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PHILIPPINE FASHION WEEK

Bling rules

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EZRA Santos: “Gilt-y!”. PHOTO BY ARNOLD ALMACEN

It was wise of Philippine Fashion Week not to have made Dubai-based Filipino designer Ezra Santos open a group show he was part of recently. But it didn’t make him the finale either, which was a pity.

Instead, organizers went alphabetical, beginning with Albert Andrada, Bandoix Flores, Butz Fuentes, Santos and Kermit Tesoro.

Had Santos, a graduate of Slim’s Fashion School some years back, opened the late-night show at SMX, the audience would have found the succeeding shows anticlimactic. The sheer scope and workmanship of his collection, including gowns with metallic beaded bodices, Swarovski crystals and twisted satin ribbons, readily overshadowed those of his colleagues.

Bandoix Flores. PHOTO BY ARNOLD ALMACEN

Except for the young, Manila-based Tesoro, Santos and company all earned their spurs abroad doing intricate and mind-blowing dresses for members of Middle East royalty and their rich coterie.

The Dubai-based designers all showed, in varying degrees, flashes of brilliance and mastery of techniques as they manipulated anything and everything, from layers of tulle to draped chiffon, Swarovski crystals to metallic spikes.

Andrada even chose a Chinese-inspired theme to showcase his expertise at cutting and ornamentation. Even if he resorted to conventional techniques and construction, it was a refreshing and welcome move, since the others predictably went all out for Western inspirations by channeling every known European designer, from Alexander McQueen to John Galliano, Nicolas Ghesquiere to Donatella Versace.

Integral efforts

Albert Andrada. PHOTO BY ARNOLD ALMACEN

Ornamentation and blinding bling were par for the course (that’s probably why, like Dubai-based Michael Cinco, Flores and Fuentes were wearing shades due to such an occupational “hazard,” as they made their respective bows), and each designer delivered.

But whereas some were merely content to incorporate texture and bling for their own sake, most of Santos’ efforts were integral to his pieces. Compared to Fuentes’ cutout plastic strips that adorned the sleeves and necklines of some of his paneled gowns, for example, Santos’ efforts looked more seamless and essential.

From where we sat, Santos also paid attention to fitting. His well-constructed and properly pressed clothes looked expensive (which they probably were), as they reflected the type of clientele he catered to. No ifs, no buts, no apologies.

Santos also wisely eschewed color by limiting his collection to neutrals and various shades of champagne. Otherwise, I don’t think any observer could have processed all those details had the designer chosen a bolder color scheme like red or hot pink.

Butz Fuentes. PHOTO BY ARNOLD ALMACEN

Unless it was done on purpose, Fuentes allowed some of his models’ undies to show with crotch-high front slits that left nothing to the imagination. Not a flattering sight, that. A number of gowns with exaggerated sleeves lost their punch, as some either failed to stand up or were poorly fitted and misaligned.

Different problem

Flores had a different problem. His poor choice and combination of materials as well as his failure to press his pieces proved disastrous. Not a few layered tulle and chiffon skirts were so crumpled that they appeared to have been pulled out straight from his baul and shoved to his models.

Not only did the train of tulle look hapless, for instance; one of his black jersey dresses even had a visible snag on the back. One of my vocal friends summed it up best: Sorry, but his clothes didn’t look expensive.

Ezra Santos. PHOTO BY ARNOLD ALMACEN

Not a few models tripped all over the place. Was it a case of long hemlines and gravity-defying shoes, or models who simply didn’t know how to walk? One even fell twice on the runway in Tesoro’s deconstructed platforms (all platforms without heels). The poor girl, who still managed to pick herself up, looked dazed and confused as she made her way backstage.

As for the promising Tesoro, not a few of his looks were more installation art than fashion. It was a hit-or-miss affair, as the young designer was so focused on shock value that he seemed to have neglected fitting and construction. At one point, he even sent out a jacket made of what looked like human hair. His fondness for skulls, mythical pan-inspired platforms and body armor were recurring themes that bordered on costumes.

His attempt to downshift was very revealing, as Tesoro produced a number of plain minis shorn of visual gimmicks. Indeed, there’s more to fashion than mere ornamentation. Too much of a good thing can be bad, but too much of a bad thing can never be good.


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