On the balmy evening of January 19, the Metrotent Convention Center was transformed into everything a fashion show requires: a runway, seats with placards of industry key players’ names, and the backstage sounds of anxious designers and models in makeup chairs. This was the graduation show of the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Clothing Technology Batch of 2020, a talented group of 10 aspiring designers.
The show’s theme, “Hulma,” meaning 'to shape' or 'to mold,' was befitting the students’ laborious process of crafting a seven-piece collection that was indicative not only of their skills but of their personal perspectives.
In an industry often tempted to subscribe to the comings and goings of trends and ‘Instagrammable’ looks, these students opted to tell their own stories. They proved that hulma is about more than just handicrafts—it’s about storytelling. And the stories that walked down the runway told of colorful travels, politics, pop culture, social issues, and nationality. It was refreshing to see these students take advantage of fashion as a platform for discourse.
With this approach, it’s safe to say that they’ll be molding their own special niches in the industry soon enough. Check out their collections below, as well as the collections of guest designers Antonina Amoncio and RJ Santos:
Comfort and style go hand in hand in guest designer Nina Amoncio's collection. With quilt-inspired textures and a whole lot of top-stitching, each piece was reminiscent of a childhood spent playing make-believe with felt dolls and toys at home. In fact, one look was covered head-to-toe in a print with kiddy, ink drawings. From ovoid shoulders, slouchy separates, and warm orange accents, Nina's collection proves that cozy couture can actually be a thing.
RJ Santos, the genius behind cult local brand Randolf, is known for his youthful and subtly subversive take on fashion. The looks he sent down the runway were no less playful, and is grounded on a rebellious kind of femininty. He paired romantic separates—in shiny fabrics—like corsets and butterfly-sleeved ternos, with remixed men's tailored pieces like a turquoise blazer, cropped bomber jacket, and two-tone denim. Fresh, modern, and very "next generation."
"Pagsibol" by Janinna Santos
In an era when muted tones, linen fabrics, and cotton are often the elements of mainstream minimalism and even sustainable fashion, Janinna Santos takes that very aesthetic by the neck and revamps it by incoporating cool silhouettes and textures. Read: off-shouldered tops texturized with pleats, asymmetrical neckline blouses with a statement mutton sleeve, and dresses with puff sleeves. What made the neutral color scheme work was the pastiche of fabrics, which lent a 'repurposed' vibe to the collection without seeming old-fashioned. Refreshing indeed.
"'ID" by Lorenz Capati
If you gave a student the freedom to design their own uniform, what would that look like? Lorenzo seems to present various hypotheses, and they're far from basic. A navy blue schoolgirl skirt is paired with a pink, babydoll-sleeved top. On the other hand, a schoolboy's austere khaki pants is reimagined as voluminous pleated trousers. The color scheme was decidedly muted, but the focal point of the entire collection was the execution: Each piece was well-constructed, and the play on silhouettes was laudable.
"Ang Petiburgesyang Sumandig sa Masa" by Kat Estrella
Stop the killings. Justice for Josephine. Ignacio 18. Such were the blurbs boldly painted onto the pieces, whose political and social codes were undeniably palpable. As an avant garde collection grounded on social commentary, the designs were able to effectively communicate the messy workings of politics in the Philippines: Aside from the obvious predominant bloody red color, there was the 'patched up' effect and heavy shapes that literally—and figuratively—drown the wearer.
"The Cherry Blossom Front" by Marianne del Rosario
Obviously referencing the eclectic fashion of Japan, Marianne del Rosario, an avid cosplayer, unleashed an army of warriors clad in hot pink. Although these looks are definitely perfect for cosplay, they could make impeccable high fashion looks once you break them down into separates. What launched the pieces into the future was her use of fabrics, and subtle touches like high collars, buckle straps, and asymmetric hemlines.
"Dalagang Pilipina, Yeah" by Veronica Perote
Upon flashing the collection's title, "Dalagang Pilipina, Yeah," one could hear the sound of muffled giggles coming from the crowd, especially when the familiar Filipino pop tune of the same name was played in the background. This familiarity, however, soon became grounded on something deeper. Models appeared in boxy, paper-like dresses with blurbs like "Bawal Bastos" and "'Di Ako Bebe Mo." It's as if the paper dolls of childhood, a representation of hushed, flat femininity, had come to life to speak the truth about everything from cat-calling to objectification. Ultimately, the colorful collection effectively highlighted what it means to be a modern Filipina—a woman with a voice.
"I Am" by Kate Evangelista
Decidedly soft, feminine, and romantic, Kate's seven-piece collection was able to play around with relaxed silhouettes without looking matronic. Actually, the whole collection flaunted a youthful vibe through modern printed fabrics molded to a sculptural effect. The standout look was the bell-shaped, ribbon-strapped frock, a fresh alternative to today's repetitive ball gowns. Crafting evening gowns could be a promising future for the young designer.
"Bad As Boys" by Katcy Cabrera
Earth-toned everyday wear is given new life through something we often forget about given the slew of loose silhouettes or body-skimming tops. Katcy finds the sweet spot by using structure and sharp angles in all the right places. Case in point: She paired a muted green blouse with garterized harem pants, which featured cool cargo pockets. Another standout was the military green pantsuit with the cropped jacket. Her collection is proof that balanced proportions can be achieved without looking ordinary.
"Maria Justicia" by Joanna David
"Ganyan na ang bagong normal," sung the background music. Joanna was able to integrate old-world Filipiniana with details that refer to the complexities of modern society like technology, money, and politics. Such references were highlighted in tasteful ways that did not hamper the outfit's clean-cut construction, such as hidden pleats and printed fabric. Joanna also experimented with the Filipiniana's typical shape through serpentina cuts and ruched sleeves.
"Ihada" by Rafa de Guzman
It's not easy to take minimalism and wearability to create a striking seven-piece collection, but Rafa was able to do so. In fact, perhaps it was the sheer constraints of color—she stuck to white, cream, tan, and blue—that allowed her to play with asymmetry and enhance each piece's construction. A great example is the ovoid-shouldered cropped top matched with a two-toned skirt—simple, sleek, and totally easy on the eyes. Lastly, it's difficult to make asymmetric pants work, but Rafa was able to execute it in a palatable way.
"Lulu & Nana" by Kaye Luna
Seeing Kaye Luna's playful technicolor collection makes one smile. How can it not when it's reminiscent of '90s toys, like say, Barbie and Lisa Frank? To take things even further, she utilized dreamy pastels with a heavy, but tactful, hand, and this was seen in her ingenious layering of separates as well. Aside from her deft use of color, Kaye also wasn't afraid to play with different fabrics, and she even used PVC at one point (read: a totally see-through PVC coat!). Most of the looks were topped off with bucket hats with beaded drawstrings, a gentle reminder to us human beings that fashion, at the end of the day, should be fun.