London-based Filipino designer Lesley Mobo presented a 40-piece collection at the annual Red Charity Gala last Friday at Shangri-La Makati’s Rizal Ballroom. Unlike in his two previous homecoming collections, this time he took an approach that was totally different and more visual.
It wasn’t a case of the young designer unable to find his voice after more than a decade of working for various European labels like Diesel, Jasmine de Milo and Ghost, but more a testament to his skill, range and continued evolution as an artist.
Mobo, in an earlier interview, promised to present “a more bling-y and glittery, in parts kitschy” collection with references to history and pop culture.
Directed by Ariel Lozada, the show opened with male and female models in Bench Body underwear designed by Mobo. Bench, the major sponsor, flew in several male models for the opening segment. The event also launched Mobo’s men’s and women’s fragrances for Bench.
“We started with three storyboards— Tudor, ‘Dynasty’ and Studio 54,” Mobo said after the show. “The tricky part was putting them together without producing pieces that looked like costumes.”
Short of including the puffed up shoulder pads of the ’80s, Mobo made good on his promise, fashioning heavily beaded and layered dresses and tailored separates made of leather, lace, tulle and point d’esprit.
Apart from its dazzle factor, Mobo’s beadwork was a riot of colors and materials, as he used beads of various colors, sizes and makes in one look. He even showed pieces that combined beadwork with embroidery and applique.
His collection is also a testament to Filipino talent and craftsmanship. During one of his vacations to the Philippines, the Aklan-native trained a group of sewers to do the beadwork.
He didn’t go for all-out bling. Mobo diffused glitter by sometimes resorting to sheer overlays. When the light hit certain beaded dresses, they gave off just the right amount of sheen, thanks to an overlay of tulle or point d’esprit.
Method in the madness
“Unlike in my previous shows, I’m definitely more relaxed this time,” he said. “I’ve come to realize that the more I mature, the more I just want to have fun with what I do.”
But there was method to the madness. That was where Mobo’s ability and years of experience as designer and craftsman came in.
Those unfamiliar with his work would probably assume that Mobo, who left Manila for London in the late 1990s to pursue bachelor and master’s degrees in women’s fashion at the prestigious Central Saint Martins, is taking a different design direction.
Others might probably even dismiss his latest collection as an attempt to keep up with his bling-happy, Dubai-based Filipino colleagues, whose works had been featured by Red Charity Gala organizers Kaye Tinga and Tessa Prieto-Valdes in past editions.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Mobo may have turned his brand of fashion on its head, but at its core, his latest collection reaffirmed his strengths as a designer.
For one, his expertise in tailoring, a skill he showed in his first homecoming show in 2008, was evident in almost every piece—from the pleated Tudor-inspired collars and sleeves to the paneled and tiered skirts, shoulders and bodices.
Underneath all that glitter were tailored, boxy and oversized jackets. To keep the collection from looking too monotonous, he showed a voluminous feathery jacket devoid of beadwork and a red tulle dress with a hint of shine.
Mobo might have chosen a different color palette and set of materials, but the diaphanous qualities that characterized his second homecoming show in 2012 were also in full display.
Since Mobo has never been known to use bling, his decision to embrace it —and how!—instantly made his collection edgy.
Unlike past featured designers who made see-through and body-con dresses with strategically placed beadwork, Mobo opted for a looser silhouette.
He said that not too many women could and probably would want to wear key looks from his collection. But he insisted that certain separates could work for almost anyone if paired either with a plain top or a trusty pair of faded jeans.
After losing his father to cancer last year, nothing could faze him anymore, Mobo said.
Since he is no longer into what he calls “fashion prostitution” or being affiliated with a particular company, he is now free to “experiment and have more fun” with his collection.
His father’s death, he said, was also God’s way of freeing him from such a stressful job as head designer of certain brands, and leading him to do consultancy work instead.
“If you went through what I went through, any fears of being compared to others would be gone,” he said. “My family and I are still trying to come to terms with our loss. This show was a way for me to cope and move on. It was a way for me to celebrate life.”
Red Charity Gala raised P5 million from a series of auctions and P2 million in ticket sales. The entire amount will go to the Philippine Red Cross, Makati Red Cross and Assumption High School Batch 1981 Foundation.
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