Inside PHx Fashion Conference 2023: Fostering Homegrown Talent For A Global Audience

Designer Norman René De Vera in conversation with Vogue Philippines fashion director Pam Quiñones. Photo by Kieran Punay

Photo by Kieran Punay

The summit featured a mix of discussions and intimate mentorship sessions with AZ Factory’s Norman René De Vera, TFC Press’ Philippe Terrien and Giselle Go, the Vogue Philippines editorial team, and more. 

The PHx Fashion Conference is the first of its kind in the country, hosting illuminating talks and panel discussions aimed at inspiring innovation in fledgling fashion creatives and entrepreneurs and helping them raise their operations to a global standard. 

To kick off the second day of festivities, designer Norman René De Vera joins Vogue Philippines fashion director Pam Quiñones in conversation. 

Pam Quiñones and Norman René De Vera at the PHx Fashion Conference. Photo by Kieran Punay

On being unashamedly, authentically yourself 

The first thing a designer should have in their toolbox is authenticity—at least, according to De Vera, the British-born Filipino designer currently at the helm of AZ Factory. 

From a young age, fashion had always been his calling. He attended the London College of Fashion and Middlesex University, graduating with a degree in fashion design. School had taught him that his unconventional methods in design—draping in one sweep and sewing based on intuition—were his biggest strengths. 

Today, his curriculum vitae boasts an all-star cast of creative directors he’s worked with: the late Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Phoebe Philo at Céline, Raf Simons, Matthieu Blazy, and Pieter Mulier at Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, and Nicholas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton, and Donatella Versace at Versace, just to name a few. “These are some of the greatest names of our time in the fashion industry,” Quiñones noted. When asked about what he had learned from each one, De Vera only had one lesson to share: “I think it’s how to be really unashamedly, authentically yourself.” 

He continued, “I think each creative director, when they speak about me, they’ll say the exact same thing. [I] think just being yourself, I think they’ll fall in love with you.” While working at a fashion house under a creative director means to “recreate their dreams and their ideas,” it’s important to “translate that [while] still having your authentic self visible through the work that you’ve done.” 

Norman René De Vera tells the audience about the importance of authenticity in the fashion industry. Photo by Kieran Punay

Being authentic is the easy part; getting to a point where it comes naturally is another thing entirely. Finding confidence is different for everybody, but for De Vera, it happened when someone found beauty where he once couldn’t. For the inquiring audience, he recounted a campaign he worked on with Stella Tennant and Juergen Teller: “They both sat next to me, and they were like, ‘René, we remember you, it’s because of your beautiful birthmark. We recognize you.’ That’s when I found myself.”

For aspiring designers, De Vera’s philosophy, above all, is to keep going in the face of criticism and rejection, to design from intuition, and to be authentically yourself in every endeavor. “That’s when I think I found my confidence—when I loved myself. I think when you do start to love yourself, your true design aesthetic comes out.” 

Homegrown talent, global audience

Next to punctuate the three-day conference was a portfolio review and a series of talks. 

Through the portfolio review, select designers presented and discussed their work with Philippe Terrien and Giselle Go of TFC Press, Norman René De Vera of AZ Factory, and fashion director Pam Quiñones, art director Jann Pascua, digital editor Andrea Ang, and fashion writer Ticia Almazan of Vogue Philippines

Punctuating the last day of the PHx Fashion Conference was a portfolio review for select designers, with a panel featuring Norman René De Vera, TFC Press, and the Vogue Philippines editorial team. Photo by Kim Santos

Afterwards, leaders in the field shared their perspectives on developing homegrown talent for a global audience—resulting in an ongoing conversation that encompasses financial literacy and technology, brand identity and intellectual property, and fashion design and production. 

From intimate mentorship sessions for emerging designers to panel discussions with established creatives, there was no shortage of insights traded among the conference’s attendees. While the conference concluded on the 19th, the PHx Station, which hosts a variety of Filipino designs for viewing and purchase, will operate until early next year. 

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