MANILA, Philippines—Jojo Bragais has just wrapped up another successful stint as the official shoe provider of the Miss Universe pageant, a decision he never thought would bring with it responsibilities beyond his business.
“I have always been proud to be Filipino. But when I went out of the Philippines and I got there at Miss Universe, that’s where I felt even prouder,” the pageant shoe empresario told the Inquirer in an exclusive interview at Victorino’s restaurant in Quezon City before he flew to the United States for the global pageant.
“I always say I am Filipino, and it’s funny that some people don’t know where the Philippines is. They don’t know we’re Asians, they only know of Japan and Korea, not us. I tell them who we are,” he continued.
Bragais said he feels that his success on the global arena is also the success of many, and has gone beyond being just personal. “It makes me want to do the best of what I can,” he shared.
He first collaborated with the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) for the pageant’s 69th edition held in the US in May 2021. For his initial salvo, he showcased his “Jehza” design, named after 2018 Bb. Pilipinas Supranational Jehza Huelar.
The shoe ditched the platforms, and using it for the most prestigious international pageant revolutionized the industry that has been known to popularize the clunky shoe form for years. Another trailblazing move by Bragais was the introduction of multiple nude shades to conform with different skin tones.
The inclusive measure continued in his second collaboration with MUO for the 71st edition, also in the US. “Cream,” “Caramel” and “Coco” shades were again made available for his new design, the “Maureen,” named after 2021 Miss Globe Maureen Montagne. The shoes also incorporated the more streamlined form of the Jehza.
But the Maureen has a more spiritual meaning behind the design. The straps were made to resemble fingers interlaced in prayer. Bragais said it was meant to pay tribute to Montagne’s fervent wish to someday represent the Philippines in an international competition, which eventually came true.
Bragais also revealed to the Inquirer that another shoe design was approved by MUO for the swimsuit competition. The new product, not named after a beauty queen and which has never been used in any pageant before, was supposed to usher in a new era in the global pageant industry.
He said this new shoe concept for pageantry made him ask MUO for more time before agreeing with another partnership. Bragais told the Inquirer that he spent months mulling over the prospect of releasing two different shoe designs for the Miss Universe pageant, one of which is different from the usual.
The Filipino global entrepreneur said he finally gave in, and thought it would also usher a new era for his growing business. But now that MUO decided to scrap the new design at the last minute, will he still tread the path he thought he would be taking after the staging of the 71st Miss Universe pageant?
“Yes, we will now venture into ‘wearables,’” Bragais told the Inquirer.
If MUO’s initial plan came through, Bragais anticipated that people would see that his brand “is not just doing pageant shoes or high heels. There are other things that we can still do.”
He said this track is aligned with his vision for the brand for 2023 and 2024, to release a “wearable” line. “I’ve been doing pageant shoes for the last seven, eight years. I feel it’s about time to tap into other markets,” Bragais said.
He said this vision for his brand’s growth was inspired by his travels outside the Philippines. After achieving his ultimate goal of being the official shoe provider of the Miss Universe pageant, he observed market leaders and monitored global business trends to come up with a viable next step for the Bragais brand.
“For now, I want change. I want to do more and to go out of my comfort zone, something different, I would say. In the next few months some will not be able to understand my decision or choices, but I’m ready for it. I can’t even wait,” Bragais declared. /ra