There’s no doubt that the pandemic is changing the fashion industry. From nearly eliminating all the conventional reasons to dress up to compelling brands to manufacture PPEs for survival, the pandemic has driven designers to pivot over lockdown. What used to be a race to create pieces based on seasons became a challenge to adjust to the change in consumer habits.
During his time in isolation after the hectic schedule of his mentorship at TernoCon, Manila’s Prince of Fashion Inno Sotto takes a step back and opens up to buzzworthy designer Carl Jan Cruz, an admirer of Sotto’s, about a newfound calmness in the current industry.
Like sitting through a podcast, we got to listen to the two catch up and drop hot takes via Zoom about the countless lists of “Best Dressed Women,” designing the terno and whether fashion schools are still relevant.
Carl Jan Cruz: Hi, Inno.
Inno Sotto: Hey, CJ. How’ve you been?
CJ: I’ve been OK. I mean, we were messaging—I forget when, time is a social construct now. How about you? How have you been?
Inno: It’s been quiet. It’s a learning experience for me. I mostly read, play with fabrics—I’ve been actually happy. There’s this, what I call purging. All of a sudden, it’s like everything’s going to start on a clean slate and fashion will probably have to reinvent itself. I’ve been trying to figure out what the scene’s going to be like after the pandemic, and I’ve been spending more time thinking and really analyzing things.
CJ: What about in terms of work, how has it been?
Inno: I have a lot of unfinished work. [But] I like where I am now. I don’t necessarily get people talking to me about the next order [for] the next event they’d like to go to and [asking] if I could possibly make something for them. There’s a calmness now in the whole scene.
Prior to the pandemic, there was TernoCon, there were some orders I had to finish and a wedding I did during the weekend before we were all asked to stay home. And then it [was] like somebody just switched off the light without telling me and I was really surprised by all of that. I didn’t like the way that happened. When my clients came around and ordered things for their wedding anniversary [in July], it felt good and it sort of woke me up.
I think it’s going to be up to me and, perhaps for most of us designers, to actually sort of decide what we want to do after the pandemic. I don’t think I’d sit and wait to be told that this is what’s going to happen.
CJ: Yeah, I really, really agree with that. I was certainly in shock when March happened. We also [had a client] who wanted to get married at their house. But in our case, they wanted to get married in jeans in April. It was exactly the same feeling that yung energy mo, it doesn’t feel kalat. I realized that this is how I want it to be every time I kind of take on a project or make clothes.
Inno: One of the funny things I realized, and this was way before the pandemic, was the countless, countless, countless lists of “Best Dressed Women.” Why do best dressed women, who are known for their taste and having the knack for fashion or putting things together, actually need a stylist? Will you let me know, CJ? I don’t think Marie-Chantal had one, I don’t think Jackie Onassis had one, I don’t think Audrey Hepburn had one.
Inno: But some women were so dependent on somebody to actually make them look good. I don’t know if being on that list reflects the tastes and the ability of a stylist [more] or the innate taste of that woman [on that list] to actually express herself in a choice of clothing and in the way she entertains. You know, for the major editorials abroad or the editorial sections, there is a stylist for that because they’re working on a concept.
CJ: I get what you mean. On a lifestyle basis, right? My logic is that style really was able to define power. But because of how society or the world has evolved, unfortunately, power [now] defines style—and usually with power, you can afford certain things. That would suggest that these people can shop at certain places, but you miss the chance of finding out what these people could do with what they [already] have. For personal style, it’s nice to look at what’s going on, but it’s really different when you stumble upon it yourself and you have a response to it. To be honest, in the past six months, I don’t know about you, but I have this deep, deep fear of not really liking fashion anymore. But I mean, I realized that it wasn’t just fashion. I guess I’m finding more bliss now that I just love creating things.
Inno: I think everybody got a little too excited about fashion. When I was designing [for TernoCon], I would often say, “You know, guys, if there’s anything you should stop doing as designers, stop designing anything that’s supposed to be ‘bongga.’” I also realized that if it’s a terno, it’s worn on special occasions. But the word “special” is taken totally, totally out of…
CJ: Right. Was it like a constant fine line with costume and the terno?
