Southern PH designers rule ‘Project Runway’

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21-year-old Joy Chicano is a proud Waray from Eastern Samar

21-year-old Joy Chicano is a proud Waray from Eastern Samar

Season 4 grand finale to reveal winner tonight
ON its fourth season, cable channel ETC’s Project Runway Philippines searched for the most promising Filipino designers across the nation and gathered them for a once in a life time opportunity. For three months, 15 contestants—hailing from Metro Manila, Cavite, Antipolo City, Ilocos Norte, Cebu and Tacloban, among others—battled it out at the Philippine spin-off of popular reality show from the US.

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Tonight, only one gifted designer will be proclaimed grand winner at the finale show that shines the spotlight on three finalists from southern Philippines. They are Celine Borromeo of Cebu City, Joy Chicano of Eastern Samar, and Jared Servano of Koronadal City.

On Wednesday, ETC hosted an event to present the Top 3 contenders and their finale pieces at Le Jardin in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Sitting down with each one, The Manila Times discovered the stories and inspirations that fueled Borromeo, Chicano and Servano this far for Project Runway Philippines.

The youngest of the three, 21-year-old Chicano is a proud Waray who discovered he wanted to be a fashion designer at the young age of eight. But as he grew up, he obeyed the wishes of his parents and pursued Hotel and Restaurant Management in college instead. As this kind of story usually goes, Chicano eventually rebelled against his mom and dad and failed his course. He boldly told his parents he wanted to study fashion design, and while they allowed his wishes, they declared they will no longer support his education.

Jared Serano, 44, is representing Koronadal City and its minority, the tribe of B’laan

Jared Serano, 44, is representing Koronadal City and its minority, the tribe of B’laan

Bravely, Chicano went to Manila on his own and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines where he flourished and graduated as designer of the year in 2012.

Sharing his experience in Project Runway, Chicano said he kept true to his design principles from the very beginning, and allowed his emotions to take over. Thus for his 13-piece finale collection, he found inspiration from stories of mother and daughter relationships during World War II that he discovered in the Internet.

“When I make garments, they need to have feelings. All my emotions must be translated in my designs because I wouldn’t be able to function without them,” he said.

The result is an Avante Garde suite of cross patterns in unique materials like nylon, mismatched colors, and transforming pieces.

On the other hand for Borromeo, the lone female designer among the three, fashion must still be about business. According to the 22-year-old Cebuana, it is important for clothes to “sell.”

She explained, “You can create such bongga things but at the end of the day, if they’re just meant to be art installations, then how can you make a business out of that? It is very important to be business-minded in this industry.”

Celine Borromeo is a 22-year-old freelance fashion designer from Cebu City

Celine Borromeo is a 22-year-old freelance fashion designer from Cebu City

Asked how a young and aspiring designer would fare in such a competitive business, she opined, “I think it’s a good thing to start this young. Everything I do is fresh. I am so eager to learn, so eager to break out in the industry. I have all the enthusiasm that I need.

With herself very much a part of the market she wishes to attract with her designs, Borromeo whipped up a number that shows her personal design philosophy.

“I wouldn’t design something I wouldn’t wear,” she explained. Illustrating just what she means, she presented her finale piece in a structured turquoise dress in chiffon. “This dress is very me,” she enthused. “I would wear it and I know a lot of women who will want to as well.”

A freelancer designer back in Cebu, it is Borromeo’s first time to try her luck in Manila via Project Runway Philippines, and she is definitely very excited.

Finally, as the oldest and most experienced of the Top 3, 44-year-old Serano comes to the contest with a meaningful battle. His ultimate goal in winning is to help preserve the culture of the B’laan tribe from the indigenous peoples of South Cotabato.

He shared, “From the start of my career, even before joining Project Runway, supporting the B’laans has always been my focus. I really prayed so I could get into this competition because I would be able showcase their culture through the show.”

The Top 3 with judge Rajo Laurel, mentor Jojie Lloren and host Tweetie de Leon-Gonzales

The Top 3 with judge Rajo Laurel, mentor Jojie Lloren and host Tweetie de Leon-Gonzales

So for his entire 13-piece collection, Serano only used materials sourced from the B’laans including their hand woven t’nalak and beads made from the seeds of plants. More importantly, he noted that every single feature of his finale entry is is made from by hand.

“Among the three of us, I am the only designer who didn’t use materials or fabrics that came from the market; mine came from the mountains!” Serano proudly related.

If he wins the competition, Serano said that he will use part of the cash prize for his ongoing livelihood center project for the B’laans. He added he is grateful to the local government of Koronadal for acknowledging his bid in Project Runway Philippines.

“It is the first time in the history of Koronadal that someone from the city joined a reality competition,” he said.

Asked how he got into the show, Serano revealed that it was his three children who encouraged him to try out in the Davao auditions. Before then, he was quietly managing the family farm while designing clothes on the side.

Judging the final runway tonight are supermodel and fashion icon Tweetie De-Leon Gonzalez, A-list designer Rajo Laurel, and fashion and beauty expert Apples Aberin. Joining them too as special guest judge is internationally renowned Filipino designer Josie Natori.

The champion of Project Runway Philippines Season 4 will receive P250,000 to help start his or her own fashion label, as well as P250,000 from Brother International. As a bonus, the winner will also have the opportunity to showcase his or her collection at the Manila Fashion Festival this October.

The grand finale airs at 7 p.m. tonight with a replay at 10 p.m. on ETC. The cable channel is available on Sky Cable 16, Destiny Cable 16, Cable Link 34, Cignal 9, Destiny Analog 28 and UHF 21.

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