By Ryanne Co
November 13, 2020
The Filipino fashion designers are reinventing the sartorial landscape into something much more exciting.
Local talent is in no short supply. For decades now, Filipino designers have continuously turned heads on the runway; stylish trailblazers such as Renz Reyes, Otto Mondi, and Ched Studio have showcased the gamut of skills a Filipino creative is capable of. Today, we celebrate local style with a list of designers who are making waves both here and abroad.
Some of these designers are just starting out, but others have taken years to build their brand into what it is today. Through a combination of hard work and talent, these seven local designers are taking the spirit of national creativity through to all the corners of the world—and the country. Meet the designers you have to watch out for in the future.
Kermit Tesoro is perhaps best known for his avant-garde shoe designs. From the details of the shoe itself to the craftsmanship of its minutiae, the sheer absurdity of Tesoro’s footwear has become something of an icon to collectors. The Filipino designer, who is now based in Berlin, derives inspiration from a spectrum of sources. Being also a horticulturist, much of what he has created has reflected the beauties, the dangers and the excitement of nature. “I like exploring the scientific unknowns, the natural world and the uncanny,” he says.
Some of his most notable pieces made this year include Polypodis, a bespeckled shoe designed with waving tentacles, and Mycornucopia, a predominantly white “microdetailed” shoe that features a cluster of mushrooms cascading elegantly at its heels. Tesoro’s Pandemoth, created in time of quarantine, is a handpainted face mask inspired by the ominously named Death’s Head hawkmoth.
In the past, Tesoro’s work has been described as everything from “cerebral” to “disturbing”. Yet this mixed bag of reviews does nothing to deter the designer from further exploring his imagination. “Most of my works stem from my childhood fixations,” he says. “All my works are personal to me.” In every creation—whether inspired by nature or by the avant-garde—what are most obvious are Tesoro’s own style, his playfulness, and the sincere curiosity he shares about the world outside.
Jessan Macatangay is a nurse who has found his true calling in fashion. This Batangas native who is currently taking up his masters in fashion design at Central Saint Martins had recently caught the eye of Vogue Italia and The New York Times with his showstopping graduation collection.
Titled Finding Beauty and Power in Struggle, Macatangay’s work has been praised for its vibrant colour, avant-garde silhouettes and rich visual narrative. Inspired by Melanie Bonajo’s Furniture Bondage series, the designer created five looks that represent resilience amid difficulty.
Although Macatangay is now based in London, he says his work is still largely grounded in the Filipino identity. “In our country, when it comes to the arts, people are very skilled in the process of creation,” Macatangay observes. “There are still a lot of craftsmen and women, and that’s amazing. I love the creative process of [it all]: making, building, developing something then working on it with my hands.”
A look through Macatangay’s works is an exploration into just that. His clothes incorporate a lot of draping, fitting and pattern cutting. “While some designers start by sketching, I prefer to work on a body to develop the idea. My work is mostly 3D,” he says. It’s no surprise then that his handiwork has created ensembles which are ambitious, surreal and—in his own words—able to combine bold artistic flair with feminine grace.
Feminist style is put on centre stage in Andrea Tetangco’s showrooms. The designer, who has now been running her namesake brand for 13 years, is a firm believer in celebrating womanhood. “My personal style is a reflection of pure sophistication and elegance,” she says. “With every design I create, I always enhance the female form.”
This philosophy for a bridal designer suits well for her clients. Her intricate pieces—which employ bold silhouettes, intricate beadwork and a variety of textures— are both sexy and playful. Much of her work highlight the graceful curves on a woman’s body: the slope of her shoulders or the curve of her waist. “My craft is very personal,” Tetangco shares. “I believe I can empower a woman to feel more confident and more beautiful.”
The business owner who’s been in the game for over a decade now admits that despite the glamour, fashion isn’t always a walk in the park. “I started when social media, influencers and young designers were not [as mainstream]. However, I did have a passion for fashion and I was determined to build a name for myself, so I just did it!” This go-getter attitude has worked well for Tetangco, who now owns a physical store in Mandaluyong and has also dressed some of the country’s most iconic women. “[I think it’s important to] love your size, love your colour and love everything about yourself,” she says. “Once you start accepting this, your own style will shine.”
Cara Sumabat-Limjap is the founder of HaloHalo. The brand name, which is a nod to the store’s own style, refers to the way their offerings have married unlikely combinations to form cohesive pieces. Creating sustainably and crafting with local materials, Sumabat- Limjap has helped grow the nascent interest of those looking to love local.
