By JESSICA PAG-IWAYAN
Photos by NOEL PABALATE
Originated in England during the 1800s, coats with tails that come with silk stockings and powdered wigs were the staple fashion statement of the English. Then a gamechanger Beau Brummell, transformed it to a simple jacket and full-length trousers, the combo that we now know as suits.
In the Philippines, however, it was not the English who introduced suits to Filipinos, but the Americans. During the American occupation that started in 1899, Western fashion was slowly introduced to the natives. It was only in 1920 when Pinoys fully embraced American suits, locally known as americana.
Adapting the Western lifestyle, “sajonistas” or Filipino students who took on the American lifestyle in Manila, changed their fashion statement by replacing their camisa with a plain white or black americana, and complementing it with straw boater hats. Escolta and Avenida were filled with numerous made-to-measure shops such as the German Adolfo Roensch Co. & Outfitters, and a shop owned by Luis Liwanag, a tailor from Bulacan who also ran a fashion academy at the Crystal Arcade.
Meet Taytay, Rizal’s master tailor
Even today, Filipino designers specializing in men’s couture are continuously creating masterpieces. One of them is master tailor Ega Francisco of Taytay, Rizal.
In an exclusive interview, the 62-year-old designer shared with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle his journey, and why he decided to focus on creating tuxedos rather than producing locally, mass-produced garments that Taytay is known for.
In 1978, Ega studied fashion design at Samson Technical School in Manila, but before he could put up his own shop, Ega had to work different jobs abroad to save money enough to establish his own business.
“I went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Greece,” he says. “I started as [an] utusan or helper. And then my colleague, who’s also from Taytay, pursued our employer, asked him to give me a chance, my own sewing machine unit. When our boss opened up his own shop, he gave me a unit, and that was where I started.”
Ega learned from experience and even had an opportunity to work with world-renowned Italian fashion designer and luxury clothing brand owner, Roberto Cavalli. “I worked for famous designers like Roberto Cavalli. But I didn’t start as a tailor. I started from the bottom,” he says. “Dati taga-punas lang ako ng mga salamin, taga-pagpag ng alikabok (I was the one who wiped the glass, dusting away dirt).”
I want to promote Taytay, that we can create quality, world-class suits. After all, we are the garments capital of the Philippines.
While working as a cleaner, the Taytay tailor says he observed how designers worked, how they created their collections, and even their standards in creating a piece. He admitted that Roberto Cavalli highly influenced his designs today.
After working for several years abroad, Ega returned to the Philippines. Since 1990, Ega has been creating tuxedos for clients from different parts of the country for various occasions. “It’s the Europeans who use tuxedos more than the American coat,” he says. “With a tuxedo, you can play around and do the design that you want. That’s why I chose that as my expertise.”
But unlike other designers who sketch their designs first, Ega admitted that he’s not good in sketching. That is why most of the time, he immediately turns his design into an actual coat. “I’m not good in making sketches. But I have the design and the inspiration in my mind,” he says. “When an inspiration kicks in, I grab that opportunity to create it immediately.”
When it comes to materials, he shared that he got his textiles from Divisoria and from Taytay. He also said that through his works, he wants to further promote his hometown.
“I want to expand my business, put up more shops in different parts of the country,” he says. “It is because I want to promote Taytay, that we can create quality, world-class suits. After all, we are the garments capital of the Philippines.”
To date, some of the personalities Ega created tuxedos for are actors Carlo Aquino and Miguel Tan Felix. When asked what tips he can give to young aspiring men couture designers, he said that they should be dedicated.
“I know it’s hard, this field is difficult,” he says. “I’ve seen and attended fashion shows, and when men collections come in, makikita mo, mahaba pa ang lalakbayin nila para mapakita na maganda ang trabaho nila (you can see that they still have a long way to go for them to showcase quality fashion pieces).”
And this is how local men couture continues to flourish in Taytay, Rizal.
Facebook: Ega Francisco Menswear Couture