On the evening of October 27, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands held a grand fashion eventat the 2016 Manila Fashion Festival, showcasing the collaborative work of Dutch and Filipino designers at the New World Hotel in Makati. While we agree that there was no better way to celebrate 65 years of diplomatic relations and 150 years of consular ties between the Philippines and the Netherlands, we also couldn't help but wonder what the exchange program was like for the chosen six fashion students (Dutch participants Zena Ankersmit, Britta Bentele, and Loes van Nijnatten, and Filipino representatives Nina Gatan, Damaris Chua, and Riza Bulawan). That said, Preview had a quick chat with the young designers about culture, aesthetic, and national traits. Read all about it below!
Okay, so you flew to the Netherlands for Amsterdam Fashion Week. What was the most inspiring part of your trip?
Riza Bulawan: Fashion-wise, it's how different the women there move in clothes. I'm currently very interested in dance, so I'm observant of how people move. I had initial sketches before going to Amsterdam, but once I came back [to Manila] I scrapped it all and started over! I studied straps and how they were used in fashion history, because in the beginning they were used simply for practicality, like, to hold things up. But draped or resting somewhere else on the body, its purpose changes and it makes you feel different.
And how about you, Zena? What was the most inspiring thing about coming to Manila?
Zena Ankersmit: The jeepneys and the Catholicism, with all their colors and icons! I think that those are two things that are very Filipino. I translated the rawness of Manila into my collection by using cutouts and graffiti, and by leaving things unfinished, unhemmed. It's a nice new aesthetic I'm embracing. Not everything has to be neat and orderly.
IMAGE Gerard Dungo
What's something you learned from the Philippines fashion industry that you can take back home to the Netherlands, and vice versa?
Britta Bentele: They've taught us that we can have clients, that fashion can be one-on-one. In the Netherlands, the direction moves towards mass production, but in the Philippines, if there is a wedding, people get their dresses made one-of-a-kind. It's good for the future of fashion because it keeps the art of tailoring alive. Craftsmanship stays alive. The Filipinos are really couturiers, not fast-fashion, and I love that. Fashion should be slower.
Damaris Chua: For me, it's that the Dutch are very big on concept, so coming up with a really strong concept is essential to them. They're also so much more involved in experimentation when it comes to fabric and textiles. They're not afraid to take risks in garment construction! I've learned that the concept behind why I'm creating what I'm creating is just as important as actually making the clothes, so I decided to go with macrame for my collection because that reflects Dutch fashion's love for texture and architechture.
IMAGE Gerard Dungo
What would you say was the most challenging part of the exchange program?
Nina Gatan: Working on toiles quicker than usual! Our Amsterdam school closes at 4pm sharp, so imagine if you haven't finished your garments yet. The two countries have such different time paces. We Filipinos work overtime often and wait for the rush hour to subside, but not the Dutch. Like, if you're in fabric stores and it's almost 4pm, the cashiers tell you to hurry or they will close. Maybe it's because the Dutch prioritize work-life balance, and they make time for other things after 4pm.
Loes van Nijnatten: It's quite intense. It's a lot of information. You're absorbing so much, and then after that you have to decide, "What am I going to do? What's my main inspiration?" There are so many people in [Manila], and they're all living together, with such a huge difference between the poor and the rich. Still, I think it's amazing how they all manage to coexist. It's a little bit chaotic. On that note, I used traditional—although simplified—Filipino weavings for my collection because I wanted to [integrate] our cultures into one story. The kindness and the warmth of the people [in the Philippines] is something I'll always remember.
IMAGE Gerard Dungo