The business of fashion

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Miss World-Philippines 2011 Gwendolyn Ruais is Pat Santos’ muse

Miss World-Philippines 2011 Gwendolyn Ruais is Pat Santos’ muse

Philippine Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer 2015 season makes industry its strategy
ECONOMY and fashion seems like an odd combination for style-savvy and trendy Filipinos. The term “retail” and “made-to-order,” “outlets” and “clients” are the most common and limited business terms heard in this glamorous industry of fashion—and for most, that’s as far as it goes.

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However, in the recently concluded Philippine Fashion Week (PhFW)—or as some have called “fashion weekend”—from October 24 to 26 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, designers and organizers were downright serious marketing “easy pieces” that instantly connect with consumers in the local and international clothing scene.

In the closing show on October 26, PhFW founder Joey Espino reiterated that besides creativity and innovation, “the bottom line is that fashion is business.”

As the season’s featured designer, Pat Santos used different types of neoprene fabric for his Spring/Summer collection

As the season’s featured designer, Pat Santos used different types of neoprene fabric for his Spring/Summer collection

The Sunday Times Magazine caught up with Espino following the three-day event where he discussed the drastic changes made in the second-half of this year’s Fashion Week.

“The bottom line is to have the businesses of these designers going. I think Filipino designers are having a hard time coping with all the international brands coming into the country,” the PhFW head declared.

“It’s about time that the local designers reach out to those people with disposable income. Majority of that market are those constantly online on their computers and smartphones. International designers are doing that, and I don’t see the reason why Filipino designers shouldn’t follow suit as well,” he added.

Making collections available online
With this realization, the PhFW has noticeably changed, from a full week of showcasing almost 100 designers, to just nine participating designers in this outing. Espino explained that the concept was neither achieved by accident nor a sign that fashion is backsliding from its earlier trajectory.

“We really noticed that the Philippine market is improving in the worldwide reach. The economy is getting better simply because half of the dollars are being brought into the country by OFWs [overseas Filipino workers], and the other half by the call center employees. These are the people who have accessible money to spend and they are all on their computers,” Espino elaborated.

Arnold Galang reveals a digital print inspired by the Bangsamoro region

Arnold Galang reveals a digital print inspired by the Bangsamoro region

The team behind PhFW then decided to require all designers to have their clothes ready for selling and ready to take in orders right after their shows. Moreover, the designers were also asked to submit their designs at an earlier deadline, with stocks and fabric available as soon as their pieces hit the runway.

A system where clients and buyers can order online was also set in place. “Clients and patrons can visit the PhFW website, which has links to the websites of the brands and designers featured this season. There, orders from all over can be made especially for ready-to-wear, while bespoke designers can take orders that are made to measure. For those with stocks that are ready, they can even send orders to international destinations right away,” Espino enthused.

While there were some 36 designers who wanted to join the SS 2015 season presentation, Espino justified why they just accepted nine designers for this leg of the PhFW.

Eric Delos Santos’ new take on the trendy cutout silhoutte

Eric Delos Santos’ new take on the trendy cutout silhoutte

“We have to start with a smaller group this season because we’ve made drastic changes. Even the nine designers really had a hard time coping with our requirements. When you are doing this you have to be abreast with deadlines, you have to have the look book ahead of time, and you have to be ready to accept orders that are in stock,” he emphasized

The designers’ say
The designers who ably delivered were included in the final show, namely Jeffrey Rogador, Jerome Salaya Ang, Jun Jun Cambe, Sidney Perezsio, Arnold Galang, Cherry Samuya Veric, Eric Delos Santos, Nardie Presa, and Pat Santos, the featured designer for this season.

Reacting to this “consumer-centered” theme for this Fashion Week, Galang was all smiles as he is adept to this situation being a retail designer.

“Before, it was all just for performance at PhFW. But now, the show has to be something that the market will really understand and feel,” Galang said. “Since I’m really a retailer, my clothes are carried in department stores. I didn’t find the requirements too much of a challenge since I’ve been doing them for quite a while. Of course, this is the first time I’ve had to do the same for Philippine Fashion Week,” he told The Sunday Times Magazine.

As for stiffer competition brought in by international brands in the local market, Galang openly shared his own experience as a Filipino designer.

“It’s been really hard to compete with them because of the price points and the fashion forwardness of these brands. Then there’s the magnitude of their marketing scheme. It’s all very scary for local designers and local brands as well. But at the end of the day, it’s just how you play the game,” he opined.

For Eric Delos Santos—whose muses included Janine Gutierrez and Megan Young—more than business, what is important for him is to give women wearable pieces.

“This principle is not only for the shows,” he began. “I love prints, but I don’t want very common prints. That’s why I had my digital prints made in China, and then I make my clothes available online. If ever clients would like to order, I have to explain that they’ll have to wait at least a month because my fabrics are from China.”

Besides competition from international brands, Delos Santos cited another problem for the local fashion industry. “Actually the problem here in the Philippines is that we’re not supported by the government. Unlike our neighbors in Malaysia and Indonesia, it’s the government who helps them market their fashion.”

Pat Santos’ inspiration
For featured designer Pat Santos, whose collection was inspired by scuba suits and diving gears, his recently opened stand-alone shops and steady support from loyal patrons and clients leave him unfazed with the influx of international brands.

“My team works very hard to become innovative in our designs. For this season, we recreated combinations of different shades like blue and green, like the shadow of the deep sea, that is also complimentary to the complexion of the Filipino skin,” he shared.

“I incorporate different styles, using different textures of neoprene and I have customized the print, using the digital print for the fabric. Then I also have Swarovski crystals that are colored, since it’s very seldom you see designers use these colored stones,” Santos continued, adding that constant research on the goings-on in the international fashion scene, has constantly helped him create beautiful and unique pieces to which Filipinos can relate.

Given the designers’ different takes on the state of the local fashion scene, one thing is for sure: with such well attended shows—and sales—in the newly innovated Philippine Fashion Week, the style industry is alive and kicking.

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