Inno: It is a costume. It is a national costume.
CJ: Yeah, it is a national costume. I guess what I mean, in a sense, is that it doesn’t feel like the national costume anymore.
Inno: I think it’s been tampered too much. Everybody just started to do things with it. Unless you can make it really better and still manage to identify yourself as a Filipino wearing a national costume, I don’t think you should really change too much about the terno. Ang nangyayari kasi, the terno is worn by women who actually play a role. You have to be a Reyna Elena, a Hermana Mayor in a fiesta or a town fiesta queen.
CJ: On a local scale, I hope people get to see the value of fashion. Yes, it is classist, it’s elitist, it is defined by social class. But at the end of the day, I hope people see it as something that can be a vessel or like an engine that could cultivate culture that has defined part of history. I get that the fashion industry has evolved into something very problematic and that could be addressed. We have to be accountable for things and improve them.
To isolate it and not to be as vague, people have always asked, “Why is being a fashion designer all about you?” And it’s not just an external conversation, but an internal one, too, for me as a designer or a company owner now. Hopefully, I can take in some of those structures from people before who tried to create something really good—you can’t take much of it or make it so big that it’s possible for everyone to have it. I’m making peace with that because I also came from an educational system where there was a lot of pressure that you have to be at a certain scale already.
Inno: But I think in whatever kind of school, there will always be that pressure to have to excel. Otherwise, you miss the opportunity to be challenged and to be, how do I say, creative or more skillful in whatever you’re doing. But you know, I understand it when you say that a lot of people actually think that fashion is about the fashion designer. I, on the other hand, have always thought that it’s about the woman who comes to me. I realized, even having gone to school and all of that, the bulk of the things I know now really more have to do with all of the women who have come through that door to actually ask for an appointment to sit down with me. I think going to a fashion school helps, but I also think it’s important to actually allow your mind to wonder and to be very curious about many things.
CJ: I guess it’s something also in the relevance of fashion schools now. As a business owner or brand owner in RTW, I keep getting asked, actually, what I look for in a resume. I do get a lot of proud submissions that they may have attended this or that and it’s good. But again, from experience too, nothing beats just what they bring to the table. It’s more about the synergy of what they can do. I get rin kasi messages or emails sometimes that say, “Sana you can consider it, wala akong diploma,” or “I didn’t really do fashion.” I don’t want people [to bring themselves down] before they [even] get started. If you think you have something, go for it.
Writer’s note: This conversation has been edited for brevity
Written by Nadine Halili
Produced by Nadine Halili
Creative direction by Nimu Muallam
Art direction by Tricia Guevara and Dana Calvo
Layout and design by Tricia Guevara
Video by Michael Yabut
Assisted by Neal Alday and Lia delos Reyes
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If you’ve been a lover of designer clothing or have an appreciation for the garments of the world, Ersatz is your new best friend.
Launched earlier this year, Ersatz is a store and garment library that prides itself on celebrating unique designer pieces regardless of any season, making each one of their choices timeless. Their collections consist of secondary items sourced internationally that vary from Comme des Garçons to Yohji Mamomoto, housing all of your Japanese designer favorites. Their page reads, “Ersatz can mean anything made or used as a substitute: considering it a cheeky way to say ‘alternative’, we felt our focus on internationally-sourced, vintage, unnew garments was neatly encompassed; an ersatz method of procuring garments from other spheres of the world.”
Unlike regular garment libraries that offer its patrons the option to borrow their vintage pieces, Ersatz sells their clothing items at affordable prices so these luxury pieces can be truly yours without the buyer’s remorse.
On their Instagram page and website, they break down each piece by year, design, material, and a brief description of the item’s execution, staying true to that garment library feel. Think of them as master chefs breaking down their favorite dishes, making them more appetizing.
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From the catalog: a better look at the Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man AW2004 single button suit jacket. This jacket has anatomical seams at key points which allow for easy movement despite the close fit; an exaggeration of classic tailoring. These points of articulation open onto an additional inner layer of the same fabric. The execution here is distinctly Junya: A single front button with wide, curved peak lapels that draw attention to the shoulder line and create a regal, almost old-world impression despite the avant-garde pattern cutting. An exceptional piece from a season built upon technical executions that Junya rarely employs for his current menswear.
