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Designer Spotlight: John Herrera

Beautiful dresses that recall the majestic decadence of ancient Alexandria—see them (and their designer) here.
Designer Spotlight: John Herrera Beautiful dresses that recall the majestic decadence of ancient Alexandria—see them (and their designer) here.

Filipino fashion designer John Herrera, although young, is no fashion design neophyte. He has been in the Philippine fashion industry since he first joined the Philippine Fashion Design Competition in 2004, and he has still been making waves with his avant-garde turned über-feminine aesthetics.

John's forte lies in creating show-stopping dresses and gowns that drip with elegance and sexy femininity. His solo collection for the recently concluded Philippine Fashion Week Holiday 2010 was well-lauded by the audience, with women all over hankering for their very own John Herrera dresses.

Last summer, he worked on a Cleopatra-inspired collection called Alexandria. John reveals he was primarily inspired by the ancient Egyptian city's architecture, which he articulated in the dresses' patterns and designs. When asked what distinguishes this collection from his past ones (aside from its theme), he says, “I'm trying gold acetate-based fibers, manipulating and cutting them, which so far I find interesting. I'm also working on silhouettes which I've never used, [such as] the bias-cut A-line and tent over the pencil.”

He is optimistic that his regular clients, as well as prospective ones, will love this collection. “This is actually my most feminine collection yet, and I feel most of the pieces will be sold as is. Clients won't even have them changed or altered to become more wearable.” He is specifically partial to the laser-cut "scales" that embellish one of his dresses, which he thinks women will love. (John is mentored by laser-cut maestro Cary Santiago, so naturally, this design element has filtered into his work.)

What can we look forward to from John Herrera as a designer? “More stories,” John intones. “I always try to tell a story through my clothes. I hope business is always good so I can keep telling stories.”

Continue reading to find out more about John Herrera, and don't forget to check out his gorgeous creations for Alexandria.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME A DESIGNER?
I've always done it on some capacity however small when I was young. So when I was deciding in college what I was gonna do for the rest of my life, I was like, “Why not fashion?” I realized designing really comes natural to me. And when something comes naturally it means [it is] easier than any other thing you do.

HOW DID YOU START AS A DESIGNER?
I joined the Philippine Fashion Design Competition (PFDC) in 2004. I got a minor award, Most Promising Young Designer, [while] Cary Santiago won [the grand prize]. Rory Carlos of Preview was actually the first person to call [to] include my work in an editorial.

WHERE DID YOU RECEIVE YOUR FASHION TRAINING?
I studied at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines and other schools where I took bits and pieces of courses [that are] fashion-related.

WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN PHILOSOPHY?
Just to challenge myself with every piece. I try to evolve as much as I can.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?
From old movies (for Alexandria it's Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra) and old books.

WHO ARE YOUR STYLE ICONS? YOUR STYLE INFLUENCES/INSPIRATIONS?
Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga and Madonna. Cliché, I know! But I'm a simple guy and I know my market.

WHICH DESIGNERS/ARTISTS DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and when in doubt, Christian Dior—he always knew what to do!

WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO DRESS? WHO ARE THE CLIENTS YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH?
I like Kim Chiu and Ruffa Gutierrez.

WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF TIMELESS STYLE?
Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, and Bette Davis.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A DESIGNER?
The economy, hihi.

WHICH ASPECT OF THE DESIGN PROCESS DO YOU ENJOY MOST?
Pattern-making, definitely. I like when [my design] slowly becomes 3D.

WHAT'S THE BEST CLOTHING ITEM/ACCESSORY WOMEN/MEN SHOULD HAVE?
Anything in leather.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GARMENT OR FASHION ACCESSORY?
My leather wing-tip shoes.

ANY CURRENT TRENDS THAT YOU'RE FOND OF? ANY CURRENT OBSESSIONS?
Gold piping on chiffon! Contrast in texture and behavior.

HOW HAVE YOU EVOLVED AS A DESIGNER?
My clothes are more feminine now. I've become more respectful to the female form.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER?
My last collection. But I think I will be more proud of the next one.

WHAT IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU HAVE RECEIVED ABOUT YOUR WORK?
When people who don't know me appreciate it. Like when I posted my work on this L.A.-based website called Gen Art Discover and a lot of American design students complimented my work. It meant more to me than when my friends [complimented me]. Hehe.

WHAT ASPECT OF DESIGN DO YOU SEEK TO MASTER/HAVE DEVOTED TIME TO MASTER?
Just to make my designs more feminine.

ASPIRATIONS FOR THE BRAND IN THE FUTURE?
To make it bigger but retain its simplicity.

HOW DO YOU UNWIND?
Yoga. And I go to the beach whenever I can.

FAVORITE SHOPPING AND TRAVEL DESTINATIONS?
I like Palawan, and I'm in Cebu every chance I get. I don't shop for clothes, only for fabrics. I have my clothes custom-made by my tailor. I'm too small for my own good. It's cheaper and I must say it feels good when clothes are made to fit. Hehe.

DO YOU COLLECT ANYTHING?
Pre-owned furniture and home decor. I get them from Evangelista st. in Makati. I rework some of them too.

WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO? FILMS YOU WATCH? BOOKS YOU READ?
Mostly pop. Madonna, Mariah, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston. I like my divas. Lately I've been really into really old films like the ones [starring] Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Elizabeth Taylor. They become inspirations when I'm designing. Books I read? Hollywood Babylon, Cleopatra the Great.

OTHER PASTIMES, PASSIONS, INTERESTS ASIDE FROM FASHION?
Yoga and reworking old furniture.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE?
Right now the furniture. Though they're old they're not cheap. Hehe.

WHAT OTHER TALENT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE?
I'd like to be skilled in martial arts. Hehe.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
My last collection. It's very hard to mount a collection that tedious in this economic climate, but I pulled through. Some designers take weeks to create a collection; I took months not because I was slow, but because the clothes were very intricate.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE PHILIPPINE FASHION INDUSTRY NEEDS MOST IN ORDER TO FLOURISH?
More support from media and people. Very few care for couture. People get swept up by mass market luxurious brands and it's hard for local designers to keep up.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS?
Work hard. Don't take shortcuts and enjoy the process as much as the product. Fashion can be fun and rewarding if you take it to a positive place.


Click here to see John Herrera's Alexandria collection.

Click here to see John Herrera's collection for Philippine Fashion Week Holiday 2010.

Click here to see his Designer Directory.


—Jae de Veyra Pickrell, Editorial Assistant

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