What do you do after bagging a national search for the next big name in Philippine fashion?
You go back to school, as in the case of Rei Escario and Neil Suarez San Pedro (Neil Felipp), apparel and accessories winners, respectively, of the 2013 LOOK of Style Awards.
A design competition organized yearly by Inquirer Lifestyle and LOOK Magazine with the British Council, the LOOK of Style Awards supports the careers of promising young designers by giving them the chance to be mentored by senior designers and giving them exposure in Inquirer Lifestyle’s annual fashion event “Face-Off,” among other attractive incentives.
The contest’s biggest come-on is its plum prize. Since 2010, winners of the LOOK of Style Awards (Pablo Cabahug, Geof Gonzales and Roland Alzate) have been given an all-expenses-paid trip to the UK for a short course of their choice at Central Saint Martins (CSM), the prestigious arts college.
This year’s winners will be sent to the London College of Contemporary Arts (LCCA), also on an all-expense-paid trip.
Last year, an accessories category was added in the competition, with a week-long course at South Yorkshire’s Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) as prize.
This addition saw many young designers flock to go-sees in Manila, Cebu and Davao with innovative interpretations of shoes, bags and jewelry.
Besting eight finalists with a clean and straightforward collection inspired by the contest theme “Pinoy Goes Global,” Escario opted for CSM’s pattern-making course when he flew to the UK in March 2014.
“I wanted to see the basics and differences of how we and they construct clothes,” says Escario of his course choice. “I think it’s important to learn and master the basics before getting deeper into construction and designing clothes.”
For five days, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Escario immersed himself in pattern-making, from “how to draft, make patterns and manipulate darts, to the different ways to accurately take body measurements and sizing for mass production and RTW lines,” he enumerates.
“In school, we were given projects every day to complete. I completed a lot of patterns for different body types and for different styles. They taught us how to adjust a pattern to arrive at a desired size, and encouraged us to explore and experiment on dart manipulation so we can come up with new patterns.”
Learning, as it turns out, wasn’t limited to the classroom.
Signing up for other courses after his pattern-making class, Escario extended his UK stay to a month, thus allowing him to explore this fascinating part of the world.
“You see art and history in every street. I got to see and talk to a lot of very passionate and artistic people,” he reminisces. “That really inspired me to imbibe their way of thinking—how they see fashion and incorporate it in the lives of people who love fashion. Having experienced all that refined my taste and gave me a vision and style of how I want my clothes to look in the present and future.”
In a twist, the Cebu designer and half brother to successful designer Jun Escario would educate and amaze fellow students with our unique brand of artistry.
“Most of my classmates are not familiar with Filipino fashion and fashion designers until I showed them videos and pictures of how we Filipinos do fashion,” he says. “They were surprised at how beautiful, globally accepted and competitive the works are. Some of my classmates even started following Filipino fashion designers on Instagram.”
Felipp was also busy at SHU. Classes in fashion forecasting, pattern-making, conceptualizing, and metal workshop conducted by fashion designer Nabil Nayal, knife designer Grace Horne and SHU professor Jeff Ber kept him and fellow accessories finalists Adante Leyesa and Earl Gariando preoccupied for a week in February 2014.
Felipp, who wowed LOOK of Style Awards judges with his sophisticated minaudieres accented with cast and gold-plated brass animal figures, capped the customized course with a sensual back accessory utilizing textured copper with an oxidized finish.
Like Escario, Felipp and his co-designers earned the respect of their classmates and teachers with their innate craftsmanship—“how we could manipulate everyday objects into design pieces,” the accessories designer says.
Felipp considers interacting with his mentors the most valuable lesson. “The course broadened my eyes in aspects of pattern-making, production and techniques,” he enthuses. “I am excited to be applying them soon in my business and forthcoming collections.”
Felipp did just that upon his return to Manila in March.
As a featured designer of Red Box, a group of upcoming talents selected by Manila FAME, he collaborated on projects with the country’s top manufacturers.
He also unveiled his fine jewelry line with Denovo Diamonds and participated in the MaArte Artisan Fair at Rockwell Tent.
Felipp, who comes from the Cebu family behind the pioneering Suarez rings business, has even gone international, thanks to distributors who have brought his world-class wares to Dubai, Singapore and New York.
Apart from attending to clients in his home in Cebu, Escario has been joining fashion shows with other Filipino designers, the most recent (this October) in Rome and Milan.
“The experience of joining the LOOK of Style Awards has opened doors for me,” he says.
For the 2014 LOOK of Style Awards, finalists in the apparel and accessories categories will create pieces inspired by this year’s theme, “Maria Clara.”
Wearable clothes, bags, shoes and jewelry, which utilize local and sustainable materials and techniques and reflect the new generation’s take on the Philippines’ national attire, will be presented before a panel of designers, British Council officers, and LOOK Magazine editors during a prejudging.
The runway show and awarding of winners is on Nov. 12 at Buddha-Bar Makati.
Finalists for the apparel category are Xioti Chiu, Bengt Enrique, Jinggo Inoncillo, Exur Lopena, Daryl Maat, Viña Romero, RJ Santos, Ron Santos, Eugene Tidalgo and Mike Yapching.
Accessories category finalists are Meme Dakay, Shiela Damalerio, Louie dela Cruz, Christopher Gomez, Nere Ku and Em Mariano.
As in previous LOOK of Style Awards, scholarships in short courses in the UK will be awarded the winners in the apparel and accessories categories.
A chance to showcase one’s creations in a London show also awaits this year’s big winners.
One of the finalists in the accessories category will also be awarded a scholarship by Amina Aranaz-Alunan in the School of Fashion and the Arts (SoFA).
The LOOK of Style Awards 2014 is supported by Hana Shampoo, Champion Infinity, SM Accessories and London College of Contemporary Arts, with Fashion is Great, Uber, Max Factor, Z Salon, Coca-Cola and Victoria Visual.
For more information on the 2014 LOOK of Style Awards, visit www.facebook.com/lookmagazineph and www.facebook.com/BritishCouncilPhilippines, and follow @lookmagazineph on Instagram and Twitter. Follow LOOK of Style Awards on Instagram using the hashtag #LOSA2014.