Beyond their unique approach to clothing and their wide collection, what makes Ersatz also stand out is their minimalistic style for their pictures and website, giving the feel of flipping through a high-fashion catalog. So whether you’re there to purchase a new fashion piece or wanting to appreciate designer clothes for more than just their name, Ersatz is your one-stop shop.
Photo courtesy of Kai Pilger from Pexels
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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.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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The Philippines is mourning the loss of one of the visionaries of its fashion industry. At 12 m.n. today, beloved Filipino fashion designer Arnold Galang passed away. More than just a creative, he was a peace advocate who wanted his collections to reflect our nation’s narratives by making the sartorial political. He was known not only for being fierce but also for his big heart. To designers, models and casters, he was Tito Arnold.
Galang was a storyteller and a Philippine Fashion Week (PhFW) veteran. His works have an understated elegance only made possible by his technical prowess. His Spring/Summer ‘19 “Coalescent Culture: The Peace Collection Series,” was one of his more memorable collections. It featured flowy, oversized pieces in the colors of Mindanao with wave details to signify bringing a wave of help to the victims of the Marawi crisis. Its 2018 precursor was simply named “Marawi.”
Even with a palette of black and white, he remained committed to bringing his perspective on peace to the forefront. He showcased this in the Spring/Summer 2016 “Equilibrium” collection which focused on the marriage of monochrome and deconstruction with peace symbol accents. In a previous article, Galang shared with us his thoughts on unity and the shared responsibility of designers. “I feel fashion has become a platform to showcase our personal views on political matters,” he said. “That was my biggest apprehension when I became peace ambassador since I know the industry is not keen on political affiliations more so issues. In fact, it was one of the reasons why we were tapped to promote the advocacy, to make sensitive issues more mainstream and readily accessible and informative.”
Many have paid tribute to Galang on social media. One of them was posted by creative producer and model Andromeda Reyes. She shared with us that her “Tito Arnold always wore head to toe black. He had the gentlest face and the kindest gestures in a busy and cramped fashion show backstage. He always seemed so quiet and peaceful—much like the message of his every piece in every show. He made a family out of many.” An anecdote that stuck with her happened back when they covered his show for a local cable channel. Her officemate wanted to buy a leather jacket from Galang and a few days later, he was in their office “personally delivering the piece—offering his craft to [the] world.”
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You will be sorely missed, tito @arnoldrgalang. Remembering my first show with you some time in 2011 or 2012. My last was around 2015. We did a couple more between those years. I regret not getting for myself a piece of yours which you so carefully crafted yet sold for such a friendly price — you would even deliver them yourself — a vision of a humble artist offering himself to the world. Thank you.
Front of House Manager for Philippine Fashion Week and Runway Productions Mito Tubilleja says during the 10 years that he had known Galang professionally, “not once did he make a mistake in the names of the ‘normal people’ he worked with. Lagi niyang sinasabi na ‘Sino pa bang magtutulungan kundi tayo?’” He shares that the designer was one of the few who remembered his name when he was just starting out.
Hair guru Henri Calayag says that his heart is saddened by the loss and that his thoughts and prayers are with the late designer. Fellow Filipino fashion designer Jian Lasala called him “one [of] my few cheerleaders in the fashion industry” in a heartfelt tribute.
When asked about Galang’s contributions to the Philippine creative community and what he meant to its members, Reyes said, “His collection wasn’t just a display of artistry but a showcase of what he stood for as a designer and peace champion. And I guess that what a mark of a true artist is—using your work to deliver a message and being remembered for it. I am honored to have worn his work in his fashion week shows from 2011 to 2015.”
Arnold Galang left us not only with his fashion legacy but with so many memories that touched our hearts.
Photos by Acushla Obusan, Paolo Tabuena and RG Medestomas
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We can’t wait to get our hands on this vulva-inspired Be Bag that is about “trusting in the magic of fleeting encounters and seizing everything that comes with it,” according to designer Rita Nazareno. She stated that an encounter with a beautiful soul inspired its completion. In 2016, Nazareno also said that her bags are anatomically designed to be “compatible with the user’s body figure.”
