"Sorry I'm a bit out of sync today. I was up all night finishing beading work for someone's gown," Erick Talledo sheepishly tells me on the sidelines of a singing competition in Dubai where he has designed the female contestant's gowns.
"Don't you want to leave that to your assistants?" I ask. "Well, I am just starting so I mostly do everything on my own," the UAE-based Filipino designer says in a humility that I find rather disarming.
Despite his abashed persona, the UAE's emerging fashion designer has dressed up members of ruling families and visiting Filipino celebrities, including Aubrey Miles, Troy Montero, MYMP and Jam Morales. He prefers to let his work do the talking.
Does he see himself joining the ranks of Dubai-based couturiers Michael Cinco and Furne One one day? "Yes, but I think I will focus first on creating affordable fashion," he says. He is also interested in experimenting with sustainable wear. "I want to work on reusable fabric and materials," he says, adding that he once tried creating a "fun" dress from trash bags.
In the local entertainment scene, he is the fashion designer on speed dial, dressing up hosts for events such as Expat Duets, Mrs Dubai International and the Middle East leg of popular Philippine variety show Wowowin in Abu Dhabi.
Talledo says he wants to challenge the UAE's notion of fashion by creating wearable pieces within people's budget.
"It's a celebration when I can make a suit or dress for someone to fulfill their ultimate dream, which is to look beautiful," he says.
"It's like I am finishing an unfinished canvas... It's every designer's dream to dress a famous personality or an icon, but for me each client is an individual who should be treated like royalty," he says.
He hasn't turned down anyone, no matter how small the job is. "Once, I had a customer who was in tears because the wedding dress she ordered from another designer didn't fit at all, and she already spent so much money on having it shipped to the UAE. I made one for her at a price she could afford and she was very happy with it," he recalls.
Talledo's work features intricate beading patterns, embroderies and laser-cut designs on various fabrics. The self-taught designer says he takes inspiration from "simple things, moments or even from individuals".
"Every designer starts from scratch. You have to expect a lot of rejection. I did not let those rejections put me down, but I let them inspire me to do more," he says, revealing that before he moved to the UAE, he was forced to close his atelier in the Philippines due to financial issues.
But the optimistic designer says he is confident that he can achieve his goals despite the hurdles. He's currently preparing to showcase his work in the upcoming London Fashion Week in September.
For now, Talledo continues wearing his heart on his sleeve: expressing delight in one Facebook photo for finally getting his clothing label, and in another, thanking an anonymous person for a Louis Vuitton travel bag, and - of course - changing the world one stitch at a time.