Established in 2011, HaloHalo has been lauded for its reinterpretation of the traditional banig. A Filipino trademark, banig is often made from dried seagrass leaves. Its relatively lightweight feel is particularly advantageous, as is the many creative ways it can be redesigned. It comes in a variety of patterns and colours, of which Sumabat-Limjap has efficiently translated into HaloHalo’s offerings. “[The concept] started out as pure curiosity,” she says. Sumabat-Limjap was often intrigued by materials and their potential to be transformed into something more than what they were.
Since its birth, HaloHalo has been nationally recognised for its chic yet pragmatic offerings. “I believe in making pieces with the intention to make other’s lives more functional without losing the importance of beauty,” the founder shares. She also admits that most of her designs come from a personal need. “My creations are very close to me because they are nested inside my head for a long time before they are born,” she says. Inspired mostly by nature, HaloHalo is an extension of Sumabat-Limjap’s tropical eclectic style. “In my head, I live in a resort, so I tend to dress according to that,” the businesswoman jokes.
Carl Jan Cruz is a familiar name in the Philippine fashion industry. His brand, which offers nostalgic takes on clothes redefined and repurposed, has been lauded for its chic interpretation of classic wardrobe staples. By applying somaesthetics to his methodology, Cruz manages to create looks that manifest emotion while staying true to a garment’s fit and feel.
Growing up, Cruz was highly influenced by his parents’ enthusiasm for clothing. “We would go around retailers and markets to look for [clothes with] a similar fit as the ones we’d see on TV or in the movies,” he reveals. In high school, as Cruz and his peers began to come into themselves, clothes became an interesting way for people to express his or her individual style. Now, the designer describes his own as a mix of the practical and the imagined.
Despite the designer’s affinity for nostalgia, he believes that the future of fashion will be marked with “a definitive change”. “[There’s] a lot of reflection as to where it is heading to as a business,” he says. “But I think authenticity and embracing personal identity is very important now.” It is not surprising that Cruz, with his unique flair for fashion, would think this way. His own signature style is what’s brought him far in the field of fashion―as it will doubtless continue to do so throughout his career.
The drama that Jaggy Glarino incorporates into his style is striking. But more than this, it is the designer’s versatility that shines through in his three brands. Maison Glarino’s feminine artistry showcases the designer’s flair for the powerful while Jaggy Apparel, his second brand, is an ode to the casual yet avant-garde. The New Norm, however, is the perfect display for Glarino’s streetwear statement: cool, effortless and relevant to the times.
The designer, who is also a licenced nurse here and in the United States, shows no signs of slowing down. “Fashion designing is not for the impatient ones like me,” he shares. “But you know, you’ll be surprised, life has a funny way of working things out. I would never have imagined that I’d get to showcase in fashion capitals like London and Tokyo—that thought is beyond wild even up to this day.”
Glarino, who describes his creative style as “intuitive”, admits that his process is more spontaneous than anything. “I resent the idea of creating something too preconceived or too well thought out,” he says. Incorporating a personal experience is the designer’s own way of story-telling. “Through that, I get to channel and capture a particular feeling before I jump in and collect visual references which I think best encapsulates the mood.”
Glarino’s personal take on style reflects his unique perspective that is mirrored in his clothes. “There is something beautiful about the ‘odd’ and ‘unexpected’ and these elements make fashion fun. As a form of expression, it is meant to be intrinsic, unique, individual and exciting.”
“The unique selling point of fashion is being able to create my own reality,” Chris Nick says. The 26-year-old designer, who launched his eponymous label a little over a year ago, has his style rooted in a more romantic world than ours. “Growing up, I would watch films from the golden age of cinema; they just amplified my love for fashion.” Nick, whose nostalgia inspires his creativity, is big on reinvention. “I find myself looking back and bringing a piece of the past into the present.”
His modern muse, then, is a fair coupling of nostalgic romance and contemporary style. “I design for a new generation, one that values tradition without being outdated,” he explains. His clothes, which are often best suited for strong personalities, bring out the charisma and power of their wearers.
While not necessarily a minimalist, Nick does prefer to stick to a more neutral palette of colours. Seductive and bold, his clothes can often be seen in shades of black and white. “I love [the colour] black because I love how it symbolises power, seduction, and mystery.”
It’s no surprise then that pieces in the designer’s collections timeless: full of sleek lines and elegant shapes. “[I tell people:] don’t get sucked into trends. Create a wardrobe that consists of staple pieces and have a few statement pieces that show off your personality.”
The Filipino fashion designers are reinventing the sartorial landscape into something much more exciting.