The bag embraces authenticity as it encourages everyone to express their true selves. “It is an empowering and sometimes frightening process—to be on a path of self-discovery and feel the urge to express your truth every step of the way,” says Nazareno. “I am fortunate to have the opportunity to do this through my work.”
While the path to self-discovery may be scary and confusing for many, it’s always nice to have an outlet to accompany us through it all. In Nazareno’s case, she uses art as a means to channel and understand her emotions better in the process of learning about herself. Moreover, the Be Bag is the perfect ode to lady parts. It breaks the stigma surrounding women’s bodies and sexuality, as the bag reminds us that we are free to become who we want to be without any shame.
ZACARIAS 1925 is hand-woven at the Nazareno family’s S.C. Vizcarra Workshop, a renowned label in the field of crafts in the Philippines.
The ZACARIAS 1925 Be Bags will be available in Manila in early 2020.
Photo courtesy of Please Do Not Enter’s Instagram Account
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I’m so honored to design the official parade uniform of Team Philippines for the 30th Southeast Asian Games. Reinventing…
Filipino architect and fashion designer Francis Libiran gave us a glimpse of his intricately designed Team Philippines’ official parade uniform for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
“It gives me great pride to release the designs of the official parade uniforms I created exclusively for Team Philippines at the 30th Southeast Asian Games,” Libiran said as he posted a photo of his design sketches early in the month.
“Depicting the vibrant colors and meaningful symbols of the Philippine national flag, these designs of the famous Barong Tagalog presents a modern take on the Philippines’ national costume. Created using fine Philippine fabrics and materials, these designs celebrate pure Filipino pride,” he added.
It gives me great pride to release the designs of the official parade uniforms I created exclusively for Team…
On July 21, Liberian finally revealed the finished product.
“I’m so honored to design the official parade uniform of Team Philippines for the 30th Southeast Asian Games,” Libiran said on his facebook post, together with a picture of his new design.
The designer incorporated a modern twist with the uniform, reinventing the national costume by infusing elements of the Philippine flag. With a blue and red collar, the sun seen on our national flag embroidered all over and across the left shoulder, together with the three stars. He utilized Philippine fibers and materials to create his masterpiece.
Libiran added, “Reinventing the design of our Barong Tagalog made it more nationalistic and festive by incorporating the vibrant colors and meaningful symbols of the Philippine national flag. I made use of Philippine fibers and materials, accented with custom art deco embroidery.”
His design will certainly bring a new flavor to the usual team uniforms, and would best represent our country for the international event—especially since the local sports teams haven’t been getting proper funding for the past few years, and isn’t the government’s top priority. Funding has always been a problem of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) since 2012.
However, early last year, the PSC has prepared a master plan for this year’s sports budget, and especially for the country’s hosting of the 30th SEA Games.
According to the PSC, a total P1.2 million budget has been appropriated, half of which for preparations and the other half for actual competitions.
The Philippine delegation will be marching in Libiran’s elegant barongs for the opening ceremonies of the SEA Games biennial meet.
Team Philippines will be marching with these barongs at the Philippine Arena on Nov. 30.
Photo courtesy of Francis Libiran’s Facebook page
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It’s not easy to make it in the fashion industry. Karl Lagerfelds, Donatella Versaces, and Rei Kawakubos just don’t blossom out of nowhere. There’s years of work involved, a lot of heartbreak, and lucky breaks. And I think that has doubled these days as social media provides a quick platform for more people to show their pieces, making the competition fiercer.
In the Philippines, our local designers have stepped up to the challenge. Bringing their unique twist to the usual designs or showing off great craftsmanship, Filipino designers make it on the international stage with full aplomb and command. They prove that having great talent is only successful when you couple it with a drive to surpass the standard.
With a baby brand in her hands, Gabbie managed to capture an international audience at Vancouver Fashion Week. I love how she managed to convey the Visayan ceremony and prayers of harvest season to the Canadian crowd. It just shows that paying tribute to tradition can be fresh and cater to the international taste as she got citation even from Vogue China.
