Mark Bumgarner and Love Marie Ongpauco-Escudero agree: When passion calls, you just go for it.
This is exactly how they each found themselves flourishing in fashion design and the visual arts, respectively, with Bumgarner previously traveling the world and burning tires professionally as a race car driver, and Escudero— famously known as Heart Evangelista—giving life to characters in front of the camera.
Both successful in their initially chosen paths, they realized that there is more to life than first loves.
Bumgarner, 24, had been racing since he was six-years-old. Living on the fast lane until he turned 19, his surprising move toward fashion design began when he finally came home to the Philippines in 2010.
“When I came home, I wasn’t doing anything so I’d go to events and everyone I met was in the fashion industry. It was a fast transition but I didn’t become a designer right away—I was first helping backstage at shows,” he recalled.
“And then one day I was like, ‘I’ll try doing it myself,’ and I went into trial and error for about a year—without accepting clients at all—just figuring out if I can actually do what’s on my mind. And it slowly progressed.”
Indeed, Bumgarner was right to shift gears since he is now one of the most-in demand young designers in the country. Since his career change, he has had solo shows for the Manila Fashion Festival, among others; successive editorial projects for magazines and other media; and dresses one celebrity after another. Moreover, he has truly established his personal brand and took it a notch higher with the opening of his own atelier in Makati.
Meanwhile, for 17 years, Escudero blossomed in the public eye via TV and movies as Heart Evangelista. Within show business, she transitioned from a teen star to a serious dramatic actress.
But unlike Bumgarner who only realized his calling when he was exposed to the fashion world, Escudero had always loved the visual arts.
“More than anything, I wanted to become a vet and a painter when I was young,” she shared. “Of course I wanted to become an artista but before I even thought of that, I wanted to paint, so much so that I’d paint on my walls.”
Just a couple of years past, Ongpauco-Escudero took painting more seriously and dedicated more of her time to hone her craft. It was then she decided to separate her identity as the celebrity “Heart Evangelista” and use her real name, Love Marie, for all art-related projects.
She confessed, “’Heart’ comes and is tied with a lot of controversies—a lot of heartbreaks in show business and a lot of gossip. But with Love Marie—the real me in the real world—going back into painting, I feel more free. I feel clean. I feel like people don’t judge me for being an artista trying to paint. Love Marie is a totally different identity.”
And if Bumgarner has already made a huge splash in the local fashion scene, Escudero believes she still has a long way to go. “Up to this day a lot of people raise their eyebrows [on my being a painter]but I just have to keep going. If there’s anything that I can promise, it would be that I will be painting until my last breath.”
To her credit, Escudero is already on her way to her fourth exhibit, two of which had been mounted by no less than the prominent Ayala Museum.
With two fresh but definitely artistic minds working closely together for some time—Bumgarner is Escudero’s personal designer, and was also behind her Grace Kelly-inspired wedding gown when she married Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero in February 2015—beautiful collaborations are just bound to happen.
“Being a designer we don’t really work hand-in-hand with the artistas—everything happens through their sty- lists. But when Heart and I met, we just clicked,” re- called Bumgarner.
And on one seemingly ordinary day of fitting in his studio, they shared a eureka moment. Bumgarner continued, “We were at the shop and we were fitting—a normal day—and then all of a sudden I was talking about how I first wanted to design shoes and bags. And then she went, ‘Why don’t we paint on dresses’?”
“I think what inspired is the fact that ready-made fashion is easy, but somewhere along the way, you kind of lose your individuality and you kind of look like everybody else. At some point, you want to be original, you want to be unique, and you wat carry your own individuality,” Escudero explained. “So I said, what will make fashion truly one of a kind one of a kind is painting on it! No one else can copy it!”
According to the artistic pair, the idea of a hand painted line came to them almost a year ago, but they officially only began the collaboration in June 2015.
“I’d send dresses to her and she’d paint on them. We slowly started making stuff even though there’s was no set plan yet,” Bumgarner added.
Nevertheless, the designer and his muse-turned-artistic partner managed to produce an extensive 40-piece collection of hand painted Bumgarners by Love Marie, which will finally see the runway in a fashion gala on January 18 at the Dusit Thani Ballroom. Simply yet ingeniously titled MBxLM, the collection runway presentation will be comprised of Bumgarner’s trademark well-tailored designs, featuring Escudero’s signature colorful and intricate strokes.
Going beyond their artistic passions, two dresses will be up for a silent auction on the same night, the proceeds of which will go to Escudero’s longtime advocacy for Thalassemia patients, via the Corridor of Hope Foundation and Tha-lassemia International Association. (See sidebar).
Both very excited to see their work of love on the runway, Bumgarner said that the collection will reflect the various inspirations he has drawn from the various visual arts, while featuring Escudero’s singular technique.
As a promise to fashionistas, Escudero aptly put it, “It will be like staring at a painting but actually wearing it.”