It is no secret that I have a degree in Clothing Technology from the University of the Philippines and that I dabble in fashion illustration every now and then. Today’s blogpost is about the concept art that I did for a Maranao Princess Bride. This all started with a request to do a concept sketch for a Maranao Princess costume. Who was it for? Catriona Elisa Gray.
Through a friend of a friend and that is how it started. Catriona is a very close friend of another beauty queen, Valerie Weigmann, whom I also did a national costume concept art for. Back in 2014 I created a sketch of what turned out to become the national costume that Valerie would wear in the international stage.
Shortly after the Binibining Pilipinas deadline of applications, I received the request to do a sketch. I was given a Maranao Princess peg. Catriona got the inspiration from a visit to the National Museum where she saw woven textiles from Mindanao, notable of which was the inaul. The challenge was to create something that was modern, fashionable but at the same time respectful to the culture of the Maranao people. Everything was in a rush as I dashed to illustrate the concept with as much research as I could. I only had less than a week.
The singkil being the de facto Maranao Princess folkdance was the start off point. But I didn’t want another singkil costume. So instead of the apir, I took the jeweled umbrella instead as the initial focal point and worked around it. And that was what made the entire design pop. Later I was informed about the Kinakulangan (Maranao) dance. It originated from Marawi, Lanao del Sur, and is performed by the proud Maranao women holding ornamental umbrellas while marching the “Royal Walk” or kini-kini to show their high status.
With very little time, I filled in the outfit with whatever motifs were immediately available. I had to say that whoever will execute the design should take liberties on the outfit. The only thing that I wanted to remain intact was the umbrella with its sarimanok and the beaded tassels on the bodice.
I was glad to hear that Catriona chose Jearsond Dimavivas to execute the design. Jearsond is another designer whom I had several mutual friends: Angelique de Leon and RL Lacanienta are some of them. He was the one who made Angelique’s T’nalak national costume for Binibini and also did Elizabeth Clenci’s T’boli costume in Miss Grand International last year. Small world, right? Jearsond worked 24/7 on the costume and thankfully, being from Mindanao himself he understood the culture of the Maranao. He took the concept art and made it his own, adding elements that only someone who grew up in Mindanao would understand. The outcome was something that I couldn’t be any prouder. The costume was marvelous up-close and we were all in awe.
A collaboration of minds and a creative exercise on synergy… This is what made the costume a true standout.
I have talked a couple of weeks ago about preparing your pageant wardrobe. And today’s #FashionFridays post will be about my take on a pageant wardrobe for Miss Universe Philippines Rachel Peters. Rachel has a fun loving free spirited vibe to her. But there is a kind of feminine sensuality in her that isn’t overtly seen. Rachel shines best when she wears clothes without too much frills…no fussy details, no laces, no florals, just clean lines. So I imagined that she would be perfect in a wardrobe that is a shout-out to designers like Balmain, Lanvin and Versace. The Silhouettes: linear silhouettes to emphasize Rachel’s height and proportions, boned corseted bodices that act like armour, pinched waists The Colors: Gold, Mango and Canary (only for the key pieces of the collection) The Fabrics: silk gazaar, silk back crepe, mid-weight coated twill, The Design Elements: huge flirty flounces, zipper back details on pencil skirts, suede finish crocodile tone-on-tone prints, Swarovski crystals in different shapes & sizes mirroring shattered glass, printed paillettes with matte gold back…
The first set of clothes is a group of separates that comprises of a corset and cigarette pants that has printed sequins with matte gold back (which changes colors depending on how one pats down the sequins), a pencil skirt with suede croc print and a zip back detail, a loose square blazer with tone-on-tone gold-thread embroidery, a double breasted sleeveless blazer with corseted bodice and slim leg pants both with suede croc print. This set conveys strong empowered young woman.
The second group of clothes are dressier outfits that can cross from day to nighttime events. Huge flounces, printed sequins, suede finish crocodile prints and back zip details adds coherence in this group. This has a more decidedly sexy vibe to it but adds some flirty fun into it.
The last set has a haute couture feel to it that is gonna have people look twice on the wearer. A play on symmetry and pattern manipulation is made on these outfits to have more of an Alber Elbaz’ Lanvin feel to them. Nude tulle detail with embroidery or polymorphic crystal detail ties the gowns together. Bling is dialed down to a minimum but the exaggerated flounces and swags adds enough drama to the entire collection.
This collection is a simple wishlist and an exercise in creativity. Hopefully Rachel would be given a great wardrobe for Miss Universe this year.
Allow me to do a self-serving post for today. Instead of a pageant-related #FashionFridays, I thought I’d bring you the first time I showed my menswear collection at the Philippine Fashion Week.
Back in May 2010, I was one of the last New Generation designers to become part of the PFW. The bi-annual celebration of the Philippines’ best fashion creatives was a showcase of creativity and budding talent. Even then I was bitten by the fashion bug to which continues as I still work under the fashion retail industry. Even then my fashion design was visual driven and directional but never reductive or unresearched. My fashions was perhaps not easily palatable to the Philippine market as they were straddling the line of wearability and creative vision. Looking back, I always made clothes for the lean man, which was quite a contrast in those days as most male models were of the bulky masculine sort which was a tailoring challenge.
