Fashion designer Cesar Gaupo passed away earlier this morning. Sources close to the designer said that he died in his sleep after his birthday celebration last night.
Cesar started his career back in the ’70s, he created an RTW line with SM and was the head creative of international fashion brand Shanghai Tang. He eventually went back to Manila to work on lifestyle design.
“Cesar is one of the kindest souls in our fashion industry. He was always so joyful and in my mind forever youthful. He was always ready with a compliment and would continuously encourage everyone to do their best,” said Rajo Laurel. “I remember during a shoot for Patrick Rosas’ book, he told me that he loved my work and that he was so proud of me. That meant the world to me. He taught me how important it was to be nice. In this crazy world of fashion Cesar was a rare breed—forever relevant and forever loved.”
“He’s the wizard of fashion. He never stopped to amaze me every time—very young, very current. I will miss him dearly. His kindness is overwhelming. Thank you for the friendship Cesar, rest in peace,” said hairstylist Henri Calayag.
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If there was one person in fashion who immediately sparked joy when you see him, it was Cesar Gaupo. One of the nicest people I’ve met. A great talent and inspiration. (He made the clothes for my favorite Filipino movie of all time, Working Girls!) Thank you for the clothes and the fantasy, Cesar.
Fashion designer JC Buendia also couldn’t hold back tears as he shared, “I started my career in fashion as Cesar Gaupo’s assistant. He didn’t force me to follow his style, instead, he encouraged me to find my own voice. Aside from work discipline, he taught me how to work on the ‘bias (cut)’, a magic that works every time I’m faced with challenging styles. Out of work, he has taught me how to stay bagets and have fun.”
“Cesar Gaupo was such a jolly, well-loved fellow. He was always smiling and his energy was infectious,” shared Tim Yap. “He was one of the pillars of fashion who showed the younger generation: ‘This is what you can be—creative and happy for others—without any haughtiness or self aggrandizement.’ He will be missed.”
Hindy Weber-Tantoco also shared a few words. “Cesar was the kind of designer whose work commanded accolades and recognition, and yet, when you walked into a room with him in it, none of that mattered. He welcomed you with peals of laughter, a genuine smile that never seemed to wane, and, on top of it all, encouragement for your work—no matter how amateur it was next to his. I’ll miss him backstage.”
“Cesar was one of the major players in the Philippine fashion industry. His creations remained relevant as he evolved with the times. I used to call him Nanay (mother), but he always insisted that we were sisters. People told us we looked alike. He was very funny, always a joy to be with. He was also very kind and generous as he would give me clients he couldn’t accommodate,” shared Ivar Aseron.
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This was taken last night at your birthday party. Your passing this morning has made me so sad. One time I called you Nanay but you insisted we were sisters. I clearly remember you among the crowd giving me a thumbs up on my first ever major group show. You will never know that that gesture gave me one of the biggest inspirations when I was starting as a designer. For that, I thank you and I love you #cesargaupo
Makeup artist Patrick Rosas said “I’m very grateful that I collaborated with all the major filipino designers and one of them is Cesar Gaupo. He was kind enough to give me some professional advice when it comes to fashion and its secrets. He was my food buddy because we both like Filipino food. Gentle and a kind friend. One of the best Filipino master designers.”
“I met Cesar six years ago when my friends Cata Figueroa and Tonichi Nocom invited me to his beautiful house in Laguna,” shared Dubai-based designer Michael Cinco. “I always admired his work for long time. For me, he is one of the best designers who really made Filipinos proud when he became the head designer of international label Shanghai Tang. He is a very humble and simple person.”
“There are many more people in the industry that knows Cesar more than I but for the few times that I was able to spend with him, he made sure that he left a smile on my face and a deep sense of joy. His quirky, sometimes naughty remarks, always made his audience laugh out loud. I was one of those people, I will always and forever be a fan of Mr. Gaupo,” said jewelry designer Candy Dizon.
Events director Robby Carmona also shared their most unforgettable collaboration, “I have worked with Cesar a couple of times and one collaboration I would never forget is when he asked me to launch his shoe line. His vision was solid. No runway. No models walking. He wanted installations where models will showcase the shoes. And this was before presentations became a trend. He was truly ahead of his time. Always fun, energetic, and young.”