Holding a Ken Samudio piece is like holding a piece of art. From his sea creature-like clutches to his floral earrings, you wonder how he pulls it off. You can cop some of his wares off international online fashion spots like thecorner.com and luisaviaroma.com. It’s but natural because his designs are the reason why he was chosen by Vogue Italia as one of the Vogue Talents for Accessories in 2014 and was invited to launch his collection at Vogue Talents Corner in Milan in 2015.
Mark Bumgarner seems to know no rest from his constant projects. And the world seems to have taken notice as Moda Operandi picked up his fall/winer 2017 collection. Soon after that, his dress was spotted on Aishwarya Rai Bachchan at Cannes International Film Festival. Safe to say, we’re excited who will be the next international persona picking up a Bumgarner creation.
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The super stunning singer NICKI MINAJ @nickiminaj wears a couture MICHAEL CINCO fully beaded black dress at the Billboard Music Awards 2017…Thank you @stylepr @antonio_esteban @inessa_shak… @sayed5inco @asiancouturefederation @couturissimo @frankcintamani @emilyhwangofficial @ffwddxb @arabfashioncouncil #couture #NickiMinaj #billboardmusicawards #LasVegas #Dubai #MyDubai #MadeinDubai #MichaelCinco
Being the first Filipino to showcase in Paris Couture Week is just another achievement in Michael’s storied portfolio. With clients like Lady Gag, Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj, Michael only knows of dressing the best. Recently, he got Mariah Carey visiting his atelier for a late-night fitting and sent every other major fashion publication dreaming about being a real-life Disney princess because of his dress for Aishwarya also at Cannes.
In 2015, John Herrera conquered the Mercedes Benz Tokyo Fashion Week with his marine-inspired collection. He tend qucikyl followed it up by winning the London Emerging Designers Award. But he didn’t stop there as he went back to London Fashion Week in 2016. He then bagged Britain’s Top Designer Award and got a shoutout from British Vogue for his collection which featured digital prints in collaboration with Epson.
Photo courtesy of Mark Bumgarner’s Instagram account
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Style icon, fashion designer, and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham is celebrating her birthday today. Feel honored and grateful that you live in her presence. Feel extra grateful that you’ve witnessed her evolution from pop star to chic designer while being a mom and wife, which declares to the world “You Can Have It All.”
— Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham) April 17, 2017
How did Victoria do it all? It’s one of those secrets we long to know along with how many hours does Beyoncé really have in a day or how Britney Spears of 2017 changed from Britney of 2007. We may never learn the answer but we can at least live by the wise words Victoria has blessed us with.
Victoria’s letter to her younger self revealed some secrets we also wish we knew growing up: “Let your skin breathe; wear less makeup. (And don’t ever let that make-up artist shave your eyebrows! The effects last forever.)”
In her Time feature, Victoria said she doesn’t care anymore about what people say or what the paparazzi puts out. “If there’s anything negative, I don’t want to know about it. I just do my own thing and get on with my life.”
Victoria is admittedly lucky in how her career went and the opportunities she was presented with. She does still tell her daughter that there is stock in putting the hours in and being a nice person. “It’s not who’s the prettiest, who’s the smartest girl in class. If you’re not the smartest girl in the class, be the hardest working, nicest girl in class.”
Upon the release of her 2010 fall/winter collection, The Scotsman shared how Victoria always gives it her one hundred percent. “I don’t do anything by halves. If you’re going to do something, do it properly, I think. Otherwise there is no point in doing it at all.”
“Style should be comfortable, timeless, personal. It should look like you haven’t tried too hard. And style should make you feel confident.”
“I would like people to remember me as someone who celebrated being a woman. Being a woman who made the best of what she has. A woman who wanted to reach women no matter how old or young, no matter what shape or size, or where you’re from. I want to make women feel like the best version of themselves,” says Victoria to This Morning.
In an InStyle interview featuring kids, Victoria says she prefers a Manolo!
Art by Yayie Motos
The fashion industry is built on goodwill. It’s a matter of common decency for a designer to be transparent about his or her creations. It’s only but a given for stylists to also be honest about their projects. Designers and stylists operate on mutual respect as they recognize the artistry of one another. It’s also all about professionalism, just like any other industry.
