THE TEMPTATION to let their hair down, stay at home and watch the unfolding royal wedding on TV was great. But, in the end, Cebu City’s fashionable set chose to dress to the nines and troop to the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino’s main ballroom Friday night to savor the collections of 13 of the country’s best designers in Face-Off 2011.
Presented by Inquirer Lifestyle, Samsung and Waterfront Hotel, the fashion event was so far the biggest of its kind in 2011 with Manila-based designers Mike dela Rosa, Efren Ocampo, Randy Ortiz, Patrice Diaz, Rhett Eala and Pablo Cabahug sharing the ramp with their Cebu-based colleagues Philip Rodriguez, Arcy Gayatin, Cary Santiago, Protacio Empaces, Oj Hofer, Edwin Ao and Jun Escario.
Guests hardly missed key moments of the royal wedding, as Samsung, using several of its new-generation LED HD TVs, ran the event live over cocktails.
Waterfront GM Marco Protacio collaborated with show director Jackie Aquino to transform the hotel’s ballroom into a Bryant Park-worthy venue with an all-white backdrop and pearlized white tiffany chairs made more dramatic by bluish mood lighting (blue for Inquirer and Samsung).
Samsung also launched its Notebook 9 Series before the style-savvy Cebu market with a capsule collection by young designers Eric de los Santos and Jerome Lorico for Folded & Hung.
De los Santos did several draped dresses made of stretch tulle with hints of beadwork, while Lorico did a men’s wear ensemble consisting of dark sweaters, vests and pants worn with obi belts.
Each featured designer presented seven to eight looks. Apart from tapping professional models, Rodriguez and company were also assigned to dress up prominent members of Cebu society such as Marguerite Lhuillier, Elvira Luym, Meg Eteve, Lani Osmeña and her daughter Anette Osmeña, among others.
Looks ranged from exquisitely tailored to cleverly deconstructed pieces, romantic to avant-garde frocks, conventional to artisanal treatments.
Newcomer and Look magazine’s designer of the year winner Cabahug held his own against more experienced colleagues by producing long and short dresses in stretch tulle lined with jersey in such colors as black, white and silver.
The collection, he said, was a continuation of his winning pieces for Look, which used a great deal of tiers, ruching and painstaking pin tucking. In lieu of real metal, he spray-painted certain embellishments to achieve a matte, metallic effect.
Fashion veterans Ocampo and Dela Rosa drew on their respective strengths as ready-to-wear designers by producing wearable and classic pieces that exuded quiet elegance—the kind you can wear again and again regardless of season.
Drawing inspiration from icy blonde American actress Tippi Hedren, Ocampo produced lean, skimming dresses made of viscose, jersey, chiffon, crepe and crochet lace in neutral colors such as black, white, ivory and pewter.
Dela Rosa presented mainly lean black and white columns made of crepe and silk charmeuse and chiffon with classic necklines like halters, cowls and scoops. He ended his segment with visual punch in the form of a fuchsia and orange number with elements derived from earlier pieces.
Hofer also had wearability in mind by producing draped and tailored separates as well as electric-pleated long dresses in dramatic colors like teal, aubergine and chocolate brown.
His materials included faux leather, cotton and silk for the tailored pieces, and stretch tulle and jersey for the draped numbers. It was a study in contrasts and proportions, with wide, exaggerated belts and brass metallic components giving certain pieces a surreal feel.
Gayatin and Diaz, two designers noted for fabrication, came up with their respective interpretations using classic silhouettes paired with unusual treatments and combinations.
Gayatin, for instance, combined strips of lace and wool with tweed. She also did some shredding and fraying to distress and lighten up a seemingly severe material like tweed. She incorporated lace in aqua and red, as well as trims of black sequins on some pieces to make the look pop.
Although her color palette of black and beige looked somewhat ordinary, Diaz’s choice of materials and processes certainly weren’t. She made use of strips and layers of black cotton knit (the kind used for lowly T-shirts) and combined them with exquisite beige fabrics made of crepe and linen.
Diaz stayed away from bling and allowed what she described as scraps or retazo to take over and advance her aesthetic.
