“It is not about the challenges. It is always how you overcome them.”
The name of Furne One brings to mind breathtaking haute couture creations, often unique, dramatic, and out-of-the-box.
Through his own brand, Amato Couture, the Dubai-based Filipino fashion designer has been dressing up Hollywood A-listers—Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Shakira, Jessie J, Rita Ora, and Ariana Grande—not to mention his private clients who are high net-worth ladies from the Middle East, Europe, and, increasingly, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Many of his works have been featured in multiple editorials in different titles all over the world, including Harper’s Bazaar Arabia and Vietnam, Vogue Italia and Arabia, and his home country’s Mega magazine.
Through the years, One has also consistently showed one stunning collection after another in fashion capitals such as New York, Paris, Dubai, London, and Los Angeles.
Amato even landed a commissioned project from Swarovski in 2007, where he created a glittered bridal dress for the cover of the brand’s limited edition book, Unbridaled: The Marriage of Tradition and Avant Garde. It featured unique, one-off pieces by creatives including fashion designers John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Viktor & Rolf, and Vera Wang. He also made exclusive collections for the Crystallized Swarovski Elements events.
The following year, he made an appearance as a special guest designer for the season finale of Germany’s Next Top Model, which brought significant attention to his works among Europe’s fashion elite.
Most recently, he was given the highest honors at the EMIGALA 2021—International Fashion Designer of the Year and the Fashion Innovator Award.
But his journey to being a globally-acclaimed creative can be traced back to humble beginnings—with lots of hard work, perseverance, and grit.
As early as 10 years old, One has been sketching dresses, often looking at the personal style of his muses—his mother and grandmother.
Even without formal training—majoring in Fine Arts at the University of San Carlos—the Cebu-born designer pursued his love for fashion design. In 1994, he joined MEGA Magazine’s prestigious Young Designers Competition, and won its inaugural edition.
As part of the prize, he trained in New York and Paris under the guidance of world-renowned icon Josie Natori. He also took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).
“Learning things from (fashion) school is more about techniques as well as ethics that you would be needing for your future business endeavors,” he tells Lifestyle Asia. “Natori, who I look up to, also taught me about being responsible all the time.”
In the same year, he won the first prize at Japan’s Women Wear Awards, and three years later, he became a finalist at Manila’s Fashion Design Awards.
But learning from institutions and winning competitions are only the beginning. One attributes much of his success in the past 25 years to experience and learning from it.
“Experience is admittedly the best teacher,” he says. And for One, those that taught the best lessons came from the risks taken.
In 1998, he set off to Dubai. At the time, the place was unlike the city it is today. It was only starting to transform into a global metropolitan and major business hub. “It was just a small town with a great promise then,” One says.
The visit was initially for a friend, but he was immediately captivated by the city and the possibilities it offered for a young designer like him.
With a visibly untapped fashion market in the city and the region, One made the city his base and started working at a local atelier before partnering up with textile boutique owner, Rashid, to set up Amato Couture in 2002.
“Dubai is a dream city for all. It would give you amazing opportunities as long as you put your heart and hard work into it,” he says. “In this new age, if you make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
And made it, they did. From having a vision that Amato would be the first couture brand owned by a Filipino and a dream to dress A-list celebrities, many of their works—often featuring intricate beadwork, textured fabric, fashioned lavish materials, signature cuts, and rare embellishments—have captivated audiences and clients all over the world. The brand’s signature style easily goes from romantic and sensual to space-inspired.
His most recent collection, featured in Venezuela’s Idem Magazine, was aptly titled ‘Little Peculiar’ and ‘Alien’ for its metallic, fashion-forward motif.
At the 69th Miss Universe, One proved that he could bring his brand of couture into pageantry. For Filipina representative Rabiya Mateo, One and his team spent 10,000 hours making four gowns that she can wear until the finals.
The dress that saw the light of day was a vibrant yellow tulle gown inspired by the sun.
“The one-sided neckline tulle gown is elegantly encrusted with citrine Swarovski crystals on the bodice cascading to the hem and cape over alabaster Swarovski components, glass beads and paillettes. The dramatic and fitted silhouette adds interest and pizzazz on its own,” the designer describes in an Instagram post. “The cape added royalty to the gown, and its beadwork was inspired by the radiance of the Philippine sun, which symbolizes positivity and optimism, a hope for a new tomorrow, and a world with endless beauty and happiness.”
During a worldwide pandemic, where fashion—much like every creative industry—struggled, Amato thrived. One’s fashion film for Inner Sanctum starring Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach became the most viewed and most reached fashion film in the history of Arab Fashion Week, with more than 24 million total impressions in less than a week.
Adapting to the times—or even being ahead of it—is something that Amato Couture has consistently done in its 20 years in business.
Apart from consistently working on collections and custom pieces for his clientele, One and his team has also released the brand’s own line of jewelry and fragrances, a reflection of what One has mentioned as a priority for him—working “for business sustainability, innovative growth, and staying relevant.”
“Throughout the years, [we] knew the importance of innovation and we strive to elevate amidst all challenges such as the global pandemic that nobody expected,” he says.
The pandemic, he says, did not spare Amato. In fact, he shares that only now are clients “finally coming back.”
As he always sees opportunity in adversity, never focusing on “my worries or fears as it is something that I never carry along with me,” he treats these challenges to a fashion business—as per usual—a learning experience.
“The pandemic, as any of the challenges in this world, should teach you to be patient and resilient. You always think of courage, hope and positivity,” he explains. “It is not about the challenges. It is always how you overcome them.”
But no matter what comes in the way of One and Amato, he says it only makes having a unique vision as a fashion designer all the more important.
“It is imperative for a designer [to have it],” he says. “It’s because even while keeping up with changing trends, you are supposed to be the light that guides not only your team, but your own path.”
His path, at the moment, he says, is headed towards growing to even greater heights.
“We are going to dress a lot of stars,” he says. “[We] will create more lines in the near future.”
This story was originally published in the October 2021 issue of Lifestyle Asia.