A potentially controversial thought crossed my mind as I watched the solo collection of Joey Samson on the last day of Bench Fashion Week at around this time last year—a thought I didn’t even dare share with Ben Chan who was seated beside me.
It occurred to me that Samson could be the Joe Salazar of his era. The intricate details
—more so, the surprise with which he sprang them—and Samson’s iconoclastic approach to design reminded me so much of Salazar.
It’s a pity that that could be lost on today’s generation which might not even know who Joe Salazar was since it doesn’t give importance to the past (yesterday, literally), much less read up on it, and to whom the past is old and is thus irrelevant.
I believe that fashion history must inform fashion’s present and future. One aiming to go into fashion—whether as a writer, entrepreneur, marketer or especially as a designer—must read up on it, even if only for context and perspective.
How could Samson even be compared to Salazar, when the two are polar opposites in fashion design?
Samson is minimalist; Salazar went for rich, even opulent design. Samson goes for noncolor, sticking to black, white and gray; Salazar stood for color.
Samson rarely uses embellishments; Salazar mesmerized with his command of embellishments, from beadwork to over-the-top materials such as feathers.
Samson is known for tailoring; Salazar wasn’t noted for structured clothes. The historic, iconic image that comes to mind is that of Nora Aunor wearing a pantsuit, when the young actress was on the cusp of superstardom. I saw this among Salazar’s news clippings during one of our last afternoon chats in his house.
Salazar, Inno Sotto, Auggie Cordero, Gang Gomez, Ernest Santiago and later, Cesar Gaupo, shaped the Philippines’ golden age of fashion (from the ’70s to the ’80s), particularly made-to-order clothes. People exulted the media-driven rivalry of the Salazar-Sotto-Cordero triumvirate particularly.
Each of these fashion design pillars bore a highly distinct, yet evolving, fashion identity: Salazar for exquisite craftsmanship that concretized his out-of-the-box design; Sotto for his classic feminine elegance that showed his hand at visual arts (the “pintados,” for instance); Cordero for his unparalleled mastery of construction, tailoring, silhouette and uncanny ability to initiate trends (i.e. the Audrey Hepburn look that hooked a generation of Filipino fashionistas); Gomez for his unerring eye for Filipiniana detailing (callado, embroidery), his design a rich legacy for future generations; Santiago for his wild, iconoclastic creativity.
The pillars spawned the prolific generation of Randy Ortiz, Rajo Laurel, Rhett Eala, Jojie Lloren, Paul Cabral, who are all not only very successful, but are already brands in themselves.
They were followed by the batch of Joey Samson, Ivarluski Aseron, Dennis Lustico, who brought their unique individual aesthetics to the Philippine fashion design narrative that is evolving.
So to go back to my initial thought: How did Samson bear the mark of a Salazar, who was his polar opposite? It lies in the unpredictability of craftsmanship—for instance, from their choice to their treatment of fabrics and other material—and in their imagination that knew no bounds. There was no stereotyping them because they weren’t design clichés.
That’s a timely thought today, Aug. 31, as 2018 Bench Fashion Week begins. It will run to Sept. 2, showcasing the collections of the two other most important designers of their batch: Ivarluski Aseron (Aug. 31) and Dennis Lustico (Sept. 2).
Fashion mover and Bench head Ben Chan agrees with us that Samson, Aseron and Lustico are the three most important designers of their time. While the millennial designers could be enjoying great commercial success, unprecedented popularity in social media, and a very visible clientele, the three are focused on creating designs, not on self-packaging.
We’re looking forward to Bench Fashion Week because we want to see what new designs Aseron and Lustico are bringing to the table.
Aseron will present a 25-piece collection he calls “Off-Center.”
He told us that he was guided by the off-center idea in designing the collection: simple silhouettes that are a mix of “fitted and away from the body, but I did details that are not expected or usual, not only in design but also in the way materials are used and how they’re placed.”
Aseron is using wool, crinoline and his own woven line.
Lustico’s Madame D
Lustico has an interesting peg for his first show in three years: Countess Dowager or Madame D played by Tilda Swinton in the Wes Anderson movie, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
“I was inspired by this 90-year-old rich, blue-blood lady who was having an affair with the hotel concierge and was suddenly murdered,” he told us. “So the title of my collection is “The Imagined Life of Madame D.”
His 21-piece collection will hark back to the silhouettes of the ’70s and ’80s—“I’m trying my best to achieve a luxe collection to give justice to a character that inspired it.”
He sourced his materials in Treviso, Italy, with Babette Aquino, the Filipina behind the RTW Manna line of the ’80s and who was based in Paris until recently, and RTW pioneer-turned-educator Lulu Tan-Gan.