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School Of Frock

Aspiring designer Mariane Perez gets an education at the STI Center of Arts and Tan-Gan Fashion Workshops.
School Of Frock Aspiring designer Mariane Perez gets an education at the STI Center of Arts and Tan-Gan Fashion Workshops.

Fashion Design with Inno Sotto

Jump to the gallery to see excerpts from the workshop>>

Why would Inno Sotto teach, I wondered. With an illustrious career spanning 30 years (or 800, as he would joke), Manila's cream of the crop for his clients, and more than his fair share of accolades, Inno has got nothing more to prove, let alone gain from a bunch of wide-eyed girls.

This is the question that haunted me as I embarked on a summer workshop called Introduction to Fashion Design under STI Center of Arts and spearheaded by knitwear icon Lulu Tan-Gan. Naturally, I was excited.

Having once interviewed Inno Sotto for Preview magazine, I knew how intelligent and intuitive and kind he was. But I was also, truth be told, quite skeptical. Having ventured into the glam-on-the-outside-gritty-on-the-inside world of fashion design after my first stint as a magazine editor, I knew that you couldn't teach fashion design in 4 sessions.

So in addition to the bird's eye view of the design profession, Inno instead chose to focus on helping us reach some form of self-awareness. He emphasized the fact that there is much more to fashion than design, and the machinations of the industry rely just as much on the people running the business.

Our first two sessions consisted of informal lectures in class. One word to describe it was hypnotic. Inno, in the soothing calmness of his voice, talked about finding inspiration, about fashion as a means of self-expression and cultivating a look that is your own, about client management, branding and marketing. It was a little bit of everything, with a lot of invaluable insight thrown in.

If I had written down what he said verbatim, it would probably form an article in the same vein as Cathy Horyn or Suzy Menkes. He was curious, thought provoking, surprisingly current, which is perhaps why he's lasted so long.

Apart from being a professor, he was also a mentor. He asked us to do a few sketches in class and to show him any work we've done. I talked to him about the dilemma I had given my fascination with the opposing aesthetics of the feminine and the architectural—the former attuned to my basic instinct, and the latter fulfilling my need to experiment with shapes and patterns.

He pointed out something I never realized, that despite the differing looks I favored, all the sketches I drew showed fine detailing, and garments that were really worked on. He recommended that I take up another workshop, Creative Sewing with Pidge Reyes, which tackled various surface treatments.

The last two sessions with Inno were held at Rustan's in Makati. Let me just say that walking around Rustan's and being given the grand tour by its Creative Director are as far apart as two things can be. Luxury truly is in the details.

Jump to the gallery to see excerpts from the workshop>>

Creative Sewing with Pidge Reyes

Jump to the gallery to see excerpts from the workshop>>

After the class, I was even more inspired to continue design as a profession, to refine my skills, and perhaps in 30 (or 800) years, become an artist like Inno. With this mindset, I then embarked on my second workshop with Pidge Reyes.

Currently working as a sculptor, Pidge Reyes has had lots of experience in the fashion business and often makes headpieces for fashion shows, especially for designer and friend Jojie Lloren, who is yet another instructor at STI.

The wonderful thing about this class was how adaptable it was and how well it could be tailored to an intermediate sewer like me, as well as to a complete novice. Pidge patiently taught my classmates how to work an industrial sewing machine, and guided them to gain more confidence and better stitches. I on the other hand gained a more thorough understanding of how it worked, which helped me in troubleshooting.

We had quite a lot of projects from this class—Dior roses (which weren't part of the original syllabus, but was a special request from me), ruffles, fringe, appliqués, covered cords and the like. Pidge encouraged us to recycle and he even brought fabric scraps (from tapestry catalogs) for us to work with.

What encouraged us more in sewing class was how much you can achieve with minimal sewing skills, and how fast you can see results. Projects could be as simple as a pincushion (which we did on our first day) or a completely embellished dress.

Aside from the technical skills I learned, this workshop really opened my eyes to new possibilities in terms of embellishing garments and making use of existing raw materials. To cap it off, Pidge even conducted a field trip for us in Divisoria.

Jump to the gallery to see excerpts from the workshop>>

Armed with renewed fashion vigor, I am about to embark on a major design mission this month. First off is our final project for the Creative Sewing workshop, which will be exhibited at STI along with the work of students from the fashion styling (with Noel Manapat) and draping (with Jojie Lloren) workshops.

I'm also working on a new collection for my eponymous label, which I hope will further my vision, as well as deliver what my customer wants—two things Inno really stressed upon as important.

Lastly, I am most excited to design and make the dress I would wear to Preview's Best Dressed Ball come July. It's Preview magazine's 15th year of fabulousness, and I can't wait to join in on the fun.

I was pleasantly surprised at how transformative these month-long workshops, owed mainly to the faculty, in my opinion. Apart from being stalwarts in the fashion industry, they possess a sincere desire to pass on their collective knowledge to the next generation. I feel that I've gained two more amazing voices in my head, to add to my first fashion mentor (Preview's Creative Director, Vince Uy).

It's true that you cannot manufacture talent in a classroom, or polish “rough diamonds” in a month's time, but if you're in any way interested in the wonderful world of fashion, these workshops are a great way to encourage you to either take the plunge or dive even deeper.

The next batch of workshops will begin on June 26 with classes held on every succeeding Saturday until August 14 and will offer the following courses:

Fashion Design Module 1
12:00nn to 2:30pm
Fashion Design Lecture taught by Joey Samson
Fashion Design Application taught by Robi Lolin

Fashion Design Module 2
2:30pm to 5:30pm
Taught by Numer Exconde, Lulu Tan-Gan, and Joey Samson

Basic Flat Pattern Drafting

9:00am to 11:30noon
Numer Exconde

Draping 1
12:00noon to 2:30pm
Jojie Lloren

Draping 2
2:30pm to 5:30pm
Jojie Lloren

Fashion Styling
Noel Manapat

Creative Exercise in Sewing
Pidge Reyes

For further inquiries, email them at, or contact them at 0918-8031322 or at (02)9945592.

Continue to the gallery to see excerpts from the workshops.

—Mariane Perez, Contributing Writer

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