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Avel Bacudio: Asia’s most influential designer mentors young Filipino designers |

Fashion and Beauty

Avel Bacudio: Asia’s most influential designer mentors young Filipino designers

LIVIN’ AND LOVIN’ - Tetta Ortiz Matera - The Philippine Star

Avel Bacudio is now paying it forward by sharing his expertise with 10 young, aspiring designers with the first-ever  Boardwalk Signature Style Designer Show Off.


Avel Bacudio is first and foremost a funny, kindhearted person who will melt your heart and bring a smile to your face with his infectious laughter and self-deprecating manner. That he is an extraordinary fashion designer is a given, a well-established fact backed by a successful 17-year career validated by the extensive and impressive client list that he has, the numerous awards he has received, including Metro magazine’s 2012 Breakthrough Designer, and Asia’s Most Influential Designer 2014 at the recent Mercedes-Benz Stylo Asia Fashion Week held in Malaysia.

Avel Bacudio has come a very long way from his humble beginnings growing up in the fishing village of Buhi, Camarines Sur. Drawn to sketching from a very young age, Avel knew then that he wanted to be a fashion designer. With sheer determination, his can-do attitude and the financial support of his sister Jeyjette, he moved to Manila and enrolled at the La Salle School of Fashion. He began joining national and international fashion design contests in 1999 and his creations have been sent to Japan to compete and to Singapore and Hong Kong for exhibits.

This year Avel celebrates one of many fashion milestones: his 10th-year anniversary with Boardwalk, the behemoth Filipino direct-selling lifestyle brand. The Avel Bacudio-Boardwalk partnership began rather auspiciously when one of his clients, well-known showbiz personality Jean Garcia, acted as a go-between for the designer and the brand. Boardwalk approached Garcia to endorse their soon-to-be developed ready-to-wear line for mature women, to which the actress agreed but on one condition: that Avel be the one to design it.

Eager to augment his income and try something different, Avel welcomed the idea just as Boardwalk was keen on the prospect of having a well-known fashion designer be identified with their brand. An introduction was immediately arranged and a partnership was born not long after.

Since then, Avel has created a new and profitable market for Boardwalk with sought-after and bestselling product lines that include the eponymous Avel Bacudio jeans.  As Boardwalk creative marketing communications head Eloisa Alegre said, “Bumongga ang Boardwalk, especially when Avel Bacudio jeans was launched.” Affordable yet totally fashionable, Bacudio raised the level of appeal and desirability of the once mass-market brand exponentially.

Avel was once a very self-conscious “laki sa probinsya” lad who thought that his lack of English proficiency would prevent him from succeeding and being accepted in the fashion industry. Referring to lapses in English as “nosebleeds,” he has gotten past his insecurity and now embraces Tagalog as his form of verbal expression. Naturally funny, he is always ready with a joke and is able to poke fun at himself at any given time while remaining very serious about his craft.

Avel has the best of both fashion worlds — a thriving, personal made-to-order business and an in-house creative fashion consultant role at Boardwalk. He counts himself blessed in being able to balance two very different fashion business models without having to sacrifice one for the other. I asked Avel if any of his personal clients left him when he decided to work with Boardwalk. He told me no and added that his clients were very understanding and encouraging of his decision to enter the ready-to-wear industry.

Weddings account for most of his personal fashion business and while he only sees one client a day, his calendar is full as it takes a month to design for a wedding plus the countless high-profile events he has to dress celebrities and showbiz personalities for. Avel is in awe of Valentino and draws inspiration from his classic and exquisite lace creations. His menswear is gaining traction and he will be dressing young heartthrobs Jerome Ponce, Robert Bermudez, Brian Cu and Bryan Santos in tailored neoprene suits for an upcoming entertainment awards along with showbiz princess Janelle Salvador. Journey vocalist and Filipino singer Arnel Pineda is also a loyal client.

No stranger to the hardship and pitfalls of a very cutthroat industry, Avel is now actively sharing his expertise with young aspiring designers and paying it forward with the first-ever Boardwalk Signature Style Designer Show Off. A pet project of Avel’s and backed by his Boardwalk family, together they handpicked 10 aspiring designers from various local design competitions to showcase their talents and create exclusive, limited capsule collections under their own names.  Avel, along with Philippine fashion industry pillar Christian Espiritu and respected designer Dong Omaga-Diaz, provided expert advice on technique and construction, finish and product presentation.