Accessories designer and model Tweetie De Leon-Gonzalez couldn’t believe the news. “I’m so devastated. Cesar is everyone’s adorable, little friend with an unbelievably big talent. Crazy witty, kind-hearted, and generous with his gifts, but always firm with his decisions,” she said. “Speaking to him enriches you with his kind of wisdom that is both serious and blithesome, humble always with his infinite accomplishments. He was creative director of the luxury brand Shanghai Tang for many years and was called back after choosing to go home and resume his design career in Manila, which by then included home, resort, and spa interiors. He was a complete design force whose positive, creative energy compels you to believe in yourself and continuously grow in your own pursuits. I am so heartbroken and will miss him terribly.”
“Cesar is one of our biggest stars in fashion and one of the humblest too. What I learned from him is that it’s all about the craft and aesthetic, never about popularity or fame. As a friend, he had a gentle, jolly spirit, and always ready with a punch line. As a designer, he took his craft seriously, whether it’s RTW or couture. He was never self-absorbed, no ego, and always generous in giving advice. We all love him dearly,” said fashion designer Patrice Ramos Diaz.
Juana Manahan Yupangco shared a special memory she shared with her mom and the designer, “Cesar Gaupo was a great friend of my moms, who did both her wedding shoes as well as mine. It was so special that he was part of both of our big days. I keep my pink brocade lace up wedding shoes in a box and will treasure them forever.”
Fashion designer James Reyes said he always looked up to Cesar, “When everyone was going a certain way, he was going the other way. He created clothes you haven’t seen before. So when I finally met him, it was as if we’ve known each other for a long time. He was funny, silly, and a maldita; and thats what made me love him even more. The times I spent with him were 20 percent wisdom and 80 percent silliness. He just liked to laugh. And he laughed with so much gusto, he couldn’t care less. I guess thats the most important lesson I learned from him: Give it your all, always, and don’t care what people say. He was always a step ahead of everyone, including us young designers. He was forever young that way. I will truly miss him.”
Dennis Lustico said, “Cesar is a perfect example of a designer who constantly evolves. His designs travel with time, always on point, and consistently relevant.”
“We weren’t close, but I remember when I was young and starting as a designer I would save up for his pieces because he was kind of the only one who worked with geometrical shape and drapes, and I really admired that. End of an era,” shared designer Mich Dulce.
“Way before the rest, Cesar Gaupo had long made his mark in the international fashion scene. Before I even met him when I started modeling, he was THE Cesar Gaupo I admired in fashion pages—the designer asked by Tessie Sy Coson herself to work for SM fashion and retail who later became chief designer for global brand Shanghai Tang,” shared model and businesswoman Rissa Mananquil-Trillo. “It was a fashion milestone that made Filipinos proud. To me, he was pivotal to opening doors for other designers and paved the way for global confidence in Filipino designers. But despite his influence in the industry, he never felt more important than anyone else. He entered with presence but with warmth. He was always friendly, accommodating, and endearing. He set the standard on how successful designers should be.”
Designer Lulu Tan-Gan shared photos with Preen and lovingly sends Cesar a message and even shares a few words of his impact in the fashion industry, “I miss you Cesar. I am broken. You are my idol, my icon, my couturier, my mentor, my comfort, and bagets friend, my comediante, Tita and now Lola to my kids.
You are genuine, kind, gentle and spiritual, always joyful and hilarious. You are the bagets that is truly youthful. You are a big part of my life. I have not shed tears in plenty years until this day. Boohoo!
Thank you for your goodbye kiss and hug, that came with thoughtful words, the night before we parted at your birthday party.
Cesar is a great couturier. His style is timeless and will remain as relevant. His designs transcend trends. Cesar is also a sculptor shaping and draping fabrics, as this is his unrivaled strength. Yes, unrivaled.
In our fashion sector, Cesar is a mover, definitely an inspiration to us, established designers. Being a low-key designer, he doesn’t think his fashion is an element of social status but more an expression of his clients personality. And that is his success. Cesar, you are my creative hero!”
You will surely be missed, Cesar. Rest in peace.
Photos courtesy of Lulu Tan-Gan and Michael Cinco
Interviews by Bea Ledesma
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