The year we thought we would see another National Artist for fashion | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

BTS are named Louis Vuitton global ambassadors.

The year 2021 was, as in other industries, a roller coaster for fashion. It was when we saw fashion shows and red carpets slowly return to in-person events, after starting out the year in still mostly virtual affairs due to the pandemic.

We lost many big names in fashion this year, some too soon, while we also witnessed some very unprecedented collabs and partnerships.

BTS are named Louis Vuitton global ambassadors.

Early in the year, we waited with bated breath if, indeed, we were getting fashion’s second National Artist—it’s 2022 tomorrow and we’re almost out of breath.

Here was 2021 in fashion:

Korean stars as luxury fashion ambassadors

The Hallyu craze continued as the year kicked off with one of the biggest endorsement deals of a local brand, with telco giant Smart bagging K-pop’s global superstars BTS.

While events were halted and demand for special-occasion clothes were little to nil, fashion designers turned their creative energies onto other undertakings, like painting. Among them were Cary Santiago, Edwin Ao, Rosenthal Tee and Edgar San Diego, with the latter even holding a solo exhibit.

In February, we reported on the various individuals and organizations mobilizing to nominate among their rank the next National Artist, a move that aimed to bring legitimacy to fashion as a serious art form, as only one fashion designer has been conferred the prestigious award.

At least five prominent names were put forward for consideration, though it seems the voting has been deferred, as no National Artists were awarded in June, when the award is typically given.

“Revenge shopping”? The queue outside the new Louis Vuitton
boutique in Greenbelt 3 —CHECHE V. MORAL

Also in February, fast-fashion giant Topshop and sister brand Dorothy Perkins closed all its physical stores here, another casualty of the pandemic.

In March, the “Dean of Philippine Fashion,” Ben Farrales, died. He was 88. Growing up in Cotabato, he championed Mindanao fabrics in his storied career.

Ben Farrales, “dean of Philippine fashion,” dies at 88.

In the international scene, model turned jewelry designer Elsa Peretti died at 80. She’s best known for her longtime work with jeweler Tiffany & Co.

In April, one of fashion’s most beloved designers, Alber Elbaz, 59, died of COVID-19. The former creative director of Lanvin, and Yves Saint Laurent before that, had just launched his comeback via the brand AZ Factory before his death. (In October, designer friends staged a tribute show for Elbaz at Paris Fashion Week.)

‘Hacker’ projects and collabs

To mark Gucci’s centenary, it unveiled its “hacker” project with Balenciaga, lighting up the internet with a capsule collection that merged emblems and silhouettes of the two brands.

A few months later, another unexpected collaboration came in the form of Fendace, or Fendi and Versace, rival Italian fashion houses that joined hands for a pop-up collection.

Louis Vuitton announced BTS as the house’s new ambassadors, with an ad campaign debuting in July. Tiffany & Co., meanwhile, named K-pop group Blackpink’s Rosé as its global ambassador. Blackpink Lisa is Bulgari’s ambassador.

Lisa for Bulgari

“A million girls would die for this job,” Miranda Priestly might have said—this meaning at the helm of Teen Vogue. But even before Alexi McCammond could take her place as the next editor in chief of the glossy, she had to resign after Teen Vogue staff condemned her hiring, as McCammond’s past homophobic and racist tweets emerged.

Amid concerns over COVID hate crimes against Asians, especially in the United States, fashion figures like Sweden- based Filipino Bryanboy condemned a video posted by a French DJ named Michel Gaubert featuring guests at an Asian-themed party holding up slant-eyed masks and yelling “Wuhan girls, wahoo!” Gaubert apologized after the backlash.

In May, Ariana Grande wed in an Audrey Hepburn-inspired wedding dress by Vera Wang. We also reported on how local designers made simpler bridal dresses for pared-down weddings.

Ariana Grande weds in Vera Wang.

In an effort to revamp its racy image, Victoria’s Secret announced it would drop its famous Angels and be a more inclusive brand. Along came a campaign that featured seven women, including Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, American athlete Megan Rapinoe and plus-size model Paloma Elsesser.

Openings and comebacks

Meanwhile, “high-street Celine” brand COS opened its first store in the Philippines at SM Aura, bringing its refined, minimalist aesthetic to these shores.

Kanye West touted its collaboration with Gap, sending the latter’s stocks soaring by about 20 percent.

In July, Bienvenido Tantoco Sr., the cofounder and patriarch of luxury department store Rustan’s, died. He was 100. Tantoco and his late wife Gliceria blazed the trail for Philippine fashion retail, bringing to their portfolio over a hundred global brands, from Lacoste and Marks & Spencer to Hermès and Zara.

Phoebe Philo, the revered former designer of Celine, whose understated designs were missed when she left the brand, announced her fashion comeback under her own label, to debut next year.

