Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Good evening! Magandang gabi!
Manila media just recently released the good news about Filipino fashion designers making it good in Hollywood. Led by Monique Lhuiller, who hails from an entrepreneurial family back home, Hollywood entertainers’ eyes marveled over the works of the Pinoy fashion designers worn by some famous Hollywood personalities.
As a sociologist and economist, this is what I can say of the matter: Philippine fashion design had already reached a very high level of maturity at this juncture. Both domestically and overseas, Filipino fashion designers are making waves precisely due to the mastery of their respective crafts.
Like their counterpart in motion pictures & mass media production, who are able to found institutions of higher learning—inclusive of graduate schools—for motion pictures & tri-media production, the fashion designers have reached a level of mastery and esteem enabling them to teach the craft to enthused learners. I have no better wish, as a sociologist studying popular culture, than to see couples of fashion institutes rising sooner or later in Manila and Cebu, the nation’s top metropolises.
Just recently, the fashion design guru Pinoy Moreno won his National Artist Award. Some people in the art & culture circles raised some eyebrows about the matter. There surely are people with astigmatic interests, who just couldn’t see the very positive implications of awarding a fashion designer as National Artist. The Award is a testimony of the maturing of the fashion industry itself, and should be welcomed without reserve.
The wave-making trend of Filipino fashion designers is also a testament to the rise of Manila/Philippines as the Fashion Capital of Asia. This trend should be stressed to the world, at a time when the global economy has grown. Filipinos are no longer the copycat morons as far as fashion is concerned, we have graduated to that of trend-setter or avant garde in the fashion & culture domain.
Not only is the Manila/Philippines the Fashion Capital, it is also the Shopping Capital of Asia. It boasts of malls that are spacious and exquisitely designed in architecture, malls that serve as retail outlets and/or display centers for some of the works of fashion designers.
The Jurassic trend of Filipinos having to fly overseas just to buy some good fashion and quality garments is long gone. The trend now is for Filipinos to invite kins and friends overseas to come visit Manila and other key cities to do a shopping spree and appreciate the fashion designs done by our topgun designers who are also Asia’s fashion gurus today.
Incidentally, around 6/7 or 84% of fashion designers are in the couture business. So any enthused appreciator of our designers’ works should deliberately visit the couture shops to enjoy the exquisite works of the fashion masters. Only 1/7 or roughly 16% of the fashion designers are in the RTW business, either as consultant designers or as designer & owner of the business.
The likes of Ben Chan, for instance, are among designers who also own RTW chain of shops. The Bench brand owned by Chan happens to be the forward linkage for his design works. Both high end and mass markets are catered to by the Bench brand, and I’d say my own kudos to the likes of the noblesse gentleman.
Those in the fashion design as well as the shoe design should better look up to the motion pictures & tri-media production their models of institutional strengthening. The challenge is for both sectors to set foot in the universities to install special departments or institutes for fashion design. Fashion design should better broaden to integrate shoe design into it, and the broadened sector should establish a presence in the University of the Philippines or U.P. as exemplified by motion pictures & media production.
Clothing technology is already present in the U.P. The presence of clothing in my alma mater should be a stepping stone to opening up a learning institute for fashion design since this new domain of arts & culture is giving a very positive name for the Philippines.
As a long-time educator, I recognize that setting foot in the premier university is a yardstick of the maturity of any sector in the country. Fashion designers, from couture to shoe design, better count me among their appreciative allies. May the tribe of fashion gurus—coming from our masters of the fashion craft—increase and multiply.
[Philippines, 13 February 2011]
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