Golden age of couture inspires Slim’s students

Cai Subijano - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The technique and craftsmanship of late couturier Salvacion Lim Higgins is legendary and, this year, two students from the Slim’s Fashion and Arts School have opted to reproduce original vintage pieces by Slim as part of their final project for the school. Student Seph Serano opted to reproduce a party dress created by Slim in 1955, during the “Golden Age of Couture,” which favored cinched waists, full skirts and lowered  waistlines. Thess Bert, on the other hand, recreated a scissor-cut evening coat with a bolero-length back created by Slim in 1956. “I guess by the time (the students) are almost done with all their patterns and projects, they want a challenge, so as a special project, I select some vintage pieces from the archives that aren’t too impossible to execute or that I know can be done by one of them. So they’re allowed to study the piece inside out and figure out how the pattern was made, and then they reconstruct it under our supervision,” Mark explains. “All the ones who have done reproductions have told me that they learn even more by looking at the work and it’s really hands-on experience that you sometimes can’t verbally explain. It’s sort of simply by experience, so I think they benefit a lot from that.”

For the third year in a row, Slim’s Fashion and Arts School has opted to exhibit the final projects of their graduating students at the Gallery Area in Greenbelt 5, which wrapped up earlier this week. According to the school, they’ve chosen to hold a week-long exhibit instead of an annual fashion show in order to better showcase the talents of their students. Among this year’s notable soon-to-be-alumni are this year’s Preview Emerging Fashion Talent Awards (PEFTA) winners, Li-J Eleazar and Monina Gatan. Li-J’s winning collection, entitled Cocoon Secrets, was inspired by her late father who passed away in 2010. On the other hand, Monina, who is drawn to architectural silhouettes, says, “I opted for something angular, sharp, using contrasting textures. Usually, I like prints and unusual color combinations, like teal against rust.”

Sandy is quite pleased with this year’s diverse crop of talents. “I think what we’re finding is that every year, the students are getting more and more emboldened by the skills that they’re learning. They’re just getting a little more daring. You know, they’re not afraid of complicated patterns, they’re not afraid of doing simple. The variety this year is incredible, actually, which is great because the school should never produce clones. We absolutely encourage individuality and it’s so nice to see that when it comes to life.”

Iconic 1950s couture designer Higgins, known as “Slim” in the industry, ran her successful atelier with her sister, Purificacion Lim, for over a decade. Drawing from their own experience, they decided to establish a fashion school in October of 1960: Slim’s Fashion and Arts School. Using their own exacting techniques, they transcribed the formal lessons for the schools, which became known as the “Slim’s Method.” Today, these lessons are still taught on a hands-on, almost one-on-one basis, focusing on teaching practical, substantial skills to students. The school is currently run by Slim’s children, Mark and Sandy Higgins.

The schools’s track record is well known with Cesar Gaupo, Joey Samson, Michael Cinco and Ezra Santos on the list of their alumni. Interestingly, all three winners of Project Runway Philippines are graduates of Slim’s, namely Aries Lagat, Manny Marquez and most recently on season three, Milka Quin. When asked who among this year’s batch is expected to turn up among the school’s illustrious list of industry players, Mark begs off, saying “I have to say that all of the ones we displayed are promising. It would be very difficult for me to single out one particular person. Also, by the time they’re about to graduate, we already are aware of what sort of market they’d cater to and as you can see, the tastes are very diverse.”








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