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Pefta 2012 Q&a: Danika Navarro

Find out how this fashion blogger and graphic design artist seeks to shift to fashion design.
Pefta 2012 Q&a: Danika Navarro Find out how this fashion blogger and graphic design artist seeks to shift to fashion design.

How do you feel about being a PEFTA finalist this year?

I most definitely am thankful—to Preview, to SoFA and to God for the big opportunity. I feel blessed. When I found out I passed as a finalist, I felt so encouraged, motivated, and also challenged to give my best throughout the competition. To be chosen for something like PEFTA is a rare privilege. I feel grateful that I have this chance to learn, to work with professionals, and to be recognized for my work. I hope to make the most out of it. 

What motivated you to study fashion design?

I grew up in a family that runs a fashion business, so to love fashion design came quite naturally. However, I first graduated from a graphic design course. It was only after finishing college that I realized that my passion for fashion would not be enough to make me survive the fast-paced, highly competitive industry. I knew it was necessary to study the technicalities, construction, and procedures, and most importantly, the business side of it.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

More people recognize my style as bohemian because my work, more often, are achieved by a mixture of fabrics and are usually also just in neutral and earth colors. I also have a tendency to make my designs look more relaxed than pinched up. But I'd like to say that I can be flexible. This is why, for my PEFTA entry, I decided to work with something more architectural that is so different from "boho." Also, because of this, I was forced to shift my focus on the silhouettes instead of the details.

Please tell us about the portfolio you submitted to Preview. What is the concept behind it? How does it tie in with this year's theme, Silhouette?

The portfolio I submitted was inspired by The Architectural Wonders of the World. When I heard that silhouettes would be this year's focus, the first few things that flashed in my head were images of structural buildings and landmarks. So I researched on Wonders of the World and ended up choosing four sites I liked most: the Roman Colosseum, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Taj Mahal. I thought the shapes and silhouettes of these four would be very interesting to work with.

The general feel of my mood board is confident, tough, structural, and architectural with emphasis on lines, round edges, sand, the uneven silhouette of the Colosseum. Complementing elements include marble, cement, arched doorways and windows. Dominating shapes are circles, triangles, waves and arches. My color palette turned out to be a combination of black, charcoal, bone, browns, tans and cream, with a hint of navy and deep red.

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Please tell us about the piece that the Preview editors selected for you to execute.

I was happy to discover that the look that the editors chose was the look I liked most. They had chosen the last sketch in my collection, which was a sleek-looking, cream-colored evening dress. The silhouette is heavy on top with a loose turtleneck-like standing collar that covers the front neck. This stiffly runs all the way to the lower back forming a nice half-circle that complements the bust when viewed sideways. The rest of the dress is form-fitting in contrast to the bulky portion created on the upper torso. The hemline is uneven (mimicking the shape of the Colosseum) with an arched cutout in front revealing the front part of the legs.

For me, this is the classiest look among all of my sketches. It's not too busy. It is a nice mixture of edgy modern and sexy female. It's clean and glamorous with the perfect accent, still wearable; and not too costume-y.

The biggest challenge for the construction part would be the oversized collar. I will have to use the right fabric and bone (for the edges) to make it stiff. My piece would end up looking like just any other ordinary cowl dress if I fail to make the collar stand and make the arc at the back work correctly. I will be creating the silhouette through boning to strategically perfect the figure.

The whole dress will be in just one color but made from several fabrics for texture variation. I also plan to do a mixture of translucent and opaque materials to slightly reveal some body parts to keep it sexy and feminine despite the stiff body. My fabric options as of the moment are organza, dull satin, and brocade. Minor beadwork might be added in the collar lining (visible only from the back) and skirt lining for extra detail.

Where do you get your inspiration? Who are you style influences/inspirations?

I get inspired whenever I enter big retail stores such as Zara, Topshop, Mango, etc., because for me, fashion is not just about being an artist. Fashion is also about doing business. Whenever I see how these retail chains operate, how they design, how they create concepts, I get inspired. It is during these times that I get motivated to create fashion pieces that are not only highly creative, but more importantly, purposeful and functional.

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Aside from this, I also get inspired by the runway shows. Who wouldn't? The catwalk is where all the magic happens! Seeing the work of the great designers always inspires me to explore new directions, expand my borders, and experiment with the nontraditional.

Which artists do you admire most, both local and foreign? How does your aesthetic resonate with theirs?

I really admire a lot of designers (and brands)! I think a lot of them are brilliant and all too talented. But mostly, I catch myself loving too much the collections released by Balmain. Their looks are always so balanced and never over-the-top. But aesthetically, I really admire most to the works of Veronica Etro (for Etro), Antonio Marras (for Kenzo) and Marc Jacobs (for Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton).

Locally, I really look up to the artistic stylings of Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Rajo Laurel and the extraordinary craftsmanship of Cary Santiago. I relate most to these designers, because just like me, they put emphasis on amazing fabrics and details.

What accomplishments in your budding career are you most proud of?

I'm most thankful that I was able to have a solid background in graphic design, achieving an award for it in college (Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts: Graphic Design Category) and winning three awards in the first Philippine Graphic Design Awards in 2010 including the top two trophies in the student category. Recently, I also won the Judges' Choice Award in the Blackberry Holster Design Contest.

Having enough experience in this field has truly helped me visualize more effectively when I shifted to fashion design. Last year, I got even more encouraged to pursue this career when I won the champion title in the Adidas All 24 Fashion Competition.

What aspect of fashion design do you seek to master?

More than being innovative, I want to be effective. I want to create artistic fashion that is purposeful. Mostly, I hope to master designing high-street ready-to-wear clothes (both evening and day wear) and be a successful entrepreneur. But I'm also interested in mastering wedding (bridal gown and entourage) design. In the future, I plan to be an expert in shoe design and production, too.

How do you envision yourself evolving as a designer?

I'd like to see myself as a more flexible and influential designer someday. I want to be able to satisfy customers and at the same time be able to brand my own style. I hope to achieve the state when people would immediately recognize my work without having to read it from the fine print. I hope to grow a strong brand in the future with me learning and developing through the process as I design more and more according to what people need without compromising my own style and aesthetic.

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How do you see yourself contributing to the growth of Philippine fashion?

Aside from contributing my ideas and aesthetic, I hope to help maintain and promote Philippine craftsmanship because it is (currently) a dying breed. Too many fashion retail businesses nowadays settle with buying and selling products, importing goods from neighboring countries all because it is the easier route. I wish to do it the other way around. I want to be able to help sustain and provide even more jobs to Filipinos by designing and making exceptional fashion items that will be made in the Philippines and then exported worldwide.

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