When Lesley Mobo presents at the Red Charity Gala on Oct. 16, guests at the annual fundraiser will see a completely different side to the aesthetics of the acclaimed London-based Filipino fashion designer—at least compared to his last show of wispy, gossamer dresses in the Philippines held exactly three years ago this month.
The Red collection will be more bling-y and glittery, in parts kitschy, and, with the Tudor-“Dynasty”-Studio 54 theme as takeoff point, will definitely have a good dose of humor.
It was created largely “to please the people who paid for tickets,” said the designer in a phone interview with Inquirer Lifestyle. Mobo is the eighth featured designer of the annual gala that benefits the Philippine Red Cross and the Assumption High School Batch 1981 Foundation.
Like in the previous years, it will be held at the Makati Shangri-La’s Rizal Ballroom, with direction by Ariel Lozada, styling by Noel Manapat, and hair and makeup by Henri Calayag.
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Mobo’s brief was the collection had to be eveningwear, which is not what he typically does in Europe, where, as a ready-to-wear designer, he’s used to making “short things and tailored stuff.”
“It’s a charity event, so it’s hard to be too conceptual,” he said. “There will be fashion people in the audience, but I didn’t want to make it so ‘elite’ and too serious” that it would alienate those who aren’t really into fashion.
He came up with a concept that he feels was a good compromise: not too Mobo, meaning not too edgy, but “not too European, as well.”
The collection started with the Tudor inspiration, a period of English history that has been his longtime fascination, even way back in his student days at Central Saint Martins (he earned a B.A. in Fashion Womenswear, with honors, in 2002, then his master’s in the same prestigious school in 2004).
Then it evolved with some campy details à la “Dynasty” and Studio 54. He went for romantic, Mobo said, with lots of texture and some whimsical elements even in the back of the dresses, so that even those whose tables are far from the ramp would get their tickets’ worth.
“It’s a little kitschy,” he said with a laugh. “It’s my first time to use red fabric in a long time. But I tried to balance so it’s still acceptable to the fashion people. I enjoyed doing it. In the end it’s just for love and charity.”
The 40 pieces were a tall order for the Aklan-born designer, who has had to squeeze putting them together in between his other responsibilities. He does consultancy for several brands and companies, including the British label Ghost. He has also just concluded his 2½-year contract with Uniqlo, for which he designed T-shirts sold by the Japanese brand across its new markets in Southeast Asia.
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His work has won awards in Europe. Shortly after he graduated from CSM, Harrods hired him to design its in-house label, Jasmine de Milo. He also does design collaborations, from the sold-out collection for Diesel early in his career to underwear for Bench, Red’s presenter, which will launch a his and hers Lesley Mobo fragrance and his new underwear collection at the gala.
Mobo has been scaling back on his workload, even putting his namesake label on hold, following the recent death of his father. Losing his dad has had a profound effect on the designer.
“I’ve been chasing my dreams for many years. Fashion is like a baby, it keeps asking for more and more of you. Now I just want to spend more time with my mom, take it easy a little. I’m glad I’m in a position to do it.”
The Red Charity Gala has raised over P12 million in the course of its existence, said Kaye Tinga and Tessa Prieto-Valdes, the event’s organizers. This year, they’re hoping to exceed their minimum target of P2 million, with premium items to be auctioned off at the gala, including a Parisian holiday package courtesy of Singapore Airlines and accommodations at Shangri-La Paris; a membership share at Balesin Island Club worth P2.2 million; Piaget jewelry; Rimowa luggage; and Remy Martin cognac, among many others.
Tinga and Prieto-Valdes said they will also be hosting a postshow/after-dinner party, where they will be serving breakfast to guests. There will also be plenty of swag from sponsors.
While their choices of featured designer—which in the past has included Rajo Laurel, Dennis Lustico, Furne One, Michael Cinco, Cary Santiago, Ezra Santos and Jojie Lloren— haven’t necessarily influenced how much they raised in their past outings, the organizers believe guests will be charmed not just by Mobo’s talent but also by his inspiring story.
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A biology graduate, Mobo left for the United Kingdom in the hope of fulfilling his dream that was nearly prematurely dashed at home: He had won a local design contest and was set to represent the country abroad, but was disqualified on a technicality.
Armed only with his ambition and the proceeds from selling the family’s proverbial carabao, he packed his bags to shoot for the moon.
Even after making it abroad, Mobo has remained modest and self-effacing.
“Don’t talk about me na lang,” he said. “The show’s for charity, I’ll just be entertainment.”
RED CHARITY GALA FEATURING LESLEY MOBO IS PRESENTED BY BENCH,WITH SUPPORT FROM BALESIN ISLAND CLUB, PIAGET, SUNLIFE, MEGAWORLD, OLAY, DOWNY, INQUIRER RED, LIFESTYLE ASIA AND MAKATI SHANGRI-LA. THE EVENT IS ALSO SUPPORTED BY ABITARE INTERNAZIONALE, BLO BLOW DRY BAR, COCA-COLA, FUENTESMANILA, MARIE FRANCE, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER, PHILIPPINE STAR, REMY MARTIN, ROBERT BLANCAFLOR GROUP, SINGAPORE AIRLINES, VOLVOAND W/17. FOR INQUIRIES, CALL MAGGIE GINETA AT 0917-8325570 OR VISITWWW.REDCHARITYGALA.COM.