I have been to various fashion capitals of the world, such as New York, Milan, Paris, London to name but a few and have watched famous designers show their genius on the catwalk. However, nothing gives me a bigger high than watching my compatriots who made it in the fashion industry by showing their collections that are on par with the best in the world. The recently concluded Runway Asia spearheaded by Bangkok based businesswoman, Rachel Hizon in collaboration with six award winning fashion designers was a huge success.
The designers arrived fresh off their recent win as the Best Showcase Award from the prestigious 2018 Asia Fashion Week (Mercedes Benz Stylo Fashion Week) held in Kuala Lumpur last November. This Runway Asia event was the first of the signature Philippine fashion series. After each show, pieces were sold at bazaars with a portion of proceedings benefitting the Saraburi Home for Girls. To create the ideal ambiance for Runway Asia, Rocky Hizon sought two venues that showcased both the collections and Bangkok’s unique story.
She explains, “I wanted a modern, almost spartan venue as the backdrop of these fabulously colourful designs. That’s why I chose Parrish Jones Bangkok, a bespoke menswear shop on the Sukhumvit Road as the first venue. I also wanted a relaxed atmosphere with a modern, rustic feel thus, my home gallery in the Yen Akart-Sathorn area became the second venue. I live in a traditional Thai house with a garden of mature trees. It’s the perfect setting for the beautiful and unpredictable designs.”
What drew my attention as I entered the room were collections of beautifully crafted bags and accessories. The emerging designer Adante Leyesa is not a greenhorn in competitions. He showed his intricate and attention-grabbing accessories in Solenn Heusaff for a Bastille Day Collection and won the Best Accessories Designer. His designs are bejewelled using various materials such as local fabrics, woods, semi-precious stones, beads and even metal chains. Some materials are imported but handcrafted in the Philippines by local artisans. This talent is soft spoken and humble but shared his stories to newly met friends, including myself.
The event highlighted the work of six notable designers:
- Dong Omaga-Diaz (Women’s Wear) National Director of Team Philippines at the Asia Fashion Week for six consecutive years whose current collection reflects “a neo romantics rhapsody.”
- Adante Leyesa (Bags & Accessories) An advocate for sustainability and modern fashion who partners with Filipino artisans in creating traditional beading, embroidery, and tapestry.
- Jo-rel Espina (Tribal Trendy Wear) A “fashion storyteller” who dresses beauty queens and the “who’s who” in Philippines’ fashion and entertainment. Name them and he has dressed them.
- Dodjie Batu (Menswear) An avante-garde menswear designer who was awarded Preview’s “Most promising designer” and “100 Hottest Filipino designers in the world” by Illustrado.
- Len Nepomuceno-Mortel (Bridal & Evening) A bridal and evening wear designer extraordinaire who owns L’Official Corp. Designer to foreign dignitaries, diplomats, and socialites.
- Randolph Keith Jinky Petalcorin (Women’s Wear) A favourite designer for the Philippines’ top social and political figures. His perfect silhouette embodies “Simplicity in Elegance.”
Last year was not the only time that Dong Omaga Diaz’s shined. He emerged as the clear favourite when he got his award in a competition in 1999 by The Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines’ annual Philippine Design Competition for the Concours International. It was in the same year that Dong got a special prize, the Le Sage Award during the Young Designers Competition in Paris.
The rest is history. Last year, Dong entered the Malaysia/Mercedes Benz Stylo Fashion Week. He knew he could do it but it’s not easy as he had to search for capable designers to help him represent the country. With an aim to promote and open doors to designers, he had to map the whole country to complete his line-up. He knew that his choice was the best when his team won the most important award in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia “Best Showcase of the Year” for exhibiting continually during the competition beautifully crafted and extensible acclaimed designs. None other than Datuk Professor (Dr) Jimmy Choo handed the award to the Philippine team.
Dong Omaga-Diaz (Mentor and Leader of the Runway Asia Philippine Team) and Len Nepomuceno-Mortel (Bangkok-based Filipino designer) have both served as past presidents of the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines. As leading voices in Filipino fashion, they share insights from Runway Asia Bangkok.
Dong Omaga-Diaz – Both the Philippines and Thailand belong to a creative heritage. Art is within us. I admire the work of my Thai and Asian colleagues. The road may be long and bumpy, but our stars will shine because we work hard. For Filipino designers, be proud of your beginnings and heritage. This gives you identity thus separating you from the rest. Many thanks to those who attended our Bangkok show. Fashion business is not all glamour. Hard work plays a vital role in this business. Many moons ago, we wove a dream to show in Bangkok. Thank you for adding the important fibres that made this dream a reality. You saw and appreciated what we do! Kob khun krab.
Len Nepomuceno-Mortel – A current fashion trend is sustainability. SE Asian designers are creative, hardworking, and talented. They can create sustainable fashion from any fabric – either handwoven or machine made from indigenous materials. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines use fabrics woven by their own tribes or local artisans. Their homegrown designers boldly utilise this in pieces ranging from formal to street wear. The Philippines has a pineapple fibre known as pina. I infused this light, breezy fabric into the Bangkok shows to promote Filipino fashion. I enjoyed the fashion shows, first at Parrish Jones, where the international expat community attended and then at Yen Akart Home Gallery where Filipino expats came to support the designers. I live in Bangkok and having a fashion show here is special because I am showing in the country I call home.
Kudos to all the designers for the great showing of their fabulous designs and to Rachel Hizon for bringing in to Bangkok these amazing Filipino designers. We wish all six the very best and hope to see them collect more accolades in the fashion world.