PARIS—Mich Dulce perfectly captures it: “I think the world is a smaller place now, the internet has allowed it to be more fluid. It was so much harder when I was starting, there wasn’t enough resources to see what everyone else is doing. The way the world works now, Instagram, social media, has made the world a smaller place, it’s easier to discover more talents.”
For Rita Nazareno of Zacarias 1925, a designer’s edge lies in good design and excellent quality.
“Good design is good design, being made in the Philippines is an added bonus, but it shouldn’t be what defines your brand,” she says.
Ken Samudio recalls that during the 2014 Pitti Immagine Super Talents Exhibition in Italy, everyone was doing collections that were dark, somber and mostly black. But his collection stood out because it was colorful.
He insists on being true to one’s origins: “I can’t do leather because no one beats the Italians when it comes to leather—I need to make something innate to us and make it modern. We are generally happy people, we are very colorful, we have fiestas, we laugh a lot so we cannot fake it.”
Milliner Harvy Santos also knows that being true to oneself trickles down to your identity as designer. Trained under the prestigious Hong Kong Ballet, he moved to London after retiring his dancing shoes. It was during this two-year hiatus that he picked up a hat magazine and enrolled himself in a workshop.
“In my work there is always the element of energy. I was a ballet dancer and I’m always attracted to some kind of movement. My hats have elements that move, they attract attention. Being a performer on stage, you always want to make an entrance.”
Luis Espiritu, creative and brand consultant for Joanique, points out that design-wise, the new Filipino brand is not identified as Filipino.
“You cannot guess where it is from, because the design is progressive and unidentifiable,” he says. “A lot of Filipino brands here don’t look Filipino, they look global. There is no country identification.”
Rafe Totengco says, “The amazing thing about us Filipinos is that we are flexible, agile, we react to what is happening in the market, so I don’t necessarily think that it is an aesthetic much more than an attitude. We have that ‘can do/kaya ko yan’ attitude and we do it our way.”
At the Westin Hotel Vendome, the collections of designers Ivar Aseron, Dennis Lustico, Francis Libiran and Rajo Laurel were presented at the Pirnia Collections Showroom in collaboration with Fashion Exchange International.
Fashion Exchange International is a marketing platform put up by Robby Carmona and Carmina Sanchez, which aims to promote Filipino designers by means of fashion and trade shows or presentations. It serves as a link for buyers to have access to their collections and place orders.
This is how David Pirnia came to discover Filipino talent when he came to the buyers show last July, thanks to Tex Saverio, an Indonesian designer who also partnered with Fashion Exchange International to assist in their manufacturing needs.
He convinced Pirnia to come to Manila and check out the shows. He handpicked four designers specifically to participate and show in Paris under the Pirnia Collections Showroom.
In a roomful of designers from all over the world, the challenge is to spark interest. The diversity of the four designers’ styles seemed to attract and pique the curiosity of the buyers and visitors. Some were even surprised to know that they are from the Philippines.
Lustico explains that in this kind of platform, you need to offer something new, be conscious of what is current, and have a strong sense of identity.
“You come here with a particular look, then people start buying and become familiar with your brand,” he says. “You cannot change that. Otherwise you become like the others.”
For Sanchez, creativity and resourcefulness also play a big role: “What I think is unique to a third world country like us is that we are resourceful. Our creativity is pushed because we don’t have access to that much. Even looking at other exhibitors, it’s the Asians from not very rich countries, like India, who present really creative pieces. You work with what you have and push the boundaries.”
For Libiran, creativity is not enough to last in this industry: “The most important part is your background in terms of manufacturing. It boils down to delivering on time. So if you don’t have that structure, no discipline, it will be hard for you to penetrate this market. Creativity is one thing, it is a given, but producing it is another thing. You have to deliver the goods on time.”
Each one of these designers has a story to tell, but their common ground is dedication, passion, sincerity and a strong sense of identity. Filipino diversity—and the attitude of not giving up despite the odds—is what sets us apart.