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Filipino designers make history at Tokyo Fashion Week |

Fashion and Beauty

Filipino designers make history at Tokyo Fashion Week

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

For the first time in the history of Tokyo Fashion Week and Philippine fashion, three young Filipino designers showed their collection in front of local and international press, fashion design enthusiasts and Filipino compatriots at the recently concluded Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo (MBFWT) S/S 2016. Clothing designers John Herrera and Renan Pacson, together with accessories designer Ken Samudio, shared the runway to showcase 50 amazing looks inspired by sustainability, protection, respect and love for nature.

The show culminated a 10-day project sponsored by the Japanese government, spearheaded by the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI) in partnership with the Overseas Human Resource and Industry Development Association (HIDA) and the Japan Fashion Week (JFW) Organization. This maiden project aims to assist ASEAN nations in promoting and improving the business aspect of their fashion industries.

For the first seven days of the project, designers participated in discussions and meetings with textile manufacturers, fashion design consultants and department store executives, learning about the latest in fabric technology, fashion retail display trends and the cost of setting up a popup store or a permanent free-standing retail outlet, in popular fashion-shopping destinations such as Laforet in Harajuku. The designers also went on site visits to fashion retail spaces in Ginza, Shibuya and Aoyama. They attended exhibitions and watched three fashion shows on the first day of MBFWT.  They met with fashion show producer Shige Kaneko, who explained how shows are done at MBFWT and public relations expert Junko Naito of Esteem Press, who handled media relations for the designers at the “Asian Fashion Meets Tokyo” show.

Our young designers were the very first to participate in this three-year program; as such they were encouraged by the organizers to present a fashion show or do an installation. They were vetted carefully by a panel of representatives from the Japanese Fashion Week Organization, Rocket Company Limited, a leading design consultancy firm that handles the advertising campaigns of Omotesando Hills, Laforet, Parco Department Store and Roppongi Hills, to name a few and myself, the Filipino consultant for the project. The preparation and planning, which began in May, came to a successful finale on Oct. 16 at Shibuya-Hikarie, the official venue for the MBFWT.

Renan Pacson’s androgynous streetwear collection in leather, high-tech and piña fiber-blended fabrics in predominantly black was a masterful take on layering, mixing textures and applying geometric prints with just the right amount of cool and style. Big on utilizing traditional natural fabrics that pay respect to the environment and homage to Philippine culture without sacrificing fashion, Pacson delivered a solid collection that was fresh, modern and sharp, making sustainability look so good.

Ken Samudio’s collection of bold multi-dimensional, multi-colored statement pieces made from recycled PET bottles held their own against the designs of Pacson and John Herrera during the brand’s first-ever foray on the runway. Inspired by the rich colors of the sea, the accessories mimicked coral reefs and sea creatures draped around the shoulders, dangling down the neck, crossed over the bodice, wrapped around the arm, hanging from the side and clutched in one hand, all gorgeous and dramatic whichever way you looked at them. Intricately handmade, Samudio’s neckpieces, cuffs and bags are indeed the closest fashion accessories can ever be classified as wearable art.

John Herrera’s bioluminescent couture collection of neon-trimmed short dresses and all-black pieces were simply stunning on the runway. Similarly inspired by marine life, Herrera’s “bodycon” mini dresses with sheer panels glowed in the dark like sea creatures, mysterious and captivating, while his long and short coat dresses, tailored pantsuits and ponchos were on the other hand strikingly elegant. The 20-piece collection was undoubtedly a perfect blend of fantasy and reality, a delicate combination often lost in couture collections but evidently embraced by Herrera.

Our designers definitely did our country proud: Japanese and international media in attendance praised the collections. Questions were raised about their future plans to sell in Japan during the press conference after the show, which lasted over an hour.

Believe it or not, it was a monumental task finding a Philippine partner to shoulder the cost of the fashion show. While the training program was fully funded by the Japanese government, the fashion show was not. Admittedly, the initial cost was exceedingly expensive, but with JFW’s all out support, we were given the venue for free, makeup and hairstyling gratis courtesy of Maybelline, L’Oreal and Franck Provost. Thanks to the cooperation between JFW organization and the Japan Modeling Agencies Association, we were able to hire professional models for a fraction of their fees; we were also able to engage the services of Esteem Press and Shige Kaneko, a top show producer known for his Junya Watanabe and Anrealage shows at Paris Fashion Week.

Some people I approached questioned the legitimacy of this project while others were skeptical, convinced we could not pull off a show. There were those who even suggested I request a postponement until the next season; overall I was met with negativity, which was very disappointing. Unfazed, I continued my search, reaching out to people whom I thought would believe in the merits of the project. In the end it took only a few likeminded people to make the fashion show a reality. With one email and several texts, Fernando Zobel of Ayala Corporation, a patron of Philippine art and fashion, offered the funding I needed, no quid pro quo, just a genuine desire to support our designers. Then there was Ria Domingo, vice president of Philippine Airlines, who committed to flying several PMAP models for free despite the time constraint. Then there were my Filipina friends in Tokyo who readily pitched in to cover additional costs — all true patriots who would do anything for the love of the Philippines.

Thanks also go to Tokyo-based Filipino freelance photographer Din Eugenio for providing the runway photos for this feature; Ambassador Manolo Lopez of the Philippine Embassy-Tokyo for providing the embassy facilities for the models’ fitting; and Cultural Attaché Angelica Escalona for hosting a dinner for the Philippine delegation.

This is the first year of this three-year program and hopefully with their impressive start, the three designers would have paved the way for a different set of young Filipino designers to take part in next year’s MBFWT S/S 2017. In the meantime, Renan Pacson, John Herrera, Ken Samudio and I are planning a sales showroom for their brands at the upcoming MBFWT A/W 2016, when the real business of fashion for Philippine labels in Japan begins.





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To view the photos or video of the whole collection, go to the MBFWT website and search for “Asian Fashion Meets Tokyo.”

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Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @tettaortiz.

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