The first time I talked to Avel Bacudio, it was 2015 and I was asking him for clothes I would be using for a cover I was working on with GMA 7 artist Derrick Monasterio. We talked on Facebook for some time, discussing the mood and overall look of the concept of the shoot and what clothes he deemed fit for this, before we’d exchanged numbers. Not long after, I dialled his number and a loud voice startled me by saying “Hola, que tal?” This Spanish bit lasted for a good minute and a half before he exploded in laughter and then said a sincere, “Ano kapatid? Ano’ng kailangan natin?” And we got to talking.
That was the first time the two of us had ever talked and it felt like we’d known each other for a long time. In a sense, that first “virtual” meeting summed up what Avel really is all about—a vibrant and humble man of unparalleled genius and a sense of familiarity so intoxicating, you’d feel like you’re with a friend you’ve grown up with.
Today, Avel Bacudio may very well be one of the most recognizable names in fashion. His is a name synonymous with expert craftsmanship, gorgeous silhouettes, and a long clientele of A-listers from society bigwigs to celebrities. Looking at him now, it is hard to imagine that the man behind the crisp, clean looks donned by stars on runways, and magazines did not even enroll himself in a fashion school.
Bacudio, who hails all the way from Camarines Sur, is not one to turn his back on his roots. He is proud of where he came from, knowing that his humble beginnings pushed him to be better. He went to Manila and worked as a janitor for a fastfood chain, ultimately putting a halt to his dreams in fashion design. He was 17 years old when he became the assistant of a department store owner, where he developed a penchant for learning the processes of designers at the department store.
Gradually, he learned the ropes in the business of clothes and with his drive and passion, he began joining design contests. Since 2000, he has been a regular on national competitions, commonly figuring at the top. His designs started getting recognition and were sent to Osaka and Chiba in Japan to compete and other places for exhibitions.
It was in 2002 when Avel won the People’s Choice award at the Concours International des Jeunes Createurs de Mode in Manila. He was among five designers flown to Paris. In the succeeding year, he was also handpicked as one of the 10 best designers in the “Timeless Terno” contest conducted by the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
It was because of his unflinching vision and devotion to design that Bacudio established himself as a front runner in Philippine fashion. His brand is trusted by many, earning him a solid client base, domestically and internationally. Sure, he even became the name that celebrities greet on television, from actress Kris Aquino, to Charo Santos Concio. Internationally, his designs have been worn on the runways of New York, Malaysia, Paris, Tokyo, and Milan.
In 2012, Metro magazine cited him as the Breakthrough Designer of the Year. Shortly thereafter, he was named an Ambassador of Peace by then President Noynoy Aquino. Back in 2014, Bacudio was chosen “Asia’s Most Influential Designer” at the Mercedes-Benz Style Fashion Week. The award was given to him by famed designer Jimmy Choo.
“It was an unbelievable award, especially for me who’s never even had formal design training. All I have is the undying desire to be best version of myself. I dreamt it, but I never thought it would actually happen,” he enthused.
Right now, Bacudio continues his relationship with direct-selling company Boardwalk, having traipsed into the world of ready-to-wear from his known avant-garde sensibilities when he was starting out. His own online design atelier, Avel Designs, also showcases his modern contemporary aesthetic that elevates wearable fashion.
“There’s beauty in dressing the every day man and woman. It’s like communicating to them and the language is knowing what looks good on them without trying too much,” he adds.
Recently, Bacudio partnered with actor and musician, Matteo Guidicelli for a special line of jeans.
Bacudio is determined to provide a platform for young Filipino talent to thrive, continuing to hone and support a new breed of fashion creators through his projects.