By John Legaspi
From the pageant stage and the halls of the senate to the sporting event of the year and beyond, let’s wrap up the decade and look back on the fashion moments that made 2019 a year of Filipino fashion.
The mission to go green
Fashion is on rescue mode as the industry discovers new, effective, and sustainable ways of producing garments. Displayed at the MET Museum last April was the exhibition “Fashion Revolution: The Future of Textile” produced and curated by the Swedish Institute with the support of the Swedish embassy in Manila. The exhibition was held in partnership with style brands such as H&M, Babybjorn, and Houdini Sportswear.
Touring from Paris to Berlin, the exhibition made a stop in Manila, its first in Asia, aiming to shed some light on the challenges and possibilities of modern fashion, whose linear business model—“take, make, and dispose”— is being reimagined into a full circle of reuse and recycle.
The rise of the “woke” consumers
With almost unlimited access to information, Gen Zers tend to be part of every conversation. They are the “woke” generation, with radars that beep whenever they spot social injustices committed by brands and designers. A Dell Technologies study, which included 17 countries with 730 Filipinos from high school and college, showed that this generation prefers brands and companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. Gen Zers seek purpose and meaning. They are eager to affect change in society. Gen Zers thrive on brands that reflect their sense of social justice. They love brands that use products for social change as they wear their advocacies on their sleeves.
Politicians got creative during the May 2019 midterm election. This year, public officials put their luck on by giving their supporters something that would kick them to the top of the leader board. From Bong Go’s 3-Point King and Abby Binay’s Air Binay and AB2.0 to Menchie Abalos’ Air Abalos and Joseph Estrada’s Erap All-Stars, these candidate sneakers proved to be a stylish move during the campaign season.
Local initiatives strutted their stuff on the retail floors. Bench and Suyen Corporation led the pack with their “love local” initiative evident during their fashion week with Rafe Totengco. This year’s batch of winners of the Bench Design Awards showcased their collection at the Rakuten Fashion Week in Japan.
Plains & Prints hit its silver milestone. Roxanne Farillas and 15 other fashion artists produced “Beyond 25,” the brand’s silver anniversary collection.
Last November, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, Duty Free Luxe Mall opened Marahuyo, the first boutique to showcase 10 homegrown high-end Philippine brands, giving a sense of “practical luxury” by promoting merchandise made by Filipino artisans.
As a nation, we are to have a steadfast spirit yet we also take a moment to journey within ourselves. By doing so, we could be able to mirror the beauty that is within us, to mirror what is true and just, and to mirror the light which illuminates our path. —Mak Tumang
SONA’s peacocking style
In giving the Filipino classic wear a new spin through showcasing local textiles and more, the attendees of this year’s State of the Nation Address did not disappoint. Even the rostrum of the House Session Hall was dressed in ethnic textiles, as if it was the dress code for the afternoon session. Notable looks were Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate in a handpainted barong by Sol Taule that referenced the conflict on the West Philippine Sea. Imee Marcos donned a sunset ombre sleeveless gown by Mak Tumang, which for her was a symbol of unity. Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago wore a blue terno with a sash that represented the youth’s commitment to fight for Philippine sovereignty; and Davao del Sur Rep. Mercedita Cagas wore a gown by Renee Salud made from t’nalak, a native weave from Mindanao.
The category is fashion realness
Amid the issues surrounding trans women using the female restroom, The SM Store invited Season 10 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Aquaria, to be the new face of the department store for its shoes, bags, and accessories lines. The SM Store took a bold move last August announcing its first-ever drag ambassadress, making a mark in the local retail landscape. “I think the collaboration with The SM Store is important because it definitely highlights things for the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community: love and acceptance throughout the Philippines and the world,” said Aquaria. “I think that’s the message that always needs to be shared. Until everybody else is equal, that message will continue to be passed on. I’m grateful to The SM Store for trying to make that social change.”
Apart from the passing of the great Karl Lagerfeld, the local fashion scene also mourned the loss of great Filipino designers.
Cesar Gaupo, who died at the age of 72 on Jan. 19, spent nearly 50 years in the fashion industry. He was considered a pioneer having co-founded the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines.
James Reyes succumbed to heart failure on March 15 at the age of 48. Apart from his work in fashion, both ready-to-wear and custommade, Reyes was known for his work in theater, particularly in Tanghalang Pilipino’s Sandosenang Sapatos and Fuego de Peligro, and Repertory Philippines’ Hair.
Eddie Baddeo, who made a name for himself with his couture creations, died on Aug. 16. Revered as Philippine fashion’s “enfant terrible,” Baddeo first made his mark as a designer of avant-garde fashion, creating highly artistic clothes from the most unlikely materials in the ’80s.
Pinay beauty queens
Filipino designs reigned supreme at the 68th edition of the Miss Universe pageant. This year’s Philippine muse, Gazini Ganados, wore designs of fellow Cebuano Cary Santiago. His national costume, inspired by the national bird, the Philippine Eagle, rightfully earned Gazini the Best National Costume award.
Relinquishing her crown, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray gave even more pride to her country by wearing two of Mak Tumang’s designs— LuzViMinda and Reflection.
Pinoy pride and the SEA Games
The opening ceremony of the 30th SEA Games held at the Philippine Arena was a grand celebration of Filipino culture through musical performances and design. During the athletes’ parade, Team Philippines wore Francis Libiran’s modern take on the barong tagalog inspired by the Pintados, tattooed people from the Visayas who fought against Spanish colonizers.
Each teams’ muses were beautiful, wearing couture-like ternos. To amplify the festivities, Filipino performers rocked the stage with ensembles featuring the country’s indigenous textiles.