Fashion designer JC Buendia has no intention of reinventing the wheel as he unveils his 50-piece collection to mark his 25th year in the fashion industry.
But he knows a lot is at stake in his latest show, lest he ends up in “Ayyyteh’s” growing list of victims.
Simply dubbed “JC Buendia: 25th,” the designer’s first gala is on Aug. 27 at Marriott Hotel, Pasay City.
A big fan of such fashion icons as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Wallis Simpson and even Diana Vreeland, Buendia draws inspiration from iconic movies and TV series set mostly in England, such as “Downton Abbey,” “Gosford Park” and the Madonna-directed “W.E.”
“These period movies were set during the time of such legendary designers as Poire, Schiaparelli and Chanel,” he said. “At the same time, I’m also channeling influences from the ’50s through such films as ‘Rear Window,’ ‘Funny Face,’ ‘Sabrina’ and ‘High Society.’”
Buendia has also set his sights on films and TV series of more recent vintage such as “The Last Emperor,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Kennedys,” “Dave,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “The Queen.”
“These days, I’m also fascinated by such style icons as Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Princess Letizia of Spain,” Buendia said.
“Sarah is the modern jolie laide (a woman who’s beautiful even if her features are plain.) Gwyneth and Letizia are both amazing in gowns as well as in jeans. They don’t look too made up all the time, which I like.”
But drawing from so many existing influences that have produced their fair share of iconic pieces over the decades has its share of pitfalls. And Buendia knows this too well in the age of “Ayyyteh.”
“Ayyyteh,” the latest poison blog to hit the blogosphere since “Chikatime” and “Soozy Hopper,” pokes fun at local fashion designers by showing images of original designs by the likes of Versace, McQueen, Gurung, Owens, Givenchy and Gucci alongside uncannily similar looks produced by home-grown talents.
“One of my strengths has always been tailoring,” said the soft-spoken Buendia, who’s been working with his team for weeks in his Quezon City atelier even on Sundays. “I’m also very much identified with ladylike clothes inspired by Christian Dior’s ‘New Look.’”
He was brave enough to admit that one of his first impulses when starting this collection was to draw inspiration from the original works of Dior and his equally formidable contemporary, Cristobal Balenciaga.
Buendia and Raf Simmons, Dior’s new creative director, seemed to have channeled almost the same details and inspirations from the master’s original body of work.
“I haven’t started making the dresses yet, but I was shocked to find out that my sketches looked uncannily similar to the clothes Simmons recently showed on the runway,” said an amused Buendia. “I don’t want to end up in ‘Ayyyteh.’ So, it was back to the drawing board for me.”
He has reasons to panic. Apart from the number of pieces he’s expected to show, Buendia has decided not to send out reworked dresses from past collections.
“I will use a lot of tulle, taffeta, silk gazar, French lace and silk abaca,” said Buendia, who once worked as assistant designer to “RTW King” Cesar Gaupo. “There will be no silk chiffon pieces, and embellishments are limited to a hint of sequins and pearls piled near the neckline.”
In keeping with the Dior spirit, most of his silhouettes are close to the body, with natural shoulders and cinched waists. It will be a play on both the familiar and the unexpected in the form of, say, malleable necklines and flared skirts.
Playing with tulle
It would also be nice to see how Buendia plays with tulle, a material commonly used as inner layer, by fashioning it into full dresses.
For the first time in his career, he will use a great deal of silk abaca in blouses. The fabric, which Buendia sourced from Catanduanes, has the feel of linen.
“Because of improvements in technology, silk abaca is not as prone to creasing as before. And it’s not itchy.”
Buendia will also dress up 15 male models, including five young male clients in signature suits. The last of his five suites will be devoted to gowns.
“Looking back on the history of fashion, I probably went back as far as the time of Englishman Charles Frederick Worth,” he said. “I realized I’ve incorporated bustles and other details of the era. In keeping with the times, I’ve made the proportions smaller and more modern.”
Among local designers, Buendia singled out Inno Sotto, Mike dela Rosa, Auggie Cordero, Cesar Gaupo, Gang Gomez (now a Benedictine monk based in Bukidnon) and the late Joe Salazar as his idols.
“I had a close-up view backstage of these masters’ works,” he said. “It was the most exciting time in Philippine fashion.”
Doing RTW pieces is nothing new to Buendia. He once did Gaupo’s secondary line for SM Boutique Square, dubbed as “Thesa.” Lately, he realized where he wanted to take his career after collaborating with Kashieca’s in-house designers to produce a capsule collection.
“I’m learning branding,” he revealed. “I want to venture into non-fashion items. Since I love to eat, why not introduce my own brand of chocolate? That would be part of my giveaways to friends—JC’s Earl Grey tea bar, chocolate with Earl Grey tea flavor.”
Down to his very English giveaways, Buendia has again proven himself consistent.