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!
I had volunteered to do the banner for the Miss Earth 2016 final Sashpicks after a lengthy deliberation that spanned 600 messages between the group’s international correspondents. And aside from the deliberations that took quite some time to finish, the artwork was even more complicated. It just have to be awesome to make it worthy of the Alpha pageant that is Miss Earth. PS. In this banner we are pioneering the widescreen banner format for the SashPicks to introduce something new to our followers. And soon others will follow suit.