Tastemaker Ina Ayala On The Scariest Thing She's Ever Eaten and Her Guilty Pleasures

IMAGE Dix Perez

When it comes to matters of taste, Ina Ayala keeps an open mind. Not one to go for the big name fashion labels herself, Ina admires other women who trust their own style instincts and don’t just jump on the latest trends. Fashion iconoclast Iris Apfel tops her list. Ina says, “Taste has nothing to do with price. It has everything to do with your voice. If you are true to yourself, know what you like, know what catches your eye, you know what you want to look like to other people—sartorially—if you know and follow that one voice inside you, then there’s no bad taste.”

Source of inspiration
Because of my curious nature, I observe everything—I notice and take in everything I see, smell, hear, touch, taste—and can refer to these for inspiration later on!

Favorite thing that you designed
A pair of half-black suede and half-bronze leather flats, because that was the first of my designs I saw being worn on the street. I waved to the woman as she passed me and said, “Nice shoes!”

Beige shoes in various shapes and styles

Favorite city to visit
It’s a toss-up between Florence and New York City.

Place you’ve never been, but would most like to visit
I have been wanting to go to Bhutan and have one of those life-changing moments that everyone claims to have had experienced while there.

Favorite artists
I have always been fascinated by portraiture, so naturally the works of Chuck Close amaze me. Not only because they are impressive in scale and impossibly realistic, but also because this is a man who suffers from prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces)—and he comes up with these portraits?!

Personal art project
I shot a series of photographs entitled “Detritus” in 2009. My aim was to turn the stains and smears of nature into works of art. The Silverlens exhibit entitled “Kaleidoscope” showed some of these works.

Art in her view: a boy monk from Myanmar

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Favorite films
I love the feeling after seeing films about the triumph of the human spirit like The Shawshank Redemption, Empire of the Sun, The Pursuit of Happyness, Pelle the Conqueror, and others.

Favorite book
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand.

Favorite musicians
Bryan Ferry and Lenny Kravitz.

Favorite form of entertainment
I entertain myself on my loaded iPad, watching Youtube dressage videos, downloaded TV series and movies, TED Talks, and reading magazines or books, you name it.

Style icon
I had a sighting of Iris Apfel at the Metropolitan Museum in New York last summer and her vibe is real! I admire her courage to be unique, her sense of mix and matching, her joie de vivre despite her age. We should all have a bit of her spirit in us.

Pieces from Ina's accessory collection

Ways to discover new products and designers
By reading “The What,” an e-newsletter by two women who keep us updated on everything hip, cool, and interesting; and following designers and brands on Instagram.


Most used electronic device
My iPhone 6.

Most used home accessory
Hands down, our Nespresso machine.

Most treasured possession
My family.

Favorite charitable cause
Philippine business for education’s 1,000 Teachers Program, to which I offer my time each year to help raise funds for scholarships that will produce 1,000 quality public school teachers, and the Guanella Center, a home which my parents have been supportive of for a while now. It cares for abandoned special-needs youths and adults.

Best gift ever received
A horsey portrait by Salvador Arellano from Fred and the kids.

Greatest hope for the future
Honestly and sincerely? world peace.

Favorite restaurants
Anything grassroots and real. My dad taught us how to graze at food markets and so far our favorites are Mercato Centrale in Florence, La Boqueria in Barcelona, and Kuromon Ichiba market in Osaka.

Feeding alpacas in Ecaudor

Best thing you ever ate
Not exactly the best thing but it’s the scariest thing: fugu. I was dared by my brother at a market in Japan. We are adventurous eaters.

Guilty pleasure
Alba white truffles!

Words to live by
Expect nothing, appreciate everything.

Happiest moment
Apart from our wedding and the birth of my two boys? Qualifying for and then competing at the 2015 Southeast Asian games in dressage. The thrill of carrying the country’s flag for the sport you love is second to none.

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Pierre A. Calasanz
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