Following the very stylish footsteps of Tina Maristela-Ocampo and Bea Valdes, another Filipino is making waves in international waters. The designer in question is the quiet and unassuming—until you sit down and get deeply engrossed in conversation with him—Leonardo Salinas, who launched his eponymous label in Sydney, Australia last year.
Leo, who describes his clothes as edgy, contemporary, and a bit provocative, graduated from Sydney’s hallowed Whitehouse Institute of Design in 1995 and went on to work for high-profile Australian labels like Alex Perry and Kit Willow before striking out on his own.
Rendered in space-age metallics, his breakout Spring/Summer 2008 collection fused classic tailoring with a '40s noir femme fatale vibe and was a hit with the Australian and international press and buyers. His look is decidedly modern and sexy—not far from his Aussie contemporaries Collette Dinnigan and Josh Goot, both darlings of the international fashion community—and is definitely for women who love to dress up.
FROM START TO END, HOW DOES A COLLECTION COME TO LIFE?
A simple flower—or button—can turn into a spectacular collection. It usually starts from a little thing that’s closest to your heart at that moment. You nurture it, and [before you know it,] it has morphed into an exciting lava of ideas.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
Honestly, it is about dealing with after-design processes like fabric-sourcing, seeing [my] cutters, and quality controlling the production before distribution. It’s a continuous cycle.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WORK IN FASHION IN AUSTRALIA?
The Australian fashion industry is very laid-back—and very competitive. But no matter where you go, it is all the same case, so you have to stand out and continue to be interactive and creative.
WHAT DID IT TAKE TO GET THE CRITICS AND THE MEDIA TO NOTICE YOUR WORK?
When you create, you [should] just follow your true essence. Don’t think about the critics, which, I think, is the most important thing.
YOUR LAST JOB IN MANILA WAS AS A DESIGNER FOR KIREI. NOW THAT ’80S FASHION IS ALL THE RAGE AGAIN, ARE YOU REVISITING ANY OF YOUR OLD DESIGNS?
Yes, shoulder pads... and more shoulder pads.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BRIDAL LINE.
My bridal line is haute couture—really, one-off pieces. Be it a ball gown or a slinky sheath, my main goal is designing an individual piece for my client, along with a personalized fitting for the bridal party—from bride to mother of the bride, and bridesmaids.
DO YOU HAVE A BUSINESS PARTNER, OR DO YOU JUST DESIGN?
Yes, I do have a business partner who is the General Manager of the company and who looks after the business side. That allows me to concentrate on doing the creative design work needed to stay abreast of the needs of the clients we have.
HOW IS YOUR BUSINESS STRUCTURED?
The business is in the embryonic stages of growth, so we have a very flat level of management.
WHAT ARE YOUR OUTLETS AT THE MOMENT?
We have representation of the brand in the US and Asia. We have also just opened a salon in Sydney for my couture clients. This outlet stocks a little part of the prêt-a-porter. In the Philippines, the collection [was formerly] available at www.im-hm.com.
DO YOU HAVE A PERSON IN MIND WHEN DESIGNING?
At the moment, I am obsessed with (clockwise from left) Jackie O. Lauren Hutton, Veruschka, and Mia Farrow
ON HIS S/S 2009 COLLECTION:
“My summer collection is a combination of laid-back pieces and safari-inspired evening dresses.”
—written by Pauline Juan; reprinted from Preview June 2009