Runway success

BENT ANTENNA - Audrey N. Carpio (The Philippine Star) - June 28, 2013 - 12:00am

She’s the second eldest among a hustle of Herreras, barely a year younger than Teresa, the model-turned-art consultant for Solaire, followed by Rosario, editor of Status magazine and owner of Greyone Social, then Jon, a nightlife and events don and owner of Trilogy Boutique and Victoria, a model and host as well as columnist for Rappler. You get the idea: between the five of them, they run an empire that spans fashion, the arts and entertainment. Tina Herrera is the executive producer of Philippine Fashion Week and related productions, like Fashion Week TV,  Runway TV, Supermodel TV, you name it. You may think she’s the least visible sibling, but as a force behind the fashion scenes, she wields quite a lot of power, and she’s got more than 102k followers on Instagram to prove it.

Tina wasn’t particularly interested in fashion starting out, but as a family they were exposed to it early on, their grandmother teaching them how to sew their own skirts and pajamas. Teresa had always wanted to model and Rosario loved styling, so the two would set up their own photo shoots around Long Beach, California, but Tina wasn’t sure how exactly she could be a part of it. After high school, Teresa went back to the Philippines, joining Elite Look of the Year in 1995. Tina returned to the country as well.  “Joey Espino was in the midst of setting up a modeling agency, and they were looking for bookers and asked me if I wanted to try it out,” she recounts. “I said okay, sure, what do you have to do?” She was sent to Singapore and Hong Kong for training, then came back to set up CalCarries with the Espino brothers. “That’s where I learned how to negotiate contracts, coordinate schedules, represent models. I was straight out of high school.”

And that was where she found her niche. “I really loved the whole brand building, because you have to build a model’s career,” Tina says. “Negotiating contracts was really fun for me, I don’t know why.” In 1997, Cal Carries was launched as a corporation and Fashion Week was born. “When it was downtime for the agency, I would help them produce Fashion Week. It was a sister company and there were very limited resources. That’s how I started working in Fashion Week, little by little.”

Tina still really loved selling, so she was given opportunities to sell Fashion Week projects to clients, and by doing that she had to study what the other Fashion Weeks were doing around the world — how their industries were moving, what their pace was at, and why they were doing the things they were doing. “It made a lot of sense for them, but the Philippines wasn’t set up that way. Here designers were still considered artists, not businesses. But that’s also why Fashion Week was a great vision of Joey, because there was a need that needed to be fulfilled. Designers didn’t have a platform on which to promote themselves.”

Fashion shows, back then, were few and far between, save for the occasional gala shows which the designers had to raise money for themselves. The first few years of Fashion Week was all about brands, however, since there was an influx of foreign labels at the time. When Fashion Week was rebranded as Philippine Fashion Week in 2000, the first four Filipino designers to showcase their collections were Lyle Ibanez, Pepsi Herrera, Audie Espino for EsAc and Edwin Tan.

But it was in 2007, when they celebrated their 10th year, that the group realized they had to step up the game. “We really decided to take this seriously, it can’t be just events, designers, brand shows,” Tina says. “It would have to mean something, have to move businesses forward, and it would have to say something about what our country and what our fashion industry represents here.” They transferred to SMX, which gave them a serious space to work with and the ability to  put on simultaneous shows, and they reformatted the calendar to align with international fashion weeks, giving birth to the spring/summer season (which comes around in October)  and the holiday season (which transpires during summer.)

The professionalization of PFW set the stage for it becoming a springboard for collaborations and international attention. Designers were encouraged to show regularly and each season, to show to buyers, media and clients that they were consistent and that they were evolving. “We give priority to those who want to treat it as a business that ones who have their companies set up, they’re paying their taxes, contributing to the industry, hiring people. Those are the ones we want to focus on,” she states. Michael Cinco, for instance, was “discovered” at Philippine Fashion Week. The designer was already working for a Dubai fashion house, but he wanted to create his own brand, and hit Tina up on Facebook. He showed a 10-piece collection over two seasons before he was given a solo show. And the rest, as they say, is impalpable.

Lesley Mobo also held his first gala at the MOA Arena. Ezra Santos, another top Filipino designer crafting ornate gowns for Arab women, was introduced to us through Cinco. Going the other route, designer Angelo Estera now works in Dubai after being exposed on PFW, and these are just a few examples of the kind of movement generated from the runways. Most of them had or will have a Bench collaboration of some sort.

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Tina replies when asked about why she loves her job. “I love the work because of the opportunity it provides people, and I think it’s a blessing really to be in a position where you can help people. We want to see the Philippines grow, we want to see designers succeed, and we want to get global media coverage. Filipinos deserve this.”

No one can say the Herreras didn’t work extremely hard to get where they are. But each of them, in their own way, are still discovering their paths and surprising their audiences along the way. “We didn’t know we’d all end up here,” Tina says. “Do what you feel is right and everything else will unfold.”




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