A “buyout panel” was formed to select the approved designs and a fashion show was held to give the designers a taste of having their creations critiqued.  Dubai-based Filipino fashion designers Michael Cinco, Furne One and Ezra Santos provided words of wisdom and encouragement, sharing the traits that have made them global successes: passion, humility, gratitude, hard work and determination. 

The Boardwalk Designer Show Off is an advocacy on both Avel’s and Boardwalk’s part to ensure that young designers get a fair shot at success and, more importantly, to ascertain the health and longevity of the local fashion industry, what with the influx of foreign brands, especially the inexpensive fast-fashion kind. The project will be held annually from now on and Boardwalk Signature Style will become a mainstay of the brand. Future participants will get the chance to apprentice with the Dubai-based Filipino designers.

Avel traveled with another creative Filipino genius, Mike Carandang of America’s Next Top Model fame, to New York City to shoot the documentary and advertising campaign for the Boardwalk Signature Style Designer Show Off. A lifelong dream of Avel’s, shooting in the Big Apple with a homegrown crew is an affirmation on the designer’s part of the global reach and international appeal of Filipino designs.


I was curious to find out how the selected designers felt working with Avel and being part of this major Boardwalk history-making project, what with the billboards, advertisements, television show and all. Here are their thoughts:

PHILIPPINE STAR: What does it mean for you to be selected as part of the groundbreaking Boardwalk Signature Style Designer Show Off?

MARA CHUA: It is a great feeling to be one of the 10 pioneering designers for the Boardwalk Signature Style; it is a unique platform to expand my market and audience.

TRACY DIZON: I am very excited and honored to be one of only two female designers in the group; this project gives me the chance to represent the quirky female fashion designer minority in the mainstream retail industry.

BRIAN EVALLE: I look forward to being inspired by the other young designers. I was very excited when I first heard the news and I cannot wait to share many valuable and unforgettable experiences with the other young designers.

ROBIN GUNDRAN: It was a privilege to be chosen as one of the 10 since not all young designers get the opportunity to participate in a project like this. It is definitely a big advantage for us to have a platform like Boardwalk to showcase our collection.

ZENDELLE LACAO: To be chosen was overwhelming; I feel lucky and am very thankful to have an opportunity like this.

SANTI OBCENA: Being selected by Boardwalk for this project is such an honor; I worked with them during the 2010 Mega Young Designers Competition but this experience taught me many things about the RTW industry.

LHENVIL PANEDA: This project will help us realize our dreams to introduce our designs to a bigger market; it gives us the chance to share our aesthetics with a wider female audience.

JUNE PUGAT: This project has allowed me to take a significant leap from designing couture to creating ready-to-wear. It marks a remarkable growth in my career since I would like to do more RTW in the future.

AARON QUITOLES:  Participating in this project has been a big help in showcasing our talent to the whole country and an opportunity like this does not come often and is never always free.

EMIR YAMAMOTO: I am very grateful that Boardwalk is helping young designers make their mark in the fashion industry. Often, local retail brands tap only well-known designers for projects like these yet here is Boardwalk supporting us in our effort to break out as serious fashion designers.

How did it feel like to be mentored by Avel Bacudio?

CHUA: Avel mentored me in a previous Mega Young Designers Competition; I always liked his often funny but practical approach to fashion. He taught me a thing or two that will be valuable to my own career.

DIZON: Sir Avel first mentored me during the 2007 Philippine Fashion Design Competition; he was a cheerful, effervescent mentor then, ready with a big smile even when he is giving constructive criticism and he is no different this time around.

EVALLE: I am very grateful to sir Avel for taking a chance on me; he really made a concerted effort to teach me many things about fashion and the ready-to-wear industry.

GUNDRAN: I worked for him as an assistant designer in the past and I am over the moon to have the opportunity to be mentored by him.

LACAO: Sir Avel is one of the most credible Filipino designers in the business today and it was a privilege to be mentored by him.

