I’m feeling a little nostalgic; it’s been 15 years since I’ve started writing this column, and I still remember that day I was intently pacing my then-boyfriend’s (now husband’s) studio apartment trying to christen my column with a name that would resonate. I decided on Fashion Sense because I was intent on figuring out not just how to wear the latest trends, but also how the fashion community and the industry operated. My first essay, as you would have it, talked about how silver, the de facto coolgirl accessory in the minimal '90s, had run its course, and how gold, previously stigmatized by its association with '80s excess, was looking fresh and cool and desirable.
Over a decade and a half, I’ve written about a lot of trends and issues. One of the funniest experiences writing this column happened in 2003, while I was pregnant with my second son, Roque. This was before the brilliant Marge Melendez had started illustrating Fashion Sense, and I had to use pictures (sometimes, as in this case, of myself) for the main visual. The photo was taken by a young Jake Verzosa, and I was wearing a red body-con dress that emphasized my baby bump and other, er, lumps. I cannot tell you how many text messages— remember, this was years before social media—I received regarding the ample cleavage that found itself on the formerly flat-chested me. I remember wryly writing that out of the things that I had achieved in life, it was funny that people would go out of their way to congratulate me because of my newfound boobs!
The columns I most struggled with had to do with the state of the fashion industry. Our designers are not brands, the garment manufacturing that we do consists of subcontracting work, and we don’t have a textile industry. The irony is most especially felt by this generation’s talented designers who are not able to compete on the world stage for lack of funding and government support. So, since 130 people have filed their candidacy for the highest office in the land, I’ve decided to write an open letter—well, more a note, really, but letter sounded much better as a title—to our next would-be president.
TO OUR WOULD-BE PRESIDENT:
I know our beloved country has a lot of pressing problems that need to be addressed. Fashion, it has been said, is a luxury you can indulge in only after other, more basic necessities have been met. But please consider this premise: Fashion as an industry isn’t all frills and frou-frou when you consider the case of fast fashion chain Zara and its effect on the Spanish economy. Its parent company, Inditex, is one of the biggest (along with Banco Santander and telecommunications firm Telefonica), if not the biggest, listed corporations in Spain. On the other end of the spectrum, luxury goods, according to a Bian & Co. study in 2013, contributed roughly €217 billion to the global economy.
If you are looking for an industry to build, please consider fashion. Our designers—and the people who work in the creative industries corollary to fashion—are so innately talented and creative, but we lack the infrastructure to call ourselves a proper fashion industry.
Perhaps we can start with supporting the designers that, season after season, make the journey to different trade shows around the world, the way Thailand does. We in the press routinely heap praise on these designers, the likes of Bea Valdes, Rita Nazareno of S.C. Vizacarra, and Len Cabili of Filip + Inna, and profess how proud we are that they are Filipino. “Pilipinas Represent” shouldn’t be the end of the story. It would be more than nice if they could present the best in Filipino design and craftsmanship and they weren’t alone in doing so.
*This story originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Preview Magazine.