The Collection Brief: The collection is infused with K-pop and J-pop elements restrained with the use of linear silhouettes. It emphasizes the details rather than introducing new silhouettes and shapes. Silhouettes are pretty much straight and skinny made interesting by different lengths and volumes. The highlights of the collection are the jackets and woven shirts with focus on the neck and chest area through different necklines and collars. There are detachable collars for some of the woven tops, tops that morph into other silhouettes, soft cowls and stiff bib details through pleats and facings. Straps, bows and ribbons are the main details of the collection. While ginghams and dots provide the only print direction, a play on their size creates drama. There is only one silhouette for the pants, skinny with waistband focus.
The photos in this blogpost is as much a throwback as a looking forward. It is good to look back at those bygone days to see how I have come so far in my career… Who knows in 5-10 years from now, I might be convinced to open up my own designer label…
With a lavish and ambitious costume such as the La Reina Emperatriz terno, the next phase is to find a designer to collaborate with to make this vision into reality. This is where Sir Pablo Galicia Mendez came in. It was this symbiotic partnership that made a flat 2D illustration come to life.
What made this tandem a perfect collaboration was the fact that there were much discussions involved on the material, color and execution. Unlike other designers who are too strict in their vision, the ‘La Reina Emperatriz‘ costume was borne out of constant fine tuning which kept the creative juices flowing. The design itself was a living evolving creation. It was as much as Sir Pablo’s as it was mine. This is where the creative sensibilities of two merged to come up with a magnificent overall outcome for the original design.
What he did was to bring new ideas of embossed embroideries (like those of Marian and Sto. Nino statues), brass embellishments, stones and crystals mixed with 3D printing to make this a totally fresh take on the traditional terno. Through his connections in the industry, he was able to find artist/ painter Jeffrey Catuira who did all the 3D printing on the costume (mainly located on the sides and back panels). Throughout weeks of back and forth discussions, we were able improve, alter and polish on the design. Eventually the design was simplified so instead of layers, it became just a single layer in ecru. The crown was a bit of an overkill and was dropped and the stiffness was lessened. So when it was time to submit original designs for BPCI to see, the design was met with immediate approval.
In fact, Conchitina Bernardo even exclaimed that this was inspired from Santo Niño. The costume was jokingly nicknamed ‘our lady of Araneta’ (Nuestra Señora de Araneta in Spanish) due to its overall design, despite the fact that it was the Santacruzan that first inspired it.
The final terno was made from a structured material embellished with baroque gold metal brass, heavy embroideries with crystals and stones, plus 3D painting. Topping the costume was a baroque gold brass headdress that is a representation of the halo of Saint Helena.
Such creative endeavor are quite rare to see nowadays. For me this was not just an exercise of creativity but a proof that when two or three or four minds come together to collaborate, the outcome is always a labour of love… While this isn’t my first rodeo (so to speak), I am nonetheless intrigued if such possibility will present itself again in the future. But if it does, I already have a design in mind and it will be an exercise of one’s haute couture sensibilities once again…
When I was asked to conceptualize a lavish Philippine national costume, the first that came to mind is how we are fascinated with the religious pageantry of the Santacruzan. It is no surprise that I heavily drew influences on that Philippine tradition of the Sagalas for a unique terno.
The national costume that I sketched and conceptualized using computer graphics was the birth-child of a brainstorming session with our Sash Factor head, Larry Elima. He wanted something that is inspired by the Nuestra Señora La Laval, but worked around it so as not to offend religious sensibilities. Instead we thought of a lavish La Reina Emperatriz costume that hasn’t been done before in Philippine pageantry that borrows elements from religious statues. Did you know that the Reina Emperatriz and Reina Elena are one and the same person? Saint Helena upon the ascension of Emperor Constantine was honoured with the title as Queen Mother of the Holy Roman Empire. And that in Santacruzan when there is more than one lass being considered as Reina Elena the other can be bestowed with the Reina Emperatriz title, which are of equal importance. The difference in depiction of the two is that the Reina Elena would usually carry a gold cross and a bible while the Reina Emperatriz is decked with a crown and a scepter.
The design that I conceptualized for the Reina Emperatriz went with several permutations and revisions to arrive at its final version. I first came up with a trapeze silhouette that is reminiscent of the Santo Nino statues usually found in Philippine ancestral homes’ altars. Originally, the design was to have it in silk gazar with a circular cape as outer layer of the costume. The circular cape was to be decked with lace appliques and laser cut flowers then hand-sewn with crystals. A headdress that is patterned from the halos of religious statues adorns the head with a gold crown (TRIVIA: this idea came to me first back in 2013 when I illustrated a white La Emperatriz costume I would have loved to see on Ariella Arida in Moscow). The design was rendered in blue, black and then gold to which the gold option was the one that struck us the most.
It got several more edits before it was finalized. When both I and Sir Larry were satisfied with the design, we agreed that this would be the one we will present for a lass planning to join Binibining Pilipinas 2017. During our meet up in Manila on September of last year, we finally showed the design to its eventual co-designer, Pablo Galicia Mendez.
A fan requested to yours truly via Facebook Messenger to create a banner for Binibini 19, Rachel Peters. Well, your wish is granted! And by the way, wait for a Rachel Peters #exclusive on Sashes&Scripts… Coming Soon this April!