Three of the judges in the recent Look of Style Awards were so impressed with the range of entries that one found it difficult to identify a clear favorite. The other saw a tight race between Vania Romoff and eventual winner Roland Alzate.
“There were plenty of interesting pieces,” said journalist-turned-hotel executive Mel Cuevas, former editor in chief of Look magazine. “For most of the finalists, one entry would stand out, but the other pieces in the collection wouldn’t.”
But Cuevas acknowledged the greater effort this year’s finalists put into when it came to fabrication, a fact that wasn’t as noticeable to those who merely watched the show. She also learned during interviews that some finalists had a clear idea regarding what future direction to take and areas they needed to improve on.
“That’s one thing I look for in a finalist, since I want to make sure that the winner will really benefit from the short course (at Central Saint Martins),” said Cuevas, who organized and judged the contest’s two earlier editions.
Apart from Renan Pacson’s use of recycled plastic bottles to produce his materials, she found Ivan Raborar’s pieces made of crocheted fabric fused with beads interesting.
She also liked Jun Artajo’s hand-painted and dyed vinta-inspired dresses, and Hanz Coquilla’s long gown incorporated with shredded lace.
For her part, fellow judge Amina Aranaz-Alunan found Raborar and Pacson’s respective collections unique and creative.
“Based on what I saw,” said Alunan, a bag designer with a chain of eponymous boutiques in Metro Manila, “their collections both have high potential for growth and marketability.”
Alunan cited Alzate for knowing his customer and developing his own fabrics to cater to this segment. She appreciated Romoff’s ability to parlay her high taste level into elegant pieces that exuded confidence.
“If you ask me, it was really tight between Roland and Vania,” said Alunan. “Although I’m not aware of the actual tally. Personally, I think it was Roland’s consistency and clear vision applied to his initiative to develop his own fabrics (which combined piña and rayon) that made him win.”
Fashion designer JC Buendia liked Raborar’s crochet-and-seeds ensembles for their “good use of what’s abundant” in his province. He could see the pieces as ideal jackets and T-shirt blouses.
“But my favorite designer is Vania because we share the same sensibilities,” said Buendia. “I think what made Roland win was his ability to mold indigenous materials into real-life clothing.”
Among all the judges, Cuevas should know how the entries have evolved since she was on top of two previous contests that produced winners like Pablo Cabahug and Geof Gonzales. But the circumstances then were quite different, she said.
“Apart from being judge before, I was also one of the event’s organizers,” said Cuevas. “I would coordinate and speak with the designers myself. Normally, from the initial screening, I already had an idea who would be the top contenders. Promptness and presentation somehow affected the judges’ decision then. But this time, I just based my scores on the submitted works.”
Like Alunan, Cuevas wasn’t privy to fellow judges’ scores. There were great entries, she said, but there wasn’t a particularly strong collection. Some would have had a greater chance of winning had they done some editing or improved on their styling.
“Even the winner’s collection, for me, wasn’t as consistent, as he showcased different techniques for his collection,” she said. “But if you look at Roland’s pieces individually, each had a good concept. I think he also had an edge since he had some retail experience, showed exceptional workmanship and made good use of fabrication.” Alex Y. Vergara