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Jo An Bitagcol’s growing universe |


Jo An Bitagcol’s growing universe

GLOSS THE RECORD - Marbbie C. Tagabucba - The Philippine Star
Jo An Bitagcolâs growing universe
Designer, artist, muse: Jo Ann Bitagcol in her Makati showroom.
STAR / File

It is fitting that in her fifth year as a fashion designer, Jo Ann Bitagcol opens her showroom in a space that was once a school.

The trajectory of Bitagcol’s career from factory worker to ’90s supermodel to photographer to artist, and now, designer is the stuff of legend. But right on Poblacion’s most happening street, Bitagcol lets us in on where she’s at: she’s only getting started.

During a thanksgiving lunch at modern Filipino restaurant Lampara, she thanked designer Rhett Eala for being an encouraging presence in her “business decisions, retail visions” — notably urging her to take up a space and “make something out of it.”

Soft lighting cascades over the showroom; every angle is photogenic, as if in her studio back in Palm Village. A tiered piña gown from her very first Bench Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2024 collection stands in the center; it wowed on the runways and is even more breathtaking up close. Photographic and sculptural art pieces hang on the walls while on one long rack are all her ready-to-wear pieces and runway samples, displayed in chronological order, as scarves progress into apron dresses and silk tees become embroidered piña, hemlines extending into floor-length dresses and overskirts.

A piña gown, also from her S/S 2024 collection.

Antique wooden cabinets house her photographic prints for sale. A folding screen embellished with her barong print for fittings and an apple box of more prints are eye catchers — are we getting a first look at what’s next for her brand? Bitagcol mulls it over for a moment and says she’s accepting inquiries.

From a side project that began as limited-edition scarves with prints of outtakes styled by Michael Salientes from the 2015 book Fashionable Filipinas: An Evolution of the Philippine National Dress in Photographs, 1860-1960 by Gino Gonzales, Mark Lewis Higgins and Ramon N. Villegas, precious, fragile antique Filipiniana and artifacts gain new life in Bitagcol’s expanding universe.

Framed prints are available, starting at P8,500.


Bitagcol showroom is at G/F of Prit House, Gloria cor. Enriquez St., Poblacion, Makati.

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