This year’s gala unveils 10 of the country’s most prominent designers
His Midas touch
The Dubai-based designer may not be familiar to the ordinary Filipino yet insiders of the industry across the globe recognize the unparalleled extravagance of Furne One‘s creations. The man behind Amato Couture stands by his principle of “more is more, rather than less is more.” This aesthetic identity was reflected in his runway of this year’s Red Charity Gala. He took inspiration from his trip to Portugal where the country’s churches boast of elaborate architecture and ornate baroque elements. “It all started there: the architecture, the art, the gold leaf, the metal,” he says. “And then I sketched, designed, and talked with my team. I told them I loved this.” One’s attraction to the charm of Dubai encouraged him to closely collaborate with local craftsmen, bringing his vision to life.
The impalpable dream
Since gracing the runway of Red Charity Gala eight years ago with his Greek mythology-inspired pieces, Michael Cinco only has nice things to say: “For me to be in the Red Charity Gala—it is one of the biggest achievements of a designer. When you are selected to showcase your collection during the gala night, it means you have arrived. You’ve made it.” Cinco shares the beautiful culture of India inspired this year’s collection of ethereal Swan Lake-inspired pieces he designed for Ballet Philippines. “For me to be inspired [by] everything, you have to be in love. Love inspires people to create beautiful things. I’m always in love with everything,” he says.
Art from the heart
“What if I were to do our national costume for our candidate for the #MissUniverse? I would be inspired by our nation’s fiestas like the Ati-atihan,” Rajo Laurel shares. His statement came from the desire to highlight the country’s culture and the talent of Filipino designers. When he brought this vision to life, we witnessed outfits in strong color palettes, playful silhouettes, and divine details. Each evokes the bold energy of the Ati-atihan with a modern take. Every collection is a reflection of the designer’s soul that Rajo admittedly makes him nervous. Yet he believes it is an essential part of the creative process, turning his work authentic and worth doing.
The essence of a woman
With a fascination for femininity, Ezra Santos translates his childhood passion for sketching bouffant dresses into his ornate pieces for the Red Charity Gala 2019. Drawing inspiration from the Arab woman, Ezra reinterprets the current sensibilities into ostentatious dresses bedecked in luxurious jewels, beadwork, and elaborate elements. “It’s about time that I create something to pay homage to the country and culture that have nurtured me for more than two decades,” he says, referring to Dubai where he has been working in for 23 years. The evolution of the Arab woman captivated Ezra, building the desire to keep the interaction between traditional and contemporary.
The return of opulence
The seasoned designer Chito Vijandre came back from a 30-year hiatus when he was asked to present a collection in the Red Charity Gala back in 2016. “I was excited and challenged since I had not done fashion for a long time,” he says. For this year’s gala, he joked about being the “elder statesman” among the nine illustrious designers. He shares how as an upcoming designer, one tends to think about making a name for oneself. Yet as one matures, Chito realized “you find more joy in inclusivity and the fulfillment of working with and for others which is what this special edition of Red Charity Gala is all about.” The result of insights garnered from years in the fashion industry led to him to present, once again, his collection of vibrant prints and lustrous details.
Among the ostentatious creations of this year’s Red Charity Gala fashion show, Jojie Lloren‘s capsule collection stands out for its simplicity. “My inspiration is the Filipina,” he says. “During my first show with the Gala, it was along that same thread because it was inspired by Filipino paintings.” With these in mind, Jojie re-engineered silhouettes, adding a contemporary touch to classic Filipina images. “These are all great designers and I thought ‘Ok, this is the greatest challenge ever,'” he says. While the dark palette of his collection may come off austere to some, the uniqueness definitely stood out among others in the runway.
The globally acclaimed designer Lesley Mobo admits to being surprised at the invitation to support the gala and present his creations. “I’m more experienced in corporate fashion,” he says. “I was surprised, but I was honored as well to do something creative and special for the Red Charity Gala.” Mobo reiterates that as an artist, the opportunity to join the fashion show is a platform to do good and give back. Thus, though he initially did not want to participate, he agreed for the purpose of the gala. It was the right decision as we witnessed his collection of film noir-inspired slim silhouettes and sleek proportions, a true stunner at the gala.
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Bold and brazen
The multi-awarded designer Dennis Lustico shares he invited himself into joining the gala. “I was bold and felt at that time I needed to do a gala. I never regretted a thing. And because of it, the partnership of these two beautiful generous ladies was born,” he says, referring to Kaye Tinga and Tessa Prieto-Valdes who established the Red Charity Gala. This year, Dennis showcased his masterful skill of creating wearable art pieces of the Chinese cheongsam. The Story of Mei exudes femininity in larger-than-life pieces of an ode to Oriental tradition, another breathtaking collection from the highly-coveted designer.
From doctor to designer
Though initially a graduate of BS Biology at De La Salle University in Cavite, Joey Samson switched into fashion design. His participation in the Red Charity Gala is another way of performing his duty to the country. “Charity should be a selfless act of giving back. It should come naturally for a person regardless of one’s financial capabilities and social status,” he says. Thus, when he first showcased his creations in 2017, he had the impression that there is a specific look the general public wants to see in a designer. Yet sticking to his beliefs, aesthetics, and breaking boundaries led him to success, proud and honored to do the show with his colleagues.
A serendipitous life
Cary Santiago admits to feeling pressured upon learning he had to present after giants in the fashion industry like Michael Cinco and Furne One. Yet Cary firmly believed in his game plan of staying true to his identity and playing with his strengths. It led to the creation of origami-inspired dresses, highlighting his penchant for basket-weave patterns and wrapped metalwork. With confidence in his philosophy, Cary certainly raised the stakes for the future charity galas.
Read the full story of each prominent designer written by Pipo Gonzales, Sara Siguion-Reyna, Gelo Diorna, and Nicole Soriano in Lifestyle Asia’s November 2019 Edition titled Purpose and Philanthropy.
Photos: LOPE NAVO
Styling: NOEL MANAPAT
Hair: CREATIONS BY LOURDE RAMOS
Makeup: MAC COSMETICS
Special thanks: SHANGRI-LA AT THE FORT, MANILA
Shot on location at: SHANGRI-LA FORT, MANILA