The Philippine fashion industry has lost one of its champions with the passing of one of the heirs to the House of Slim, Sandy Higgins. Slim’s Fashion & Arts School is considered one of the most established fashion schools in the country, with half a century’s worth of design and dressmaking education that shaped notable alumni now considered as icons of contemporary Philippine fashion. Daughter to Salvacion “Slim” Lim Higgins, Sandy continued the family legacy of pushing for the evolution of the Filipiniana that is grounded on a technical foundation—with a meticulousness that merits a likening to architecture and engineering.
Screengrab of Mark Higgins’s announcement as the Slim’s director
The Slim’s Fashion & Arts School principles hone the skill of refining an idea. The established Slim’s method is an in-depth study in garment construction. Its products are daring but not gaudy, experimental not only in terms of its details and palette but silhouettes as well. The House is one of the pioneers of the modern terno and so the garment remains a pre-requisite to and a measure of its students’ growth. In the works of graduates such as Albert Andrada, Michael Cinco, Joe Salazar, and Oskar Peralta, the terno is re-imagined and revered.
Slim Higgins dressed Philippine society swans of the ‘50s and ‘60s and so she had a hand in nurturing nationalistic sentiment and in showcasing local fashion on foreign stages. In fact, two of her ternos are displayed in the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum. In the face of recognition, the House persevered in its mentorship of talents. As a co-director of Slim’s, Sandy Higgins was able to share this craftsmanship with even more young designers through an educational fund named after their mother. In taking part in initiatives such as the contest and convention known as “TernoCon,” she also made vintage ternos once only seen in photographs available for public viewing. In her mother’s stead, she ushered a broader dispense of terno-making knowledge and terno conservation. She was a true and generous industry leader.
The founder of Filip + Inna, fashion designer Len Cabili remembers Sandy as “a daughter who was very passionate about continuing the legacy of her mother, Salvacion Higgins. A sister to Mark, who provided the nurturing and encouragement of his creativity. A mentor to all the students who always put them first as they were her pride and joy. A friend to all of us, her kindness and graciousness always saw the best side of ourselves.” Cabili thanks her for teaching others to lead and give with their hearts. She adds that Sandy will always be remembered and honored.
A student of Slim’s and winner of TernoCon 2020, designer Hannah Adrias shares about her mentor: “Before, when I was just starting in Slim’s, I was just looking at her from afar, scared at the mere presence of her. I never thought that I would have an opportunity to talk to her. She always wanted us to always be professional in all the things we do. She was very vocal—she’ll say what she likes and what she doesn’t. She taught us how to do a time table, how to multitask and all the things needed to be an efficient designer. Whenever we met at the school’s hallway, she always asked me how I’m doing, if I learned something new and if I’m having fun. It’s important for her that we love what we do.”
Adrias believes that everyone could benefit from reading the last message Higgins sent her back in March. “Yes, the virus is scary, but it should not defeat you. I think we all have to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally that the bad news will continue for a while. But let’s not dwell on it or become frozen into immobility. Life can go on somehow. Just stay home, be smart. Follow all the precautions. Look at this lockdown as a rare opportunity to do things you never had time to do. Practice things you’ve learned. Learn more things online if you can. Hone your craft. Don’t let this stop you from growing and learning. And when this is over you will be well prepared to start your work again,” wrote Higgins.
Notable Slim’s alumnus, designer Joey Samson says about the co-director, “She’s always very supportive and encouraging. I will miss making something for her. It’s every designer’s dream to be able to dress up someone like her. She is always very trusting.”
Designer CJ Martin shares about Higgins’ influence, “Her dedication and passion in preserving our Filipino heritage is very evident as I passed through their exhibition at the TERNOCON2020 in CCP. I may not know her personally but her contribution to the conservation of vintage ternos and creation of contemporary ternos is truly inspiring. Their work influenced me to improve my technical knowledge and skill as a fashion designer and to be more respectful of the craft in creating ternos.”
Sandy Higgins is beloved to family, friends and students for her striking wisdom and spirit. Designer Lulu Tan-Gan of TAN-GAN knitwear was able to put into words what she meant to the industry. “Sandy will be missed as being one of the pillars in our fashion sector. A genteel and creative personality, she did stupendous tasks immortalizing Slim’s influence on design through a retrospective exhibit and coffee-table book that celebrates Slim’s legacy. Together with her sibling Mark, Sandy is the low key personality behind their fashion school, committed to providing in-depth fashion education. Her contribution is invaluable, preserving design influence and trajectory and providing fashion literacy to our Philippine fashion history,” she said.