In the May issue of Preview, we give you a sneak peek of Dubai-based couturier Ezra Santos' first solo show for Philippine Fashion Week Holiday 2012, which is only a few days away. Some things that are sure to come your way: his signature sparkle, high glam, and runway drama. We're keeping mum about the theme and concept behind his collection as these things are best kept secret until the day of the show, but in the meantime, get to know him better as he himself tells us everything we need to know about him all the way from decadent Dubai.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME A DESIGNER?
I can say that it’s a God-given gift. At an early age, when I was in grade school, I used to draw a lot and was so fascinated with the ball gowns that I used to see in black and white movies. That’s where my passion in making luxurious dresses started.
HOW DID YOU START AS A DESIGNER?
Right after high school I took up fine arts, and my love for fashion became more intense. I’ve always been so passionate about fashion.
WHERE DID YOU RECEIVE YOUR DESIGN TRAINING?
I am a graduate of Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Interior Design in Philippine Women’s University, and took up some courses in Central Saint Martins in London.
WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN PHILOSOPHY?
To always come up with unique designs and give them a personal touch. All my designs are made for each individual’s taste and style. Therefore, it is very exclusive.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?
When I do a collection it has to have a storyline. Just like a movie, it has to be dramatic and full of life. To get inspired, I travel abroad to be motivated. Foreign museums and architecture really help me gather ideas and stimulate my mind to come up with designs and start my collections.
WHO ARE YOUR STYLE ICONS? YOUR STYLE INFLUENCES/INSPIRATIONS?
For inspiration, I look up to the celebrated French designer Erté, whose Art Deco-influenced creations from his heyday in the ‘20s through the ‘60s can be seen in fashion pages today. I also profess my admiration for Christian Lacroix for his unique use of color and unimaginable combinations, John Galliano for his undisputed drama on and off the runway, and the original Monsieur Christian Dior. They inspire me because of their very unique fashion sense.
My parents, especially my mom who gave me the freedom to be who I am—I used to always watch her dress up, she has always been fashionable. Movies, television, and magazines have influenced me as well.
WHICH DESIGNERS/ARTISTS DO YOU ADMIRE MOST, BOTH LOCAL AND FOREIGN?
Each designer has his or her own style; I love to observe what they do. I’m a great fan of the late Monsieur Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Erté.
WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO DRESS? WHO ARE THE CLIENTS YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH?
I would love to dress Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett. I design for so many women and I am indeed lucky and grateful that so many different types of women wear my creations. It’s a lot about timelessness and modishness.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A DESIGNER?
Every day is a challenge. Meeting the client’s needs and expectations is one of the most challenging things for me as a designer. Day after day, we encounter new people with various needs and wants, with different perspectives and personalities. I believe that every customer has to be treated fairly and with outmost care. Customers are always right; therefore, every difficult client that we encounter is properly dealt with, and every difficult situation is solved in a nice way. I see to it that no matter how harsh the clients are, we still treat them with respect and so well that by the end of the day they end up smiling and satisfied. Every satisfied customer makes me feel good.
WHICH ASPECT OF THE DESIGN PROCESS DO YOU ENJOY MOST?
The production part and construction. Sometimes I play with the fitting form and—voilà—create a design.
ANY CURRENT TRENDS THAT YOU'RE FOND OF? ANY CURRENT OBSESSIONS?
Current trend: I just love structured jackets, like those in the comeback of Thierry Mugler. Current obsession: bags.
HOW HAVE YOU EVOLVED AS A DESIGNER?
After working as an in-house designer for almost ten years with a top couture house in Dubai, I felt my career was getting stagnant, so I started to think of taking a step further. That’s when I decided to open my own atelier, Ezra. From then on, it has been a great career move for me, and I thank God.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER?
I am blessed with a career that spans years of hard work and perseverance. Through the years, I believe I have established a good name in the industry that I can be truly proud of.
It is rather fitting that I have enjoyed some ''best moments'' in my career. A couple of years ago, I presented my first gala show In The Beginning to thunderous applause in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. A few months later, I received a standing ovation as I presented Afrique d' Or at New York Fashion Week. I am likewise proud of garnering warm reception and even more good reviews in my first foray at Philippine Fashion Week 2011 in Slim's at 50. And most recently, my two-piece collection in Swarovski's Sense of Two was so well received that I got offers to dress up some international celebrities on the red carpet.
WHAT ASPECT OF DESIGN DO YOU SEEK TO MASTER?
The art of couture.
HOW DO YOU UNWIND?
Go to the spa and have a great massage, and dinner with friends with a bottle of good red wine.
FAVORITE SHOPPING AND TRAVEL DESTINATIONS?
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO? FILMS YOU WATCH? BOOKS YOU READ?
I love jazz, opera and R&B. I collect designer coffee table books, and at the moment I am reading the books of Franck Sorbier.
OTHER PASTIMES, PASSIONS, INTERESTS ASIDE FROM FASHION?
I love to decorate houses. I wish I had time to paint and travel, where I usually get so much inspiration.
WHAT PROFESSION WOULD YOU BE IN IF YOU WEREN’T A DESIGNER?
If I weren’t a fashion designer, I probably would have been an interior designer. I love decorating houses.
WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO FROM YOU AS A DESIGNER?
I’m currently planning my new collection. It will be more unique and different this time, and I am aiming to top the US Market.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE PHILIPPINE FASHION INDUSTRY NEEDS MOST IN ORDER TO FLOURISH?
Filipinos are generally looked up to in the international workplace. We are a bunch of industrious and highly proficient people; I believe so much in Filipino talent. But I think Filipinos should be more assertive and be more at pace with the international hierarchy.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS?
To all the budding designers, fashion is a continuous study and you need to always be updated with what’s happening outside the fashion world. You have to be yourself and create something that would surely be remarkable in the fashion industry. And to top it all, you need to have passion for fashion.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR EZRA?
Hopefully, to start a prêt-a-porter line of wedding dresses or a ready-to-wear brand for NYC.