Fashion therapy
LIVIN' & LOVIN' - Tetta Matera () - November 2, 2011 - 12:00am

This year’s Philippine Fashion Weeks bear great significance in my life for reasons other than fashion; on the first day of the Philippine Fashion Week held in May, I discovered a lump that would later be diagnosed as breast cancer; during the Philippine Fashion Week held last week, I celebrated the tail end of the first and toughest phase of my cancer treatment, chemotherapy. What better way to spend the days leading to my last chemotherapy than with an energizing, fabulous dose of fashion therapy?

Of the 24 shows held in a span of eight days at the SMX Convention Center and produced by Runway Productions, I watched four; the mega opener of Philippine Fashion Retail giant Bench, the 125-year anniversary show of Triumph International, the Lee National Denim Day show and student design competition and Slim’s at 50, a tribute to Salvacion Lim Higgins, the iconic fashion designer who mentored many of the Philippine’s well-known designers and after whom the venerable Philippine fashion school Slim’s was named after.

Winning form: These designs by Joselito Guizon took the US$2,000 prize for Lee’s Student Design Competition. (Photo by Gelo Salonga)

I went to both Philippine Fashion Weeks not in my capacity as a lifestyle writer but as a mother and a friend in support of my daughter who turned professional model this year and the many people I know in the fashion industry; designers, directors, makeup artists, hairstylist, agents and models. What a week it was to soak in the overflowing display of creative fashion talent from the most raw to the most seasoned of designers.

I could have watched several more shows but given that I had one more chemotherapy session to go, I paced myself to avoid getting too fatigued or ill. I did manage to squeeze in the Metro magazine, Samsung, and Metro Society co-sponsored presentation of Oliver Tolentino at the Sofitel though; I couldn’t resist watching the first show in the Philippines of Los Angeles-based Filipino designer to the Hollywood glitterati. Oliver Tolentino’s cocktail dresses and formal gowns in abaca fiber, saluyot (jute) leaves, water lily and pineapple all sourced locally were exquisitely finished in an eye-catching and mouth-watering color palette, in simply breathtaking designs. It was worth getting dressed in vintage MetroWear by Randy Ortiz and staying up late for that evening.

Beauty on parade: Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup takes on the runway for Lee’s National Denim Day.

The Bench fashion show that opened Philippine Fashion Week was a blockbuster production as always not only for its celebrity star power but also for a multi-branded collection that represented the fashion pulse of the Filipino consumer to perfection. I mean, who else can come up with a “Mars in Bench” slogan and advertising campaign? How cool and hip is that? From Bench to Human to Kashieca, Ben Chan the genius behind the brands and his creative team came up with stylized versions of the simple T-shirt and pants look to make it edgy, young, funky and current, preppy ala 21st century. Kashieca was a collection of fun and flirty one-piece dresses and separates in bright colors that can go from daywear to eveningwear with a simple play of accessories and shoes, ideal for women of any age. I particularly adored the new Randy Ortiz for Bench (R.O.B.) collection for its classic, elegant and “couture-like” take on everyday tops and pants. Randy Ortiz describes this collaboration with Bench as “a play on prints and patterns, a mix of street and sportswear reminiscent of my designs 20 years ago when I first started designing.” The wide-legged black sequined pants paired with a simple close-fit top, was a simply divine fashion concoction, casual chic to the hilt. I cannot wait for these fashion must-haves to hit the stores.

Mama’s little girl: My daughter Riana strikes a fierce pose for Lee National Denim Day show.

The Triumph show directed by Jackie Aquino was a tasteful showcase of the company’s 125 years of “Tailoring the Female Shape” featuring their latest groundbreaking collection, the Triumph Essence and Shape Sensation. The lingerie are made with luxurious materials in flattering designs with cutting edge appeal in the “new shape concept” that guarantee highly effective shaping performance on any woman who wears the Triumph undergarments. I enjoyed the show because unlike a Victoria Secret show loaded with theatrics, the models walked sans fanfare to light mid-tempo, French-Canadian infused music, giving the show a subtle sexy and feminine vibe. This allowed the undergarments to shine and not the models giving the audience time and pause to appreciate the fine detailing and fit of the products. Ruffa Gutierrez closed the show in a provocative black corset ensemble with a flowing, sheer black tulle skirt, adding mystery and drama to the va va voom lingerie.

The Lee National Denim Day Fashion show directed by Robby Carmona and held at the Atrium of SM Mall of Asia doubled as a platform for the spring/summer 2012 collection of Lee and its student design competition. Twelve students from De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde, University of the Philippines-Diliman, University of Santo Tomas and University of San Carlos-Cebu vied for a cash prize of US$2,000; each student took inspiration from one of six dynamic cities featured in Lee’s worldwide campaign titled “The City is Mine.” The winner, Joselito Guizon of University of San Carlos-Cebu based his designs on the vibrant and fashionably diverse city of Tokyo.

Unlike the shows inside the SMX where invitations are required for entry, mallgoers along with invited guests were able to watch the show. The towering stairs, elevated ramps and raised platforms in black and white served as a quasi-urban backdrop for the denim-clad, models with an attitude bunch that strutted their stuff to the beat of drums, bass, electro and popular music including those by Rihanna and an updated band-version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. The show was fast-paced apropos for the urban-chic designs and the youthful appeal of the brand; the excitement at the venue was palpable and clearly everyone had a great time. Shamcey Supsup, Miss Universe 3rd runner-up and Anton del Rosario of the Philippine Azkals walked the runway as celebrity models.

Last but definitely not the least, I ended my fashion therapy at the Philippine Fashion Week with the Slim’s at 50 show. It featured the works of Slim’s alumni — Cesar Gaupo, Chito Vijandre, Erika Adona, Ezra Santos, Michael Cinco, James Reyes, Joey Samson, Martin Bautista and Riza Bulawan. Included in the show as well were the vintage designs of Joe Salazar, designer par excellence who passed away several years ago, another Slim’s graduate. All the designers remained true to their individual design aesthetic and while each one presented a collection diverse from one another, they were all fitting of a tribute to Slim’s. Chito Vijandre who has not designed clothes for more than a decade, went back to his designer roots to acknowledge Slim’s influence on him. It was a show celebrating Filipino talent at its best.

Philippine Fashion Week turned out to be a family affair for me; I was able to convince my husband to come back to Manila and watch his principessa (princess) model for the first time. Since it was a school break, our son tagged along to watch some of the shows. I bumped into friends and colleagues, some of whom were surprised to see me up and about attending the shows but all expressing encouragement and support in my current medical battle.

Family, friends, fitness, food and fashion have all played very important roles in my life but more so now that I am getting treatment for breast cancer. Having all of these have allowed me to live fully everyday, appreciate things from a different perspective, get through treatment with a smile on my face and forget on many occasions that I have cancer.


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