Catriona’s Maranao Princess National Costume

This 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 Magnayon Gray for Binibining Pilipinas 2018.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This article was first published in March 4, 2018. Back then, we have made tremendous efforts to conceal all the preparations and plans we have made for Catriona Gray. This refurbished post will now clue you in to the whole story… Our commentary on what happened behind the scenes are italicized to give you a newer perspective…

The Original Concept Art of the national costume…

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.

(It is no secret that your blogger obtained a degree in Clothing Technology from the University of the Philippines and that I dabble in fashion illustration every now and then. It is no secret too that I am friends with Caloy Buendia and Jojo Bragais, two of the most influential people behind Catriona Gray’s Miss Universe campaign. Or that I too did the concept art of Valerie Weigmann’s Miss World costume for Dances of the World, and that Valerie is a very close friend of Catriona. That is how everything connected to each other.)

More photos of the national costume here on this link

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.

(In truth the costume was already under discussion way back as early as April 2017. Rachel Peters hasn’t been crowned yet as Miss Universe Philippines but Caloy and I were already planning ahead for BBP 2018. It was a costume shrouded in secrecy because we understood then that any leak on her costume would certainly be advantageous to others who were trying to pull her down. We both agreed that we will have to keep our discussions locked in a vault, our meetings always in secret and little to no photos whenever we meet in private. Upon his request we also had to keep our involvement hushed.)

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.

(We researched everything from Ruffa Gutierrez’ Sarimanok national costume in Miss World 1993 by Ben Farrales to costumes worn by the Ramon Obusan & Bayanihan dance troupes. We poured over numerous photographs and YouTube videos of Maranao dances. Our back and forth took months because we knew we didn’t need to rush out the research part, the aim was to make the costume as authentic as possible. It probably took around 2-5 months before the concept art was finalized. We took inputs from Catriona as well knowing that she was very hands on with everything for Binibining Pilipinas that year.)

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 costume. The only thing that I wanted to remain intact was the umbrella with its sarimanok and the beaded tassels on the bodice.

(I knew then that the concept art would be just a visual clue, a basis of sorts, on what the design direction is going to be. The design of the concept art will be a jumping off point for the actual national costume by Jearson. Once he gets the concept, the execution is entirely his and his alone.)

The designer, Jeason Dimavivas with Catriona and me, your blogger…

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.

(By the time that the submission of national costume sketches to the Binibining Pilipinas for review, the costume was already being made. To push publicity for the costume makers we published this article – Catriona’s National Costume by Jearson Dimavivas & Farah Abu – with the intention to make it look as if my personal involvement is as minimal as possible. By February, we all met together for a secret pictorial of the national costume. This was the first time I met Jearson and Farah and we were all excited with what is to come. And they say the rest is history…)

#FashionFridays: Miss Universe Wardrobe Wishlist for Rachel Peters

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…

A collection of daywear separates

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.

A collection of more formal clothes for events…

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.

Evening gowns and Interview outfits… The pleated ball gown has a deep V on the back as the front but with gold-thread embroidery.

Evening gowns and Interview outfits…

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. 

#FashionFridays: My First Philippine Fashion Week Collection

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.

Due to the lightspeed pace backstage, there were some clothes that weren’t worn properly with their respective accessories/ caps…

These two trench coats are actually convertible to jackets with a removable zipper on the lower portion of the coat…

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 styling reference for the adjustable straps of the long-sleeved shirt..

Perhaps my most favorite outfit in the entire collection is this half-blazer that was the opener of my show…

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…

The Making of a Bb Pilipinas National Costume Pt.2

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…

The Making of a Bb Pilipinas National Costume Pt.1

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.

These two designs were the jump off point for the La Reina Emperatriz costume. These were intended originally as wishlist designs for Ariella Arida (white) and Bianca Guidotti (cream)…

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.

BannerArt for Binibini 19 Rachel Louise Peters

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!

Miss World 2016 Pre-Arrival Sashpicks

Presenting the 1st Miss World 2016 SashPicks!
16 of our correspondents and members from all over the world have selected the 20 best girls in this pre-arrival SashPicks… 

1. Philippines – Catriona Gray
2. United States – Audra Mari
3. India – Priyadarshini Chatterjee
4. Mexico – Ana Girault
5. Australia – Madeline Cowe
6. Brazil – Beatrice Fontoura
7. Venezuela – Diana Croce
8. Russia – Yana Dobrovolskaya
9. Dominican Republic – Yaritza Reyes
10. Indonesia – Natasha Mannuela
11. Hungary – Tímea Gelencsér
12. Ireland – Niamh Kennedy
13. Puerto Rico – Stephanie Del Valle
14. Slovakia – Kristína Činčurová
15. France – Morgane Edvige
16. Curacao – Nashaira Balentien
17. Canada – Anastasia Lin
18. Vietnam – Dieu Ngoc Truong Thi
19. British Virgin Islands – Kadia Turnbull
20. Scotland – Lucy Kerr

Making the Final SashPicks Banner for Miss Earth 2016

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.

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.

Pia, Pollera, Panama #FunArt

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach is currently in Panama and we have seen her in traditional garb for women, the pollera. Today’s #funart focuses on her on a vintage tourism poster for the country that connects North and South America…


#FunArt: Jamie Herrell as the Red Riding Hood

Today’s funart features Miss Earth 2014 Jamie Herrell as the Little Red Riding Hood. The inspiration for this artwork comes from the 2011 Amanda Seyfried movie “Red Riding Hood”…