WHAT WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD LIKE?
I was taught the value of hard work from a very early age and spent Saturday mornings in my dad’s factory where I designed my first best seller (more than 100,000 units sold) at age 7!
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO DESIGN?
Being a manufacturer that works with a variety of customers, we have to make sure that everything we make is marketable. Because we are not a consumer brand, we do not need to maintain a single consistent image and can produce designs according to the prevailing market trends. This freedom has allowed us to develop a style that is famously eclectic.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE TRENDS IN YOUR WORK?
Very important. I run a factory with over 500 employees that need to be busy year-round. As such, I do not have the luxury of designing for ego alone but have to make sure that all the designs are marketable. And while I would love to say that we can make trends as a Philippine-based designer, the sad reality is that we cannot. The best we can do is to influence certain trends when the prevailing fashion mood is conducive to our competencies and indigenous materials.
WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO COLLABORATE WITH?
It’s much more interesting when I work with someone who comes from a different industry or whose design sensibility is completely different from mine. I really enjoyed working with paper artist Tes Pasola when we came up with balloon jewelry, and London–based jeweler/sculptor Naomi Filmer, who did all the jewelry for Hussein Chalayan.
WHAT ENERGIZES YOU?
I think it’s my EAD, which is a new disorder that I coined with fellow jewelry designer and one of my best friends, Victoria Marin—it’s short for Excessive Avaricious Disorder—the overwhelming trait of EAD is the need to want more and more—of everything which I think is actually quite common. I make no apologies for my appreciation of the finer things in life and I know that the more I work the more I will be able to afford them.
WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS?
To sustain Atelier Avatar’s tremendous growth and to establish a global brand (which may or may not be Avatar) in the medium term.
ADVICE TO THE YOUNG?
Getting into anything design-related may be easy but succeeding in it is super tough these days. Competition is just way too much. For those of who have the stomach and the will, I have two words: focus and persevere. Figure out your strengths and concentrate on them. Make sure your business foundations are solid. This is perhaps the greatest flaw of many a promising designer who fall off their stilettos since they think a P and L (Profit and Loss Statement) is probably similar to YSL. Finally, keep trudging on. Nietzche perfectly elucidates one of my favorite sentiments, “That which does not kill you only makes you stronger.”
—written by Raymond Abrenica; reprinted from Preview, November 2006
Click on the photo gallery to see Atelier Avatar's Spring/Summer 2011 collection.