A little over four years ago, we put the spotlight on House of Herrrera’s John Herrera. At that time, we met a brooding talent who just completed a successful first solo fashion week experience. His forte: creating pieces that marry his Avante Garde taste with the industry’s love for sexy femininity. His status: ready to take on the world. Even then, his training with the Fashion Insitute of the Philippines and master couturier Cary Santiago made it quite clear that nothing could stop his name from exploding. And explode, it did.
@johnherrera on Instagram
This year, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) has chosen the six emerging Filipino designers who will be carrying our three-starred-and-sunned flag at the British Council’s International Fashion Showcase. Along with Jaggy Glarino, Renan Pacson, Michelline Syjuco, and PEFTA alumni Tony Evan and Ken Samudio; a more mature John Herrera will be setting fire to the London stage.
We caught up with John via e-mail to talk about the showcase, his years in the biz, and why he's so fascinated with aswangs.
Congratulations! Tell us, how did you get into IFS?
"I met Gino Gonzales while apprenticing for Cary Santiago in one of their collaborations. When Gino was chosen to curate this year's showcase, a lot of names were submitted for approval and Gino nominated me. After some time, CITEM chose five hopefuls and submitted those to the British Fashion Council."
What was the first thing you did when you found out you got in?
"Yelled and danced with my best friends. It really is a rare opportunity, which not everyone is fortunate to have in their careers. I consider it as my the biggest break."
A lot has changed since we last talked to you, how do you think you have evolved as a designer?
"I have been a designer for ten years and the thing that is evident to me is that my clothes have better quality. My staff has evolved with me through the years so we're all better in what we do. I still could use help with the business aspect though."
Did your aesthetics change over the years?
"Apparently not much. It's the way we make them [the clothes] that has changed. When I look at my old editorials with Preview Magazine (curated by Norman Crisologo and shot by Juan Caguicla), I am still in awe that I made those pieces. Really warms my heart."
Do you think you still have the same market and are you still working with the same clients?
"My market has changed over the years. Now I have a lot of bridal clients (partly thanks to Style Bible's feature of Vanessa Matsunaga's wedding gown). Before, my market was [limited to] prom and debut dresses. Now, I love designing for mature women."
Photographed by Seven Barretto; styled by Ryuji Shiomitsu; Make Up by Archibald Tolentino; Hair by Dave Grona; Model: Jasmine Maierhofer of Mercator Models
You’re one of those designers who likes to tell stories through their designs. What’s the story of this dark collection?
"After Gino Gonzales presented his 'story' for the showcase I was just hooked on it. The theme of the country is 'Philippine Lore' and the most important angle is our culture's 'Aswang'. I've always wanted to do this story so when it was presented, I did not even think of digressing or making my own spin on it. I even entitled it Aswang."
Can you tell us what "Aswang" means to you?
"The aswang is a very important fiber in the fabric of our culture. She is a shape shifting female monster who preys on men, women, children and even unborn babies. Unlike the glamorous vampires in western culture, our aswang eats flesh and innards. She can be winged (Manananggal), can have a long tongue for sucking fetuses (tiktik), and can even be amphibious (Bakunawa). Technique wise, all the feathers and scales I used are hand-made so no bird or fish was harmed in the making of the collection. I used a nylon fishing line for the stalk of the feather and plastic net for the scales."
The Manananggal idea comes to life.
What excites you the most about going to London?
"Oh just everything about the city. I think every young Avant Garde fashion designer considers the city of London [sort of] a pilgrimage one has to do [at some point] in his career. The jolt of the city inspires the creative, the way a weary traveler sees a fountain or well."
The International Fashion Showcase has paved the way for a global following, as it did for Ken Samudio. What are you looking forward to gaining from this experience?
"Meeting international fashion editors, PR, distributors, anyone who can help me in my business. I'm also looking forward to the learning, and exchange of ideas."
Anyone in particular you would love to meet?
"Vivienne Westwood, the queen of everything I stand for. As a young fashion student, reading about her introduced me to a different way of seeing things. For that I should thank her. John Galliano's Dior experience will remain to be the anchor of my fashion learning. The Late McQueen and Isabela Blow would have made my trip more magical, but I'm sure London will not disappoint."
Do you think we're going to wow them? What's the Filipino contingent's secret weapon?
"The brilliance of Gino Gonzales. Without a curator we would not have made a chaotic look that's also cohesive. I thank him as early as now for because of him, every designer from our country will be going to London with pride."
Click on the gallery to see more pieces from his "Aswang" collection.
Hit up the store Directory for John Herrera's contact details.