Couture houses made an emotional return to the Paris catwalk after 18 months of presenting online. Demna Gvasalia also presented Balenciaga’s first haute couture collection in 53 years.

We reported on the still growing popularity of men in pearls, preceded by a collaboration between Mikimoto and Comme de Garcons. Every fashion guy from Harry Styles to BTS wore strings of grandma’s pearls around their necks.


Even as online shopping thrived, especially when movements were limited and shops were closed due to COVID, sustainability was the byword in fashion, as brands and consumers reflected on the effects of excessive consumption on the environment.

It was a moment for artisanal Filipino brands to thrive, with support from organizations like Philippine Fashion Coalition, Katutubo x Bench, ArteFino, among others, which continued to create venues for commerce for independent or fledgling brands.

Still a move to go green, renting clothes or buying preloved fashion got more popular in 2021. Luxury live selling also became big, as entrepreneurial entities took advantage of Filipinos’ still growing appetite for designer bags.

Criselda Lontok, who dressed Filipino power women, died at 81 in September. She designed her eponymous label at Rustan’s for over 40 years.

Gaining global popularity during the pandemic, TikTok became the new platform for fashion brands and newly minted fashion influencers to live-stream or flex their wares.

In September, we saw the return of the physical red carpet with the comeback of the Met Gala in New York.

Kim Kardashian in Balenciaga at the Met Gala
Kim Kardashian in Balenciaga at the Met Gala

It was also that month when Tiffany unveiled its campaign starring music’s power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Kim Jones and Donatella Versace at the finale of their Fendace show. Right: Beyonce in a look from Gucci and Balenciaga’s “hacker” project

In October, we saw the release of Kim Jones’ Fendi collab with Kim Kardashian’s Skims. Balenciaga and Crocs teamed up anew with high-heeled Crocs, as Balenciaga also “dressed-up” the characters of “The Simpsons” in animated runway show.

Crocs x Balenciaga heels

Blackpink took Paris Fashion Week, as global ambassadors of luxury houses Dior (Jisoo), Saint Laurent (Rosé), Chanel (Jennie) and Celine (Lisa).

New fashion icon

Kim Kardashian may have inspired many memes with her all-black Balenciaga at the Met Gala, and Anya Taylor-Joy may have had her moment as a new fashion icon, but we think it was the year of Zendaya, who seemed to have made no missteps and pushed boundaries on her red-carpet appearances.

Zendaya in wet-look Balmain

Most memorable looks of the 25-year-old star from 2021: the sculptural all-white Rick Owens at the London premiere of “Dune,” the draped Balmain at the Venice Film Festival and that custom Valentino for “Spider-Man’s” Los Angeles premiere.

In local news, Happy Skin’s Rissa Trillo announced she was leaving the homegrown beauty company, reportedly after a disagreement with her partners. All parties declined to go on record for the cause of the split.

Louis Vuitton men’s creative director and Off-White founder Virgil Abloh died in November after a private battle with a rare form of cancer. He was 41.

Daniel Lee, who brought some excitement to the staid luxury house Bottega Veneta with his acid green pouch bag and cassette bag featuring oversize versions of the brand’s signature intrecciato weave, left the company after only three years.

High-end streetwear brand Supreme and Tiffany unveiled their collaboration.

‘Revenge shopping’

In local news, Swedish giant Ikea finally opened its biggest store in the world. Yes, it’s not a fashion brand, but it’s undoubtedly the most anticipated store opening here in recent years.

Greenbelt 3 also finally reopened after yearslong renovations, hosting a stellar roster of luxury brands, many of which are set to open next year, among them the expanded Hermès store. There are queues outside the new spots of Louis Vuitton and Dior, which spark optimism for the long-predicted (or hoped for) phenomenon: “revenge shopping.”

The year also saw fashion flirt with NFTs or non-fungible tokens, as brands test how they could profit from the hype surrounding digital design. NFTs is a way to monetize digital products that could be infinitely reproduced.

In December, Chanel named a new global chief executive officer, Leena Nair, a fashion outsider who was chief of human resources at Unilever.

“And Just Like That,” the revival of “Sex and the City,” massively popular in the aughts both for its racy witticism and fashion, premiered minus the frisky Samantha Jones.

Patek Philippe x Tiffany limited-edition watch sells for $6.5 million at auction.

Patek Philippe and Tiffany unveiled their limited-edition Nautilus watch with a Tiffany Blue dial. There will only be 170 units of this watch, driving the demand among wealthy collectors. The first watch—to officially retail at $52,000 apiece—sold for $6.5 million at an auction.

To cap the year, Filipino designers shone at the Miss Universe 2021 beauty pageant, where the likes of Michael Cinco, Ezar Santos and Francis Libiran, as well as relative unknowns like Jian Lasala, Garimon Roferos, Louis Pangilinan and Kennedy Jhon Gasper, designed evening gowns or national costumes for candidates from different countries. INQ

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