OBCENA: For me Avel was more of a personality than a mentor and seeing how he lived his life was a lesson in itself.

PANEDA: Along with sir Christian Espiritu and sir Dong Omaga-Diaz, sir Avel is an inspiration. Not only did he teach us how to approach the design process properly, he also taught us how to keep dreaming and reach for the stars.

PUGAT: Renowned Filipino fashion designer Frederick Peralta mentored me in the past and to be mentored for a second time by another industry-acclaimed designer like Avel Bacudio is something to be thankful for.

QUITOLES:  It has been such a privilege to be mentored by a famous designer like Avel Bacudio; because of him and the other mentors, I learned the right technique to create clothes that I can be proud of.

YAMAMOTO: I truly admire sir Avel’s dedication to the craft and his work ethic. He works hard to pursue his dreams and everything he wants in life.

What is the biggest lesson your learned from all your designer mentors?

CHUA: Avel Bacudio impressed upon me the importance of looking at fashion through the lens of the wearer. He said that fashion is about participation, that a piece of clothing cannot be just beautiful; it has to be worn to be appreciated.

DIZON: All three of them were very approachable during the whole process. Sir Avel taught us that you don’t reach the top by being a snob; he showed me compassion when he learned of my mother’s passing. He told me to use my family experience and all my memories in my work, that building family connections is an important part of every person’s life, designer or otherwise.

EVALLE: That I will have to work in order to work.

GUNDRAN: I learned to edit my designs based on the demands of the consumer, what designs will be saleable to the target market.

LACAO: Sir Avel taught us that fashion is not just about garment construction, it is also a business; he constantly reminded me that comfort and marketability are important, that the fabric and cost matter, especially in RTW design.

OBCENA: What I took away from this entire experience is that it pays to work hard and get along with people.

PANEDA: Sir Avel is an example of how no matter what hardship you experience, if you keep the fire burning, you can make your dreams come true.

PUGAT: More than words it was actually their attitude that taught me how important it was to be dedicated to what you do. They all impressed upon us how important discipline is in our work and to see it in action was inspiring.

QUITOLES:  I learned that it is important to be consistent with my aesthetics and that I need to know how to brand myself so when people see something that I design, they will immediately know that it is mine.

YAMAMOTO: The biggest lesson I learned from sir Avel, sir Christian and sir Dong is to be humble and to share my blessings.



To celebrate his decade-long career as in-house creative fashion consultant and mainstay designer for Boardwalk, Avel is introducing for the first time ever in the Philippines a cutting-edge, digitally printed blue, gray and white graphic collection in neoprene using the SureColor SC-F2000 “direct to garment” technology by Epson.

Recently introduced in the Philippines, this fashion-forward digital textile printing innovation by Epson adds a premium and new dimension of coolness to Avel’s custom-made garments for Boardwalk by making the transfer of a designer’s vision and images directly onto precut fabric possible. This technology will transform the global fashion industry by shifting from a costly, labor-intensive printing method into a high-quality, less-expensive and faster process in rendering original, exclusive designs.

In November 2013, iconic Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto used Epson’s SurePress FP-30160 technology in a collection he made for London Fashion Week entitled “Fashion in Motion, Kansai Yamamoto.” This upcoming holiday season, it is Avel Bacudio’s turn to bring graphic digital printing perfection to the Philippines.

Dubbed “Casual Couture,” Avel’s limited-edition, special premium collection of men’s and womenswear in white neoprene with blue or gray church designs will surely become a hit with diehard Avel Bacudio fans and trendsetting fashionistas. Chic, edgy, elegant, luxurious and versatile, the Avel Bacudio Neoprene collection of dresses, tops, jackets, skirts and pants can stand proudly alongside the graphic print designs of international fashion designers Mary Katrantzou and Givenchy. 

Seventeen years and counting, Avel shows no signs of designer fatigue. To borrow a Tagalog phrase he so often uses, “Mabuhay ka, Avel.”

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Visit to know more about Boardwalk Signature Style and the holiday collection of Avel Bacudio, to be released in time for the Christmas season.

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Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @tettaortiz.

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