The decade that heralded such developments as the pill, Women’s Lib, Youthquake, and the first man on the moon became the inspiration of students at Slim’s Fashion and Arts School for their exhibit early this month.
The six-day event (Oct. 8-13) at SM Mega Fashion Hall marked the 55th year anniversary of one of the country’s best and most established fashion design schools.
“We decided to celebrate the decade the school was founded by choosing a theme inspired by the 1960s,” said school director Mark Higgins.
Higgins’ mother, the late designer Salvacion Lim-Higgins, and her two sisters, established Slim’s in 1960 after recognizing the need for a fashion school that would not only teach its students the rudiments of fashion, but also give them proper context and perspective.
Higgins and his sister Sandy Higgins now run the Makati-based school, which, over the decades, has produced such outstanding graduates as Cesar Gaupo, Joey Samson, Ezra Santos, Oskar Peralta, Michael Cinco, Chito Vijandre, Martin Bautista, James Reyes and Gang Gomez.
Since the ’60s was a turning point between old and new, it led to plenty of discoveries and experimentations in various fields, including fashion, which swung from the remnants of Christian Dior’s New Look to Mary Quant’s bold, shapeless miniskirts and Paco Rabanne’s iconic and experimental metal and plastic dresses.
“Our students didn’t create clothes for the ’60s,” Higgins said. “They created clothes inspired by the ’60s, clothes which can be worn today.”
Some clothes on display were truly avant-garde in their use of materials, colors, embellishments and techniques.
A fuchsia-colored plastic poncho embellished with silver curtain rings and worn over an apple green catsuit stood out for its audacity, while a simple mint-green dress became instantly edgy, thanks to rows upon rows of tiny gold safety pins that adorned its hem and sleeves.
A number of students also reinvented the terno, retaining the butterfly sleeves but giving it a twist in terms of treatment, silhouette and materials.
A knee-length terno echoed the look of a modern-day sneaker—from the crisscrossing shoelace, down to the mesh and neoprene components and piping.
Several works eschewed colors and embellishments in favor of impeccable construction and noteworthy silhouettes.
Reymund Claridad fashioned a basic-looking off-white taffeta skirt suit with voluminous cape reminiscent of the ’60s. But upon closer scrutiny, his work was anything but basic. It combined tailoring with draping, and the entire look, including its cape, was actually made from one single continuous piece of fabric.
Claridad also presented a dress with a lace applique top and bell-shaped see-through skirt inspired by a lamp.
“I was actually inspired by Cruella De Vil,” said Claridad. “Since an ensemble consisting of blouse, skirt and cape seemed impractical in the Philippines, I experimented with shapes until I decided on using one single garment.”
Thanks to the ample training at Slim’s, Claridad was able to cut and sew the garment using his own patterns. Making the slightest mistake would have been costly because that would mean buying a new roll of material.
“I also like the fact that lectures and practical exercises at Slim’s are done within the same class,” said Claridad. “That’s not the case in some fashion schools. I also like that each class has a number of teachers who oversee our development.”
Claridad has a nursing degree from a Cebu school, but decided to go into fashion design. He has been designing dresses since high school but, before enrolling at Slim’s, he hadn’t sewn anything more complicated than a potholder.
“I used to hire tailors and dressmakers to execute my designs,” he said. “Now, I can do them myself. It’s always an advantage for a designer to be able to execute his own ideas.”
Ernz Huiso’s tailored wool ensemble was noteworthy for its clean, seamless construction and his effortless ability to inject a pop of color—an apple-green pleated detail on the skirt made of neoprene.
And what would the ’60s be like without cheeky humor? Huiso injected Pop Art into his design by having Marilyn Monroe’s oversized blue lips printed on the skirt’s pleated green section.
“I finished one year of fashion design in another school in Manila,” said Huiso, a teacher in Cagayan de Oro. “Since I wasn’t satisfied, I decided to take up the course again this time at Slim’s.”
Whereas his previous experience was more about design concepts, this time the approach at Slim’s was more holistic, going beyond ideas and inspirations to include execution and finishing.
“Some fashion schools are good at teaching you how to market yourself and your clothes,” said Huiso, who plans to open up a design school in his province. “But if you don’t know anything about making clothes, what would you market?”
Higgins guided the students in terms of direction and what inspirations to pursue, but they were basically on their own. Just to ensure that they didn’t tap the services of sewers, they were required to do everything in school.
“If you call yourself a designer, you should be able to do everything,” he said. “You have to be able to execute your ideas. And the only way to learn how to cut and sew is by going hands-on.”
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