Designer Profile

The Class Of Spring/Summer 2023: Filipino Designers Take Over LA Fashion Week

Chris Nick. Dion Trinidad

Making a global entrance, three Filipino designers debuted their latest collections at the Lighthouse Artspace, a known multiplex space of Hollywood entertainment. For this roll call, the runway was graced with looks from Chris Nick, Francis Libiran, and Avel Bacudio—all of whom told a tale of their own and a tale of local talent.

Chris Nick

Chris Nick. Dion Trinidad
Chris Nick. Dion Trinidad

This season, Chris Nick’s designs heavily referenced ’90s minimalism and grunge with a tribute to his favorite article of clothing—the tuxedo. His opening act was a sparkly, scoop-neck, high-cut bodysuit accompanied by beautifully constructed sleeves paired with a matching skirt to create that sultry hip cut-out. Nick goes all out with the playful hems, feathered trims, and micro minis as an ode to his brand ethos of Old Hollywood. A proponent of understated elegance, he abides by the tenet that clothes shouldn’t wear the wearer.

From his signature tailoring to risqué cut-outs, the collection also had the presence of elegant butterfly sleeves, an important structure in Philippine fashion. It’s Nick’s way of welcoming the idea of east meets west, he tells Vogue Philippines, especially with this being his first global show.

Of the design choice, Nick says, “Turning [butterfly sleeves] into something more than just a costume but into a fashion statement for the present times” is a way to make it “current.” He adds, “There’s a way to have something classic and turn it into something more contemporary.” Ending the show on a high note was a ’90s-inspired velvet dress number—perfect for a glamorous night out in the City of Angels.

Francis Libiran

Francis Libiran. Dion Trinidad
Francis Libiran. Dion Trinidad

Francis Libiran took center stage with intricate mosaic details and, per the label’s official statement, an ode to “the human connection of sexual passions and intimacy.” The intricacy of lines, patterns, and textiles spoke his cinematic language for this season. Mosaic, the title of Libiran’s show, appeared in chapters. Like its namesake, it was an emotional color story ranging from looks coming in whites, pinks, purples, and marigolds to blues, olive greens, and gray numbers, and with black showstoppers closing the book.

“I really wanted to still convey my identity by incorporating the styles I am known for with my interpretation of art,” Libiran tells us. “On the other hand, of course, I also tried and experimented with a lot of things—colors, fabrics—to give much more edge to this collection.”

He also explored the extravagance of Art Deco windows and their negative spaces that were translated through the different layers of textiles. Indeed, it was a celebration of handwork with embroidery, beadwork, or open weaving present in every look.

On the runway, different takes on a tailored suit were present ranging from head-to-toe eyelet looks to gem-filled cropped jackets with cut-outs all in the right places. Stepping out of his comfort zone, Libiran also explored utilitarian elements and furniture weaving infused into the olive numbers—looks that won the crowd. Ending on a Gatsby-esque note, the showstopper look of the night was an embellished co-ord with dramatic pleated sleeves paired with a voluminous cape that danced down the runway.

Avel Bacudio

Avel Bacudio. Dion Trinidad
Avel Bacudio. Dion Trinidad

Avel Bacudio has always been about showcasing the Philippines, its craft, and its beauty. Entitled Native Opulence, Bacudio’s collection was a celebration of the country’s national botanicals—sampaguita and anahaw. Diving deeper, his lineup was a marriage of elements stemming from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao in the form of different embroidery techniques and hand weaving.

“I want the world to see the Philippines and how beautiful our country is. The Filipino is truly great,” Bacudio tells me, before going into how intricately he sourced for the collection. “Everything in my collection is locally sourced and produced, from shoes made in Marikina to embroideries from Lumban, Aklan, and South Cotabato. There were also bags from Visayas and hand-woven textiles from Mindanao. I wanted to make sure that there are touches from the three main islands of the country.”

Opening the show with a tone of Filipino nostalgia, Bacudio not only brought the Philippines to LA through his garments, but also showcased his love letter to his motherland through the traditional Filipino-language music played at the scene. Fabrications of all sorts—piña, jusi, and Mindanao silk were presented and designed as intentional touches. From bomber jackets embroidered with anahaw motifs to piña polos ornamented with delicate sampaguita florals and contrast piping, Bacudio’s collection, more than fashion, was also a heritage feast.

For modern-day Filipinos, the collection spoke the language of traditions. Wrapping up his tale, Bacudio ended the show with a floor-length robe designed with embroidered balloon sleeves—perfect for that graceful departure.

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