While Ao went for tailored and deconstructed pieces, fellow Cebuano Escario did a body-conscious collection fashioned from “power knits” meant for the fit and daring. He tempered it by including relatively demure-looking pieces made of French lace.
Ao used a great deal of wool, which he combined with gray and black silk, to produce suits and layered, off-kilter columns and dresses with missing, unfinished, exaggerated or misplaced parts.
It was all about shape for Escario as his lines followed the female body. Modesty, he said, is the new sexy, as he left plenty to the imagination by either covering with stretched tulle or tempering exposure of usually exposed body parts such as cleavages, backs and tummies. His body-fitting lacy numbers, though, looked far from conservative.
Glamour wasn’t in short supply that evening, as the trio of Ortiz, Eala and the venerable Rodriguez produced their respective takes on romantic dressing.
With Ao, Santiago and Empaces, the three also showed their range in men’s wear by producing interesting suits with enough visual flourishes.
Eala drew inspiration from the film “Black Swan.” But his women’s collection, which used silk organza, chiffon, lace and tulle, was anything but dark and unhinged. Everything about them, especially those tiered and floral appliquéd skirts, was light and airy. He also did away with lining to give certain long skirts a leggy silhouette.
Ortiz was inspired by “The Age of Innocence,” Martin Scorsese’s film set in late 19th-century New York (based on the Edith Wharton novel), to produce long, slim dresses made of stretch tulle, lace and metallic jersey, and embellished with embroidered rosettes. He described the collection as his attempt at redefining glamour and elegance for the red carpet.
Rodriguez paid tribute to his favorite clients over the decades with figure-flattering long gowns in neutral and contrasting shades such as black and white, and a bit of gold, red, fuchsia and teal. He used such fabrics as stretch tulle, silk organdy, gazar and lace. By paying close attention to shape and proportion, Rodriguez was able to produce appliqué-embellished pieces that provided the right drama without looking too cloying.
For the show’s avant-garde portion, Empaces and the inimitable Santiago were more than happy to do the honors.
Empaces, one of the featured designers of Tokyo Fashion Week, was all set to present his “country lass” collection. But after Japan experienced a series of unprecedented calamities in early March, organizers decided to cancel this year’s edition.
Empaces won the praise of his countrymen, instead, with a series of hand-painted, cutout and embroidered dresses that he lined with shiny fabrics.
In his homage perhaps to Prada’s current Spring-Summer collection, he combined his bold, hand-painted and embroidered fabric with black-and-white gingham to produce a visually tongue-in-cheek piece.
Finally, the Middle East-trained Santiago again put his experience and artisanal skills to good use by producing long and short dresses inspired by world-class products Cebu is known for: woven furniture pieces.
Using colors such as purple, copper, gunmetal gray and silver blue, Santiago fashioned show-stopping numbers made of silk satin that simulated woven banig and rattan, and incorporated an extensive network of boning and round metal components.
Santiago had to scale down his shop’s operations for a month to allow him and his team to devote their time and efforts to the collection. He also did a number of formal suits to show his range as a men’s wear designer.
His dresses, he said, weren’t meant to be taken as a whole. Instead, Santiago wanted to show people possibilities.
And rightly so. Because of their remarkable qualities, his woven dresses, no matter how you style them, can’t be worn again to another party within the same city.
And with Facebook and other forms of social media getting more popular by the day, perhaps only once—unless you party in another planet. But if your agenda is to arrive with a bang, then the driven and highly talented Santiago is the designer for you.
Face-Off 2011 continues the commitment of Philippine Daily Inquirer and Samsung to promote the best in Philippine fashion design by featuring top designers in a series of fashion shows. It also aims to project the best of Filipino fashion designers and reflect the evolution of their craft, current standards and thrusts.
Held for the first time in 2009 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Face-Off was also staged a few years ago in Cebu, then showcasing sportswear. This time around, the Cebu edition was much bigger in terms of scope as well as ambition.
Major sponsor was Ayala Land Premier’s 1016 Residences. Also supporting it were SM, Cebu Pacific Air, L’Oreal Paris, L’Oreal Professionnel, M. Lhuillier Jewellers, PLDT Watchpad.