But when someone breaks the rules, who can either stylist or designer turn to for justice?
This is what designer Tony Evan had to deal with when he discovered his gowns allegedly didn’t end up on the shoot he was promised. Earlier this year, he lent some gowns to stylist Syper Abel. Syper requested for the pullouts by saying they’ll be used for a shoot to be published in a luxury lifestyle magazine. “I asked for more details and he told me he wasn’t completely briefed, but what he was told was that it was for a certain socialite and the shoot location is in Balesin. So I said okay.”
“A week after, he duly returned all gowns and said he’ll notify me when the editorial will be released,” continues Tony.
So far, so good. Or at least until Tony’s boyfriend received a message that a friend’s sister wore Tony Evan gowns for a shoot. “I got confused since I checked the girl’s Instagram and saw BTS posts from [a] shoot in Balesin,” relates Tony as he saw the gowns he allowed Syper to borrow in those Instagram posts.
Tony asked Syper if the shoot pushed through. The stylist’s answer still remained that the shoot did happen and that the corresponding editorial will come out by March or April.
“Fast forward to just last week, [a client of mine] told me she attended a grand debut party and the debutante was wearing Tony Evan on the invitation as well as the photos used for the LED backdrop at the party. She also told me that my name was mentioned in the acknowledgment segment,” says Tony.
Once again, Tony asked Syper about the shoot. Syper then sent photos. These photos weren’t for a luxury lifestyle magazine though, they were for the invitation magazine of a debutante. The same debutante Tony heard about from his boyfriend and his client.
“So my suspicion was confirmed. He lied about the [magazine editorial and just] used the name [of the magazine] to pull out gowns from me. The gowns were used for his personal styling gig,” says Tony.
The designer confronted Syper through Facebook Messenger. Syper didn’t see the problem in what he did as he insisted that he put Tony’s dresses on the cover of a magazine.
Tony blocked Syper on Facebook but posted the screenshots of their conversations on his feed. Friends and colleagues of Tony reacted to the post. Menswear designer Vin Orias approached Tony as he had an incident with Syper as well. “My partner Jamie Go had a bad experience with Syper of not returning pullouts as well as running away from his dues.”
As we mentioned earlier, designers and stylists operate on an honesty system. Tony relates how allowing stylists to pull out for projects should be for the mutual benefit of both parties. “The stylist gets paid by his client, a designer gets photos of celebrities or models wearing his garments which he could use for social media.”
Knowing all the details is crucial for the business of the designer. It’s not just about getting photos, regardless of where they are published. “It’s the designer’s choice if that project is something in line with his branding and has the right to decline,” says Tony.
Preen.ph previously tackled how the rules for designer and stylist relationships are not set in stone. On one hand, it’s beneficial as it allows for creativity and is flexible, on the other it leaves no clear way to make things right when one party is compromised.
Since the industry is small, there is just an unwritten agreement to work with integrity. However, as our story relates, some infringement still occurs. When this happens, there is no set way to pursue justice. Tony resorted to social media in the hopes that fellow designers, editors, stylists, and other industry members would be more aware. He wanted to point out how such conduct can ruin professional relationships, which reflects badly on the fashion industry as a whole.
In turn, such a system leaves the other side vulnerable as well. Who can the stylists run to if the tables are turned? If all agreements are left unwritten out of mutual trust, what happens when it’s broken? Is posting on social media and expressing a public outcry fair?
In the interest of fairness, Preen.ph reached out to Syper Abel to get a comment on the scenario. Syper declined to speak further on the matter. Preen.ph is still open to hear out Syper’s version of the events.
Photo courtesy of Tony Evan’s Instagram account
Last November 2016, I got an email invite to join Vancouver Fashion Week. It stated how they saw my previous collections and how they felt my aesthetic was very Filipino. I was excited but I also felt the pressure. I knew I had to make something better than my last creations.
I had to do a lot of soul searching. When looking for a concept for my next creation, I usually relax my mind. I believe that when you do that, something good will come out.
