For Visayas-based designers Jann Bungcaras, Ericka Celiz, Zarlien Delgado, and Robert Andrew Hiyas, craft is a medium for expressions of love.
Iloilo City lies at the heart of the Philippines—the country’s geographical center. It’s why it’s been nicknamed the “City of Love.” It’s only natural, then, that designers would learn to give love form. Such an abstract thing, it’s made tactile, fashioned to wrap around and drape over the body.
This is what Zarlien Delgado has come to know from a young age. Craft is a learned technique passed down to her from her grandmother, a seamstress with decades of experience. This wisdom is translated into Delgado’s contemporary silhouettes, expertly tailored to the female form. Similarly, Ericka Celiz attributes her eye for beauty to her grandmother, too, whose simple gesture of handing her a newspaper clipping of haute couture would lead her to pursue a career in fashion design. In her creations, love is meant to be worn literally, with a hand-painted heart worn on a collar.
For the two designers based elsewhere in Visayas, the medium is the message. Jann Bungcaras advocates for love for the planet, using storytelling in design and upcycling to keep textile waste out of landfills, while Robert Andrew Hiyas uses his creations to spark conversation on gender and sexuality, bridging traditional aesthetics with his experience of growing up queer.
For its November issue, Vogue Philippines takes a survey across the Philippine islands to discover the work of the designers of our times. Below, discover the four talents that hail from Visayas.
Jann Bungcaras (Cebu and Southern Leyte)
Jann Bungcaras has been an eco-sustainable designer all his life. Like most Filipino households, his family in Saint Bernard maximized function by mending, restyling, handing down, downcycling, and upcycling all clothes and sacks. It was simply a way of life until deforestation buried the small town under a mudslide. Bungcaras knew he had to do something to save the environment; however, fashion design didn’t come up until after he sustained an injury that paved the way for his purpose. His namesake brand upcycles only textiles from landfills. Using storytelling he learned from the Himatagon, he creates an emotional attachment between the pieces and their owners so they keep them for life—and out of the landfills. In 2020, he was the first Filipino to win a Redress Design Award, the biggest sustainable fashion competition in the world. As inclusivity is in step with sustainability, he co-founded Perfetto Model Management, a representation for high fashion queer and ally models.
Ericka Celiz (Iloilo)
Hailing from the City of Love, Ericka Celiz broke into the fashion industry with a hand-painted heart worn on a collar, and won the 2021 Iloilo New Breed Fashion Design Challenge with it. Celiz says it’s a passion that’s typical of Ilonggas; “My hometown is a beautiful place full of artistic people.” Cartoon mermaids trained her eye for beauty while the visionary John Galliano—introduced by a newspaper clipping given by her grandmother as a child—opened her eyes to all the possibilities. Delving in avant-garde experimentation and costume design, Celiz’s creations are a labor of love for texture, fabric manipulation, and structure.
Zarlien Delgado (Iloilo)
Creating beautiful clothes is a family affair for the women in Zarlien Delgado’s family. The way she drapes the feminine form shows decades of experience perfected by her grandmother, a seamstress, and taught to her since she was a child. In 2019, Delgado struck out on her own and opened Tabas Iloilo. It wasn’t until this year that she became a household name throughout the region when she bested more experienced designers at the 2023 Iloilo New Breed Fashion Challenge, and has since become a go-to for figure-flattering gowns that highlight a woman’s femininity. In her atelier, she whips up empowering contemporary silhouettes with traditional techniques.
Robert Andrew Hiyas (Cebu)
The dogma of conservative religion in Danao has set Robert Andrew Hiyas free. He got tongues wagging about his collection “Trans/(f)igure,” depicting his musings growing up as a queer child—a church choir member, at that—with the Catholic imagination. “My design practice draws inspiration from reflections on socio-cultural constructs like gender and sexuality,” Hiyas says, and he elaborates this with craftsmanship sparked by watching the female artisans behind Danao’s famous rattan furniture. Getting people talking means he can start a conversation, and Hiyas is set to question the status quo as we know it.
DESIGNERS OF OUR TIMES
By MARBBIE TAGABUCBA. Photographs by BORGY ANGELES. Styling by DARYL CHANG. Introduction by CHELSEA SARABIA. Makeup: Angeline Dela Cruz. Hair: Miggy Carbonilla. Models: Lulu Eslao of Luminary Models, Martha Raagas of Luminary Models, Siobhan Moylan. Nails: Extraordinail. Producer: Anz Hizon. Photographer’s Assistant: Pao Mendoza. Stylist’s Assistants: Neil De Guzman, Ticia Almazan, Renee De Guzman. Makeup Assistant: Jian Santos. Hair Assistant: John Dave Villalino. Interns: Sophia Lanawan, Jill Santos, Allyson Nibungco. Shot on location at Ito Kish Cafe. Special thanks to Ito Kish