He may be the go-to fashion designer of society matrons, but the always candid Cesar Gaupo scoffed at the suggestion that his collection for “Salon Series 3” on June 3 was created for the “fasyon tita,” as one fashion website wrote.
A tita or aunt, of course, has been the recent favorite slang to refer to women of a certain age, somebody somewhat dated and peculiar.
“Well I disagree,” Gaupo said with a laugh. “Whoever said that doesn’t know classic design. Just because it’s refined and sophisticated doesn’t make it ‘tita.’ Some people seem to think that a design has to be ‘edgy’ to be young. You can be young and refined.”
Gaupo, for the third installment of “Salon,” the fashion series he created with Lulu Tan-Gan and Dennis Lustico, designed an 18-piece collection that’s a mash-up of 1970s bohemian and 1980s volume “minus the padding.”
Rather than a direct replica of ’70s fashion, his jumpsuits had more structure, with a little playfulness and provocation: pant leg slashed on the side to reveal thigh-high-cut shorts.
He had several long tent dresses that hark back to the ’70s. A standout was a high-neck white number embroidered in blue that called to mind a precious Ming vase no fasyon tita would likely say no to.
One designer who surely wasn’t going after the titas was Tan-Gan, who played on the sheer lightness of her signature indigenous fabrics to create separates that show how piña and jusi can be everyday wear.
Tan-Gan’s clothes were styled with bandeaus, shorts and leggings underneath. There was nothing costumey about them, which perhaps drives home the point of the designer’s longtime crusade: that Filipino fabrics have a place in casual, contemporary life.
“The point of ‘Salon’ is to show variety to our clients, because we tend to have the same clients but we have different aesthetics,” Tan-Gan said. “This is us giving them choices.”
And choice it was that Lustico gave, in a collection that seemed to cater to two personalities: the Studio 54 disco-going sexpot and the demure debutante.
The designer was inspired by two John Travolta starrers, “Staying Alive” and “Saturday Night Fever,” in his sexy 1970s jumpsuits, with skin peeking out of see-through panels, but he chose to tone down the flashy disco vibe by sticking to more subdued black and white.
There were fringes to underscore movement, as well as a sporty undertone in beadwork reminiscent of racing stripes. For Lustico, these little details aren’t placed for mere aesthetic value; it’s the designer being aware of how the wearer glides and moves in his clothes.
A direct counterpoint to the jumpsuits were the prim point d’esprit LBDs, which again underscored the variety menu being espoused by the “Salon” designers.
Lustico accessorized with Lucite clutches, a collection he has been incubating, and which debuted a few seasons ago at Manila FAME but hasn’t found time to give his full attention to.
Second-time guest designer Joey Samson furthered his bid for genderless dressing, sending out off-shoulder and belly-baring, even lacey tops, for men, and masculine jackets with wide-leg pants for women.
Samson’s goal isn’t to thwart the status quo but only to present options, to convince the market to be more open-minded.
“What I did was essentially more relatable than editorial, but I also didn’t want to sacrifice my look,” Samson said. “Some people are bound by the thought that others might find them funny or odd, so there’s still a lot of struggle to make people understand this kind of aesthetic.”
But perhaps, slowly he’s getting there: An older female client, not his usual demographic, had approached him to order
the look worn by model Jo Ann Bitagcol: boxy jacket and deconstructed wide-leg trousers.
“From last year’s show, I found that the simpler styles sell,” he said. “They want something relatable but also with an edge.”
Rhett Eala, who was invited for the first time, presented a continuation of his popular dress-as-a-canvas collection: one-off, hand-painted shifts and ball dresses.
The “Salon” collection was distinctly more colorful, the paintings less abstract than his previous collections. This time, he said, he was inspired by his favorite artists growing up, from his childhood visits to museums abroad, on the prodding of his mother, a painter.
In contrast to the women’s formal wear, he wove in casual pullovers and abbreviated men’s trousers, easy clothes that reflect his own manner of dressing.
Eala, who has been a successful RTW designer, said he is not selling off the rack at the moment and bemoaned the challenges of going against cheap foreign brands. He has also begun to feel the pinch in bridalwear, with the presence of off-the-rack bridal boutiques.
“Our goal for ‘Salon’ was always to sell and be close to the audience. It was to be a trade thing, more than an entertainment show, and I think we’re going back to that, which is the essence of doing a show,” Lustico said.
At the first “Salon” at The Peninsula Manila, guests were given digital catalogs to peruse the collections, and the designers will do the same thing in the future.
For the show last week, “Salon” left the hotel setting for the more casual vibe of SM Aura’s Skypark, where director Robby Carmona made the models weave through each row in the audience, set up amphitheater-style—a stark contrast to the first “Salon” where the hotel ballroom floor was fully covered in plush white carpeting. The designers said they preferred the more relaxed air, which may become their template for the next “Salon” in October.
It has only been three years, but Lustico said they are already experiencing the returns.
“More than financial, it’s a creative exercise. We don’t want to be rusty and stagnant. And that’s the biggest reward,” he said.
PHOTOS BY RICHARD REYES