My last collection was about planting season. But since I was presenting for fall/winter, I decided to make the collection about harvest season. By December, I was thinking about silhouettes. We went to the beach so I could quiet my mind and focus on what I needed to do. By January, I found the traditional Filipino harvesting prayer I could use as the core of the collection and did the drafts. I was sourcing also for fabrics: mostly piña and other local materials. I also kept in mind my aesthetic: volume. This is why I also played up with the sleeves, a bit of experimentation if you will.
A month before the actual show, I shot the lookbook. Some pieces weren’t ready yet. It’s part of the process anyway. You have to observe how the clothes fall on an actual person. I worked with stylist Melvin Mojica for the looks. We already talked about it around the same time we went to the Preen.ph anniversary party last year. Through Melvin, I got to book my dream model: Jo-Ann Bitagcol. (Note to self: Attend more parties.)
Despite all of this, it still didn’t sink in that I was about to have my first international show. Mid-March, I was still accepting client work and doing deliveries. I had to make one last delivery even on the day of my flight to Canada, March 15. By this time, I had lived on the cycle of waking up at 7 a.m. and going home at 12 midnight.
Before I left for Canada, I posted the invite and the details of the show on social media. A lot of well-wishes flooded in. That added to the pressure even more.
I flew to Vancouver carrying around six luggage bags. I kind of felt like a Miss Universe contestant. There were three skirts that I didn’t want to get squished so I put them in their own luggage carriers. Don’t ask me how much I had to pay for add-on luggage allowance. For myself, I brought a few essentials: my huge makeup and skincare kit, some Maco Custodio Furnelas, my grandmother’s heirloom earrings, and Natalya Lagdameo bangles.
On show day itself, March 23, I woke up and got my breakfast in first. Soft-boiled eggs and coffee with milk and a tablespoon of sugar. By 11:30, we boarded the cab to the show venue: Chinese Cultural Center.
In the backstage area, I was greeted by a lot of volunteers, aged 18 to 50 years old. They helped me get the racks, put together the looks, and have the models line up. On the very same day, I had to choose 12 models out of the 15 I was given. It was hard because I didn’t get to see how they walk beforehand. I wanted them to get the walk right, especially, to fit the feel of the collection. I wanted to them walk leisurely, like hacienderas overlooking the land. But you go with what you’ve got.
The showtime was at 7 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., I was looking over each model and their look. I was putting on lipstick on some of them, my personal Happy Skin lipstick in Morning After. My hands were shaking, partly because of the cold weather and partly because of my nerves.
The show soon started. I was lucky that model Shermaine De Ramos was in town. She’s the one who opens all my shows and with this, that streak of ours continues. I watched all the models walk via a TV screen set up backstage. The show was nine minutes long. I soon found myself going out and bowing to the audience. I heard the clapping.
Backstage, the volunteers were efficient in packing up. They didn’t stop looking for the two bags which were misplaced. I then attended to some interviews. I approached one fashion blogger, Marilyn Wilson, and thanked her for cheering and clapping for me. What she would write later on about it was so personal, it meant so much to me.
Days later, I would see the features on different publications. There’s one by MNE and another one by Vogue China. I also just saw the small piece the Department of Foreign Affairs published about my show. Until now though, I couldn’t believe that it happened. It felt so surreal from the day I got the invite, to the backstage, and as I write this.
I learned so much. I learned what the Western audience wanted from the brand. I learned how they are still so amazed by piña and hemp.
On a practical note, I computed how much I spent from start to finish of this project. This is because my aunt emphasizes how I should know my budget for the next endeavor.
My aunt reminds me about honing my creativity and at the same time knowing my numbers so in the future, I would know how much I would spend for an international show. She would always tell me that I should do my best no matter how small it is. She would always remind me that I’m an artist. That’s a compliment coming from a gallerist. At this moment, I am investing in my brand, which is a joy and at the same time a sacrifice. I continue to sharpen my knowledge and observe the world around me. This is just the start of something promising and I am beyond thankful for the support especially morally, emotionally, and psychologically.
Above all, I learned how the whole experience is such a validation for me as a designer.
And with that validation, I have my work cut out for me. It doesn’t stop. I’ve got to work on the upcoming Maarte Fair and a few other projects I’ll be revealing soon.
As told to Olivia Estrada
Photos by Gabbie Sarenas