Dressing a Miss Universe candidate for any one of the pageant activities in January was considered by many Filipino designers a dream come true. This, even if it meant out of pocket expenses and a limited time to do so.
Filipino-American fashion designer Joyce Penas Pilarsky felt the same way when fellow couturier Albert Andrada of the Fashion Development Council of the Philippines invited her to design a gown for Isabel Dalley of Jamaica. The beauty queen would wear the Joyce Pilarksy label at the National Gift Auction charity gala and fashion show on January 23.
“At the last minute, Albert Andrada sent me a letter saying I was invited to be one of the 86 designers [for the event],” the designer recalled to The Manila Times in an interview on February 12. “At the onset, he made it clear we wouldn’t meet the candidate nor have any fitting.”
Pilarsky—whose eponymous brand has boutiques and shops in Makati and Los Angeles—then related she was only given the measurements of her assigned candidate and her designated color in line with the event’s motif, the colors of the Philippine flag.
“She was 6’6”, the tallest candidate in the competition with a waistline of 24 inches. She was given the color red,” Pilarsky detailed.
Considering the opportunity a huge honor and a rare chance to be feted in an international event, Pilarsky—herself recognized overseas as grand champion of the 2015 Los Angeles Fashion Week Design Competition 2015, and third-placer in the Accessory Competition of the prestigious International Design Awards—immediately pulled a group of five from her staff to work non-stop for the next five days to finish the gown. Meeting the deadline, Pilarsky’s silhouette-forming red see-through gown of jusi and Swarovski crystals jumped off her sketch book.
Unfortunately, this immense effort of the designer and her team amounted to nothing when Miss Jamaica failed to walk the runway.
“They said there would be fitting sessions on the afternoon of January 23, but if by 9 p.m. [the night before], we didn’t get a text message from the organizers, it would mean that our gown was approved for the runway. I didn’t get a text message so I expected to see my creation that night.”
In fact, the designer even bought tickets for her friends and relatives to share her small moment in Miss Universe history only to be disappointed.
“At 9:15 p.m. [on the night of the fashion show], I got the text that the gown didn’t fit Miss Jamaica, and that’s when I broke down,” Pilarsky continued.
Her “meltdown” was caught on video and posted on social media, setting off a flood of reactions. To her defense, Pilarksy posted her sentiments online and an account of what had happened, especially since no one even bothered to send some sort of apology.
Eventually, Aces and Queen’s Jonas Gaffud showed Pilarsky a photo that Dalley indeed fitted her gown, but was unable to join the fashion show because she was not feeling well.
Again, reactions descended upon social media with the development, and netizens started bashing Pilarsky all over again.
“It was easy for them to say that because they did not know what we had to go through, the sleepless nights and the effort before and on the day of the auction. It was saddening to hear and read those comments,” Pilarsky admitted.
Pilarsky said she was somehow appeased when Dalley finally posted a heartfelt apology on Instagram account @missuniversejamaica.
“I want to formally apologize to designer Dr. Joyce Penas Pilarsky for not being able to walk for you earlier on the runway in the fashion show. Unfortunately I fell ill and was pulled from the fashion show and advised by the doctors to get some rest. I am greatly disappointed and truly sorry for any embarrassment caused,” wrote the beauty queen.
Moving on from the incident, Pilarsky chooses to look forward to a local fashion this month where she will be the featured designer.
She further shared with The Manila Times that despite her disappointing experience she is still eager to dress high profile beauties among them Liza Soberano, Angel Locsin, Iza Calzado and Heart Evangelista. Top of her list, however, is Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach.
Finally, when asked what she plans to do with her now infamous gown, Pilarsky jested, “Maybe I’ll put it in a museum when I finally find a donor who’ll build one for me!”