“Local design has become the immediate identifier for style status.”
Always looking forward, Rhett Eala has always been deeply rooted in his sense of community and identity. After studying textile design at Accademia Italiana in Florence, the 47-year-old designer created his own label “Dué” (with lavish slip dresses as its centerpiece) and continued the brand for 11 years.
Soon afterwards, the designer launched Wink alongside jeweler Cindy Yap-Yang. This led to the celebrated rainbow-colored chiffon poncho, which Eala became known for. Consequently, the Filipino designer became a lauded couturier with his intricate dress-making skills.
Eala also designed Miss Universe Philippines 2016 Maxine Medina’s wardrobe, creating his signature emerald green dress with tulle and silk chiffon with a bedazzled bodice.
For his newest offering, the designer is creating an eponymously named platform store based on open-mindedness and individuality.
With this platform, he hopes to shed light on “[the country’s] design community that’s brimming with talent and fresh new ideas.” Asian and Philippine design have always been main points of inspiration for Eala, demonstrated through his intricate prints, home-owned fabrics, and distinctly Filipino shapes.
Capturing the essence of what fashion means to him, Eala ventures into a new creative dimension with collaboration at the forefront.
With Bitagcol by Jo Ann Bitagcol, TdLG by Tweetie de Leon Gonzales, and Ivarluski Aseron, Eala brings a 360-degree retail experience that shines a spotlight on Filipino artistry. Exhibiting alongside other designers that share the same brand values and standards in quality, Eala brings in distinct narratives told by each label. Every designer introduces new layers and dimensions to the collective.
With Bitagcol, the creative name behind the brand captures her experiences and musings through contemporary, reimagined everyday attire. Her signature blueprints are seen throughout the capsule in the form of vintage barong-printed aprons and tri-toned robe dresses. With an air of nostalgia, Bitagcol’s intricate pieces communicate the vibrant story of Philippine culture with modern elements.
With supermodel, TV personality, and former Eala muse de Leon Gonzalez at the helm, TdLG wants to bring craft, creativity, and the Filipino spirit for wanderlust to retail. With talismanic jewelry, she intends to create an intimate connection between her keepsakes and the wearers. Sartorial expressions embodied in handmade charms, this collection uncovers hidden gems.
Meanwhile, Ivarluski Aseron capitalizes on what he’s known for: weaving in Filipino design elements into artful yet contemporary dresses. With billowing silhouettes that spotlight his precise tailoring and attention-to-detail, Aseron’s latest offering is a ready-to-wear collection with a sense of duality seen in both patterns and color palette.
For the newly-opened concept store, the space brings together like-minded designers who share a common thread and vision—to convey meaningful storytelling through their garments. Eala continues, “Within the space, a certain level of quality, aesthetic, and style sensibility binds all of the collections together.”
In the coming months, there will be a rotating roster of guest designers alongside the store’s mainstays; Bitagcol, TdLG, and Ivarluski Aseron. “I wanted to share the space with local designers or labels that present a fresh and distinct take on Filipino design for everyday dressing,” Eala says. “There is more to dressing local than tribal or craft details. Wearing local clothes is also not just limited to formal wear.”
Made To Last
For Eala, these particular brands present “a fresh and unique point of view when it comes to wearing local garments everyday.” At the core of his selection process for brands lies enduring friendships. “The curation process for the store is personal to me. I hold [each designer in] high regard in terms of their creativity, vision, [and] work ethic,” he mentions. “Each one of us has a distinct style sensibility, and yet, we always seem to complement each other.”
Inspiring an entire lifestyle around local design, every garment alludes to Filipino influences and sensibilities. “Each of our brands convey the narrative of Philippine culture and heritage in a way that is contemporary, easy to digest, and accessible to any audience,” Eala says. “Nothing is too literal in the way we endeavor to represent local identity.”
Through subtlety and simplicity, the collections redefine everyday dressing while simultaneously representing our country’s identity. “The store is a reflection of the country’s evolving style inclinations, of both the creator and the consumer who shops in the store,” Eala explains. “It’s a space for the shopper who wants to wear their culture and heritage in the context of contemporary fashion.”
Recently, more and more designers have been communicating an unwavering sentiment through their designs, a joyous celebration of our country’s rich cultural heritage. With an honesty in construction and the desire to spark a dialogue, creatives are leaning heavily into their Filipino-ness. In tandem, consumers are investing in local communities. “In the past years, we’ve seen forward-thinking and discerning consumers gravitate toward local brands for pieces that will set them apart,” Eala says. “It’s become aspirational, and that’s what we hope to celebrate in the Rhett Eala store in Greenbelt 5.”
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