From Manila to Malaysia
Francine Gacrama (The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As the host of the much-awaited event, the largest low-cost carrier in Asia flies in a team of journalists from around the region to experience Asia’s cultural melting pot. The trip began with a three-hour flight from Manila, and based on past experience, I thought a voyage like this would entail long lines and cramped seats — fortunately I was wrong. The flight was short but sweet and it became apparent to me that the trip was a far cry from my horrible experience months back (I’ll save that story for next time). Seated towards the forward cabin, I had a row to myself and one of the best seats in the house. It was hard not to savor the moment, enjoying my hot meal while peering out my window at the endless view of the setting sun.

As soon as we landed, we had to take a bus from the airport to our hotel. It was a long day and all I wanted to do was pass out in my bed. It was clear that we all just couldn’t wait to sink into sleep despite feeling famished. Upon checking in at the upscale Pullman Hotel, we managed to locate our rooms for the next two nights. Although staying in was tempting, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk around the gleaming city center. With a few of my companions in tow, we decide we needed to satisfy our local street food market craving.  It was well past 10p.m., everything was pretty much shut and luck brought us to the well-known Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang. This night market is sprawling with a diverse range of roadside restaurants. We found one restaurant that had a variety of main courses to choose from. Think Thai, Chinese and Malaysian dishes all under one roof. Here’s a tip: the best way to experience this long stretch of diverse cuisine is to just read the signs and to peep around at what people have on their tables to see what tickles your fancy. Not exactly something we’re used to doing either, but it works. 





On the fashion front, as a first timer in Malaysia, it was visible that there isn’t a better city to host the grand finale of the AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search 2016 than Kuala Lumpur. Home to the famous Petronas Towers, the bustling city felt familiar and possessed its own identity that was urban and modern in its own right. It’s a district that’s composed of multicultural street food markets, shopping centers and obscure bars that are worth tracking down. In the middle of it all is the Pavillion mall, the venue of the main event. Held in conjunction with Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week Ready to Wear 2016, the design search’s grand winner will walk away with the title “AirAsia’s Most Promising Young Designer 2016" and will showcase their full collection at next year's KL fashion week. With that, they will also be getting a year-long mentorship under Andrew Tan, founder of KL fashion week, a chance to produce a capsule collection worth RM25,000 from FashionValet, a pair of return tickets to any AirAsia destination and 150,000 AirAsia BIGpoints.

In its second year, the competition continues to empower youth and develop young talent in the region’s industry. This year, it was Thai designer Anurak Jaidee who took home the coveted title as AirAsia’s Most Promising Designer. His collection was deeply inspired by the flame of Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital. His simple yet brilliant designs were adorned with embroidered flowers and butterflies.

Representing the Philippines are Bea Samson and Mary Camille Veloso of Slim’s Fashion and Arts School and Ron Xavier Santos of the Fashion Institute of The Philippines. The three Philippine finalists brought to the table their takes on ready to wear. Veloso constructed an asymmetrical skirt paired with a cropped top. Samson presented silhouettes that were striking and bold. I particularly found myself zooming in on her striped long sleeved top, which complemented her serpentine skirt seamlessly. Meanwhile Santos offered a modern and toned-down take on the Maria Clara look, making it a wearable and timeless piece.

My weekend at the heart of Malaysia soon came to an end. Being surrounded by fashion, food, and culture over the weekend wasn’t enough and I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search to discover new places and brewing talent.

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Follow AirAsia’s Youtube Channel ( for webisodes featuring the journey of all participants for the region-wide AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search 2016, or follow the hashtag #AirAsiaRunway on other social media channels such as Facebook ( and Twitter (

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