Jean Goulbourn’s ‘tapestry of hope’

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
Jean Goulbournâs âtapestry of hopeâ
Jean exudes passion and energy in everything she does.

Jean Goulbourn exudes passion and energy in everything she does. A graduate of the St. Paul College of Manila, Jean majored in Psychology and Journalism. As one of Pitoy Moreno’s top fashion models, Jean traveled to Europe and the US. She then decided to stay in New York to study Apparel Design at the F.I.T. (Fashion Institute of Technology). Her first job lasted for four years as assistant fashion editor at McCall’s magazine, the first Asian to be on the editorial masthead under Shana Alexander, then chief executive editor.

After that, she had a brief stint as fashion merchandiser at Joseph Magnin.

During one of her visits to Manila, Jean met Canadian-British businessman Sydney Goulbourn on a blind date. They were married and had two lovely daughters, Katrina and Natasha.

Jean started missing Manila, which made her accept a fashion consultant position at SM (Shoe Mart). Jean felt there was a need to give society and career women value for money, but with elegant, chic, RTW clothes. In 1976, she launched the JM Goulbourn brand, with Manila’s who’s who attending her very successful fashion show at the SM Boutique Square where her clothes were immediately sold out. After this successful and much-talked-about launch, she was called the “Czarina of RTW” by Pitoy Moreno.

A pioneering spirit at heart, Jean started Silk Cocoon, a concept of all-natural fibers for home fashion ready for export to big luxury brands in Europe. In the 1996 APEC summit, she was appointed by then President Fidel Ramos to create the barongs for world leaders in locally hand-woven silk.

A tragic incident led to establishing the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation now known as NGF Mindstrong — with the advocacy for bringing light to depression, mental wellness and suicide prevention. Jean works tirelessly with her team to make mental health a priority in our country. Hopeline Ph is the 24/7 emotional crisis line that caters to 2,400-4,000 calls a month. Recently, the Department of Education included in the curriculum NGF Mindstrong’s emotional resilience program customized for Grades 4-12.

Jean’s curiosity, candor and insatiable love of learning keeps her youthful glow.

“Ending year 2021 — no one can say that we have not been transformed! Most of us for the better, as we had time to reflect in our homes, how we can survive. And search for new learnings along the way,” shares Jean.

Jean met Sydney Goulbourn during a blind date and married him 100 days later.

Here are her most unforgettable moments and mentors in the tapestry of her life:

1. On March 2020, my first concern was, if lives are to be lost to COVID-19, we cannot afford to close down. In Hopeline Ph, our 24/7 emotional crisis line, calls rose by 320 percent, an unprecedented high. I feel most privileged to be in an advocacy where saving lives is our primary concern — with the youngest callers now 10 years old and our oldest, 92.

2. Family connection is everything. In our 10 years of Hopeline, the first cause of anxiety and depression is still family relationships — lack of communication and judgmental comments, or very strong pressure from parents that their children succeed and take on careers to follow in their footsteps or unfinished dreams.
I am a grandma to two beautiful grandchildren — Karine, 9 ½, and Tristan, 6 ½. Indeed, I am very happy that my daughter Katrina monitors closely their time, and they have rules. I have learned to share with them the good and the bad that they can learn from social media.

3. My passage to the real world. Modeling for my aunt Slim’s and studying fashion at Slim’s Fashion & Arts School prepared me for New York. The trip as one of the Top 10 Models with Pitoy Moreno opened new dreams. I realized fashion is an art and a science. Pattern design was like being an architect and a surgeon. So were the intricacies, measurements, five different rulers we used to make complicated patterns.

4. Making history. I was told that, out of more than 128 applicants, I got the job at McCall’s magazine and was promoted within eight months of creating actual clothes from McCall’s pattern catalog. My first job entailed selection of fabrics, notions, trims, the model for the shoot. Shana Alexander, who saw the pattern I did for Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo, was impressed and promoted me as assistant fashion editor — the first Asian to be on the masthead.

5. Women’s Lib. What? Burn our bras? Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan — I marched with my press friends and colleagues to Grand Central and brought my teeny bra, burned it and shouted for women’s equal rights. What an experience! And to meet and chat with Gloria and Betty — I signed in, looked around and there were only a handful of Asians.
Then I shared with my German, Italian, American, Yugoslavian colleagues that in the Philippines we don’t need special empowerment for our women. My mom has the final say. My two grandmas overrule my grandpas.
Ahhh — it had to with career positioning, the right to move up to a president, CEO level and to have more females in Senate and government too, not only to fight for respect but to bring to justice sexist remarks and sexual molestations.

6. The ‘liberated women’ in my family. Grandma Margarita, who I accompanied me to 6 a.m. Mass every morning from the age of nine until I was 12. She said: “Have a career. Be a designer like your aunt Salvacion and learn to invest in property like your aunt Puring.

“Sew now (yes, I did, at 12 years old) and make women feel and look beautiful. Make beautiful clothes for yourself — you will never need a man to support you!”

7. My mom, a most generous and kind human being. “Preserve family ties. Be there for each other no matter what, in good times and bad. Understand each other, forgive and communicate well and compromise,” she’d say. “The next generation will never be the same — the world changes — don’t pressure the youth to act and think like our generation who experienced war.”

8. JMGoulbourn RTW at SM. Coming home, I realized there was no ready-to-wear in the country. Assigned to conceptualized fashion for women and teens, I got a wonderful lady, Sylvia, to start measuring 200 women of different ages. Based on my McCall’s experience, there was a huge difference in the Asian sizing (especially Filipino, due to our distinct cultural mix).
We made it! When I was requested to do the JMGoulbourn label it created a stir since we had career women and what we used to call some “ladies of leisure” buying my clothes.
Pitoy Moreno called me the “Czarina of RTW” — in the midst of a talk about whether I should be allowed to join a fashion show of young designers as I was only “pang-masa.” I loved 32 years of being an RTW designer — training, sharing jobs with about 3,000 workers. In and out of airports, immigration officers and passengers would approach me and say, “Ma’am Goulbourn, your clothes are very special, I save money to buy them.” What a great feeling!

9. 1996: Windows to the World. Fascinated by windows (after President Fidel Ramos appointed me as the official designer for the APEC world leaders), I decided to do the hand embroidery based on 42 windows, “the perfect time for the world to look into the Philippines and we view the world through our window.”
I learned and watched the process of silkworm to butterfly. To make one hand-woven silk barong, I estimated it takes 3,850 cocoons.

10. Weaving lives in a “Tapestry of Hope.” It is a perplexing dilemma how the youth (with rising numbers and younger in age) are challenged with anxiety. Parents are confused and feel helpless.

Perhaps the crux of all this is: have we lost God? Are prayers, to the youth, just an exercise they must do, and Masses an obligation?
I cannot express how my faith in God allowed me to survive the loss of a daughter. Through faith and prayers we sustain NGF and Hopeline. Lives are saved and, interestingly, with the spirituality of the healing, doctors, patients and families seem to heal faster. A survey was featured in Time magazine affirming this.

Do miracles happen? Yes, as we witnessed the dance of the dolphins in the midst of our sorrow — in Puerto Galera, 128 dolphins danced under a rainbow. And 10 pairs led us back toward the port.

A beautiful mother in her pain said: “We will be the living witness that life can also be wonderful and relevant despite pain and suffering… as long as there is love in us, all things will be well. God will give us strength.” Let each of us weave this Tapestry of Love and Hope.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)


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