Two years after winning “Most Promising Designer” in Look Magazine’s Look of Style Awards, Pablo Cabahug continues to benefit from the publicity and opportunities generated by the nationwide fashion design contest.
Organized by Look Magazine and Inquirer Lifestyle, the annual contest aims to provide young and upcoming fashion designers with a venue to express themselves and their visions through their individual three-piece collections. It also aims to help them get started in the clothes-making business.
Look is now accepting applicants for this year’s contest built around the theme “Eco Chic,” which promotes sustainable fashion. The number of applicants will be narrowed down to 10 designers, who will compete for a number of awards, including the much-coveted Most Promising Designer title, come Nov. 8.
A go-see, where all applicants will be required to present samples of their clothes and a portfolio of their work to a screening committee composed of Look editors and fashion industry experts, will begin July 25 in Cebu. A series of go-sees is also set in Davao (July 31) and Manila (Aug. 29).
“It’s all about the publicity,” said Cabahug of his experience. “Clients have kept on coming. I was even able to expand my uniform line.”
As part of his prize, the Manila-based designer got a one-week scholarship at the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London. Sponsored by the British Council of the Philippines, the all-expense-paid scholarship also included free airplane fare, hotel accommodations and a modest allowance.
“Creative-wise, winning the contest has not only helped me improve my craft,” said Cabahug, who chose to focus on marketing techniques and basic fashion design. “It also opened my eyes to various possibilities like going into retail. I welcomed it because before winning the contest, I had no formal training in fashion.”
Last year’s winner, Geof Gonzales, also didn’t have formal training in fashion. Drawing solely from experience and a mature and sophisticated taste level, the young upstart bested nine other newbies with his opulent creations inspired by Renaissance-era marble sculptures and Ifugao rice god figures.
But unlike Cabahug, who finished communication arts, Gonzales finished fine arts. Still, making clothes wasn’t tackled in college.
“It’s too early to tell how my career will evolve after this,” said Gonzales, who styles prenuptial photo shoots on the side. “I took up experimental pattern making and made-to-measure women’s wear at Central Saint Martins barely four months ago. Clothing, I believe, should be viewed more as a sculpture, and not just a two-dimension object.”
After the publicity, exposure and creative opportunities generated by his win, Gonzales plans to take it to the next level by opening a shop soon.
“I immensely enjoyed my short time in London,” he said. “But it was quite costly to stay there. Now, I’m saving money for my future shop.”
Whoever wins this year is bound to reap the same benefits Cabahug and Gonzales are enjoying. None of this would have been possible without Look’s partnership with the British Council.
“It’s hard to convey just how excited we are with our partnership with the British Council,” said Stef Cabal, editor in chief of Look. “Supporting the next generation of Filipino designers is essential for us, as we aim to strengthen the Philippine fashion industry.”
For its part, the British Council is always on the lookout for such worthwhile partnerships as it seeks to advance its mandate of promoting arts and cultural exchange between countries.
“The Look of Style Awards is a way for us to collaborate with artists from the Philippines and the UK using an area we are both strong at, which is fashion,” said Ana Tan, program and public relations manager of the British Council of the Philippines, in a press statement.
Look and the British Council arrived at this year’s theme in their desire “to raise the profile of sustainable fashion,” Cabal added. “With this year’s awards, participants are encouraged to create fashion while sustaining biodiversity.”
Apart from the all-expense-paid trip to London, this year’s winner will also receive business mentoring from fashion industry professionals on business planning and marketing as well as a spot in Inquirer Lifestyle’s next “Face-Off” fashion show.
Veteran fashion designer Lulu Tan Gan, who also designs and manufacturers her signature knits, is a member of this year’s board of judges, her third time to judge in the contest. Designers JC Buendia and Amina Aranaz-Alunan, former Look editor in chief Mel Cuevas, and British Council country director Amanda Burrell will also judge.
“The contest continues to evolve in a number of ways,” said Tan Gan. “For one, I think we’re getting more and more national with designers from different regions of the Philippines.”
This is a welcome development for the competition, she added, as bringing in more contestants from various parts of the country adds to the entries’ diversity in terms of aesthetics and materials.
“I think, for instance, that designers from Davao and Cebu are more inclined to use a greater deal of indigenous materials,” said Tan Gan. “Geof, last year’s winner, has a background not in fashion, but in fine arts. His achievement gave another dimension to the contest.”
Since “there are no boundaries anymore,” the development has paved the way for people from other design-oriented disciplines to join Look of Style Awards, she added. As a result, it makes for a more interesting set of finalists with more nuanced and diverse entries.
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Photos by Alanah Torralba