco-Juan will give the opening remarks at her very first media presser as CITEM’s new executive director. Sworn in last Aug. 10, her team is already in full swing for CREATE Philippines 2018, a trade platform for graphics and communications designers to be held on Sept. 22 to 23. On stage, she tells the audience that she used to be one of them. As a former editor, she was part of the creative industry while also championing it, recognizing its role as a driver of economic growth in terms of mobilizing innovation and generating jobs.
The creative sector, which includes filmmakers, musicians, theater performers, animators, graphic artists and the like, is predicted to be the next sunshine industry, replacing BPOs when it comes to exporting content and services. The industry has recently begun to be formally organized, led by the Creative Economy Council of the Philippines, a group that is charting a roadmap to growing the creative economy and establishing UNESCO Creative Cities in the country.
“It’s weird, it feels like my first day at Preview,” Suaco-Juan tells me about the transition to her new job. “When I became EIC, I had come from broadcasting so it was kind of a leftfield choice for Liza [Gokongwei] to promote me, in the same way they chose someone from outside of the bureaucracy.”
When you think about it though, it makes perfect sense for someone like her to take over CITEM. She has been attending and reviewing their events for years, and having worked closely with designers and brands, she knows exactly what clients are looking for. It was a golden opportunity to do something concrete after years of hearing comments and critiques from within the industry.
CITEM, an agency under the Department of Trade and Industry, holds three core trade shows: Manila FAME, the biannual showcase of outstanding furniture and accessories design; IFEX, a food festival highlighting specialty products, and the newer CREATE Philippines, which is only in its second year.
While trade shows are the main vehicle through which CITEM promotes their products, Suaco-Juan says they are looking into innovative ways to explore the trade show experience on a digital platform. “As I said during the interview, it’s similar to what I was doing before, but the medium is different. I was selling clothes, shampoo, makeup. Like in publishing, you get to tell stories. A lot of it is really going back to the heart of things, marketing our Pinoy products to the rest of the world.”
It turns out that the biggest learning curve for Suaco-Juan in her new position has been picking up the jargon of government-speak. “Especially all the acronyms,” she says. “You take it for granted that everyone speaks the same language.” To this, she has enlisted the help of two other former colleagues in Summit, Owen Maddela and Ichi Apostol-Acosta, with whom she has been bouncing off ideas for years and who immediately gets what she’s trying to do. Yes, folks, there is life after publishing.
Suaco-Juan believes that the agency can really benefit from the practices of the private sector. “CITEM is phenomenal at what it does, but at the end of the day, when you’re tied down to the nitty gritty of the operational aspects, you lose the time to reflect on what new ideas can be brought in,” she says. “That’s one of the things I can bring in — because I’m rested!”