Last February, fashion bloggers and journalists alike wanted to be Tricia Gosingtian, the young style blogger who, due to her whopping 30,000 plus followers on Tumblr, was one of 24 bloggers that the website invited to attend New York Fashion Week Fall 2011. Included in the tour was breakfast with Nina Garcia (Marie Claire, Project Runway), and this is where her foible began.
A video uploaded by fashionNinaG on YouTube showed clips of the breakfast as well as interviews with three of the bloggers, Tricia included. Her sound bite, which starts at 1:02, got the ire of a number of people in the Filipino online community who have since spoken out about what she said.
The transcript of what she says in the video is as follows:
“The difference is that in the Philippines, it’s not that fashion-forward. So when I post photos there, I don’t—I get lots of attention from it, ‘cause people there aren’t used to that kind of fashion. But it’s also really nice ‘cause I’m also really influenced by Japanese fashion so…”
On February 15, 2011, we zoned in on the issue because Tricia posted this statement via Twitter:
“Anyhow, I didn't say Filipinos lacked style. I just said we aren't *that* fashion-forward as a country, which I think is true for a lot of reasons since we have limited resources (young designers I know have a hard time finding good textile and materials), have a lot of issues standing out in the crowd because of conservative culture, and our weather doesn't permit us to dress up (hello to lazy clothes and flipflops). It takes ages for trends to reach us, and when they do, it's not like people actually follow them.
There were so many things that were asked and so many things I said but videos can only show us so much. It's the same issue when people get interviewed in publications and the writers only quote certain parts of it. I'm no authority in fashion and I never said I was. It's not that I don't support fashion in the Philippines. I was just being completely honest.”
The issue quieted down after that until April 7, 2011 when Gabbie Tatad posted an opinion piece about the video in her own Tumblr account. She wrote “A statement like that is insulting for anyone who lives in the Philippines and believes that they have their own sense of style… But mostly, a statement like that shows ignorance, and not only about what’s going on locally. It betrays a lack of understanding of how fashion is the most common art through which people express themselves.”
The rest of the essay is a strong defense and praise of the country’s fashion industry as well as an articulation of how personal style supersedes fashion—“ …it is the personal style of every individual who’s ever put on a garment that allows fashion to keep growing and moving the way it does.”
Gabbie’s post has been re-blogged and forwarded, together with the video, by many readers over various social networking platforms. People’s opinions have formed two camps. There are those, a few who are industry insiders and some her own readers, who have condemned what Tricia said, expressing their disappointment in how she “dissed the Philippines” and that the opportunity could have been better used to flaunt the country’s talent.
Other bloggers have come to her defense claiming that it’s been blown out of proportion and taken out of context. Young designer Stacy Rodriguez, who on Twitter lauded her friend Gabbie’s post for having made “very good universal points” followed up that Tweet with “let’s not turn this fight for fashion forward Pinoys into a bullying stint, but more than moving on, it’s about learning from our mistakes.”
Cecile Van Straten posted her own thoughts “as an older person” about the video, making light of the incident with humor. She chalked it up to the folly of youth recounting her own experience of what it felt like to have a certain amount of power at 22—she herself had her own column at that young age reviewing fashion shows at the Daily Globe and “designers either wanting to have lunch with me or have my head on a platter.”
CJ Cruz, an 18-year old arts student, wrote his own analysis in his blog as a member of Tricia’s generation. In it he discusses the video musing that “it didn't really give the definition of probably why Philippines is not fashion forward and contrasts with NYC, but sure did gave an exact reason on why Tricia stands out from the crowd because it's all in her answer. She is influenced by Japanese fashion.”
His insights move forward to address an underlying issue, writing that “[We are] guilty of the fact that there isn't really a pure way of defining Filipino fashion ( yet )... But reality bites that the fact when we say 'Pinoy/Filipino' we don't have a certain image like when we say 'Japanese or Brits' in our head. Probably this is a great opportunity to step back and find that identity to demand on the market of what our 'Pinoy' identity is. Tricia might have probably made a mistake but I think it is nice to have this time to let us analyze.”
In the age of social media, when news travels as fast as the speed of light and what’s personal is not always private, it’s a good idea to practice safe speaking by taking that extra moment to think and compose. It’s hard to retrace your steps when you’ve stepped on the wrong toes but there will always be a way to get back on track.
At 10:45am on April 8, 2011, we read this written apology that Tricia released on her Tumblr:
"I’m sorry for the offense that some have taken from the things that I was quoted in the video with Nina Garcia. Please know that my statements in the video were only excerpts from a longer on-the-spot Q&A that we did for that video. I didn’t mean to belittle anyone with my comments, and it’s also clear from how the video was edited that the editors didn’t see any offensive content with what I said. I hope that tidbit helps even a little. Of course, we all have different perspectives on things (which has led to all this), so what might be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. So again, for those who were offended, please accept my apology.
While I will say that I am not ignorant of Filipino design talent, I will say that I was ignorant of how I could have made things look better for the Philippines without my clumsy, geeky self after having just met some of the people that inspire me. I don’t get to meet these people everyday so it was really hard to properly compose myself and my answers. There was this mixture of fear and excitement that combined to rather silly results. I’ve learned something from all of this and I’ll try better next time!"