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Filipino Fashion First

PHx Fashion Conference is an initiative by and for local fashion designers

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By Angela Casco

Fashion is all glitz and glamour— or so most people believe.

It is, however, notorious for being a cutthroat industry, especially for fashion designers. It’s where “one day you’re in and the next day, you’re out,” a line that not only fashion model Heidi Klum has made famous through the American reality television series Project Runway, but has also perfectly captured how the field operates.

That is the same challenge that young Filipino fashion designers Esme Palaganas, Seph Bagasao, Bea Samson, and Jennifer Contreras hope to provide for fellow industry creatives through PHx Fashion Conference.

A first of its kind in the Philippines, the designer-led initiative aims to “discuss overseas markets and best practices on a regional and global level,” and will dabble on both the creative and business ends of the industry, especially for practitioners working on their own labels.

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LEADING THE LINE From left: Esme Palaganas, ArminaAranaz-Alunan, Teresa Ortiz Matera, Trickie Lopa, Nelly Dillera, and Seph Bagasao

For its premier edition, happening from Nov. 11 to 14 at the Philippine Trade Training Center in Pasay City, the conference will focus on Japan and how Filipino fashion businesses can bring their works into the country’s multi-billion-dollar retail market. It is considered as one of the most exciting, most important fashion markets in the world, with approximate sales of about $143 billion.

“[International] shows that a lot of Filipino designers participate in do not necessarily translate to business and sales,” says project adviser Tetta Ortiz Matera, sharing how she has met the members of the PHx team in a previous fashion showcase in Japan. “I felt it was time to give way to young designers, and give way to a platform beyond the show, to be able to enter the Japanese retail market.”

PHx recognizes that information holds invaluable power, and the many speakers coming from the said country will share insight on the Japanese market’s culture and patterns, export costings and pricings, and modes of distribution. They will also discuss how Philippine fashion can create a relevant global presence, as well as how Filipino designers can compete in today’s digitally operated global fashion industry.

Conference speakers include award-winning Australian fashion director and editor Jason Lee Coates, and marketing and H3O Fashion Bureau business administration expert Hirohito Suzuki.

Also speaking at the four-day affair, apart from Tetta, are Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines president and Aranaz founder and creative director Armina Aranaz-Alunan, fashion retailer Mike Concepcion, London-trained Filipino fashion designer Carl Jan Cruz, former fashion and lifestyle journalist and co-founder of Tokyo-based skincare brand Damdam Giselle Go, founder and designer of Tokyo-based Filipino clothing and shoe brand JMan Johann Manas, and co-owner and design director for Proudrace Rik Rasos.

This is the time for young designers to get together, get involved, and do something that is worthwhile for the local fashion industry.

Lucky fashion designer attendees can also get the chance to have their design portfolio reviewed by the conference speakers.

“We have engaged Tokyo-based professionals for their knowledge and experience to the audience and tell it like it is,” says Tetta. “The fashion industry, while it has the excitement on the surface, there is a lot of hard work that goes beyond and behind it and that is what we would like young designers to understand—that while you can have a successful brand in the Philippines, things are done very differently in the international market.”

Tetta, who is also a Tokyo-based fashion consultant, believes that with the amount of talent here in the country, Filipino designers can claim the place they rightfully deserve on the global stage. She hopes that PHx can be a stepping stone for fashion visionaries with big dreams.

“This is the time for young designers to get together, get involved, and do something that is worthwhile for the local fashion industry,” Tetta says. “With hope, this is the first step for us to help them realize their dreams and get an actual realistic account of how it is to work in a market like Japan, how to get there, and how to be consistently, if they get the chance, continue to be successful with their brand.”

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