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What does women’s empowerment in fashion look like?

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 02, 2022 5:00 am

The first thing I noticed when looking at Jill Lao creations was their simplicity because of the streamlined silhouettes. On second look, I saw the subtle creativity: the masterfully located cut-offs, a modern bustier with a draped ribbon, and the use of fine woven fabric. On my third look, I saw the designer’s vision and intention for her collection.

Jill Lao founded her label and brand in 2017. Her background includes a degree from the Parsons School of Design in New York and training in esteemed fashion houses like Oscar de la Renta and Marissa Webb. A homegrown brand, her clothes speak to the modern woman. Her pieces are described as “shaped by ideals of empowerment and freedom that strike the ideal balance between feminine and functional. They elevate the wardrobe with staples that the wearer can move, evolve, and live in.” There is an ease in their elegance.

Designer Jill Lao practices mindfulness in fashion using ethical practices.

Mindfulness in fashion is also a facet of the Jill Lao brand. Her creations take into consideration minimizing textile waste and carbon footprint. With intentional design, Jill makes sure that her clothes are timeless and made to last. Ethical standards are important in her atelier with regards to work and promotion of Philippine artisans. “The brand’s goal is to inspire a more mindful approach to fashion that invests in craft, connection, and community.”

Black and white: Amelia Cut-Out Trench Dress and Enola Back Vent Dress from Jill Lao’s Amelia collection, to be launched in a pop-up on the second floor of Power Plant Mall on March

Jill Lao will launch her Amelia collection in a pop-up on the second floor of the Power Plant Mall in Rockwell from March 3 to April 28. It is inspired by Amelia Earhart and Enola Holmes, and “pays homage to the female heroines of our time who’ve dared to defy convention and live life to their fullest.”

I spoke with the designer and picked her brain on her values and views when it comes to fashion, and details of her upcoming pop-up.

Back to black: Barby Tie Bustier and Rosa Skirt

THE PHILIPPINE STAR: How do you apply women’s empowerment and freedom in your creations?

JILL LAO: The way I design, I don’t want women to be constricted. Remember how in the olden days women were constricted by clothing, which included corsets? Even in the olden days of China, feet were bound so that women could not escape from their husbands who owned them. Gone too are the days of tiis ganda. Whatever we put on today has to be comfortable. Of course, we want to look great, but not sloppy. Clothes can be beautiful, elegant, using breathable fabrics, and with breathable silhouettes — and I think that’s very freeing. The very premise of being comfortable is empowerment.

Cool for summer: Donna Button Midi Dress by Jill Lao

What other ethical practices are cultivated and nurtured in your atelier or workplace?

One is making the most of fabrics. Our practice before was to make a design then apply it on the fabric. Now, when we purchase fabric, I think of what can be made out of it. So it’s the other way around. Some fabric widths are 48 inches, and some widths are 60 inches. I consider this in my designs for the maximum use of that fabric, so that nothing or very little goes to waste. It’s called zero-waste fashion. We are not there yet but working towards what is closest to it as possible. The only example of zero-waste when it comes to fabric is bed sheets because they are rectangular. Clothes don’t come in that shape but we do our best.

Pretty in pink: Jen Trapeze Blouse and Ginsburg Drawstring Pocket Skirt

We also support our team by knowing and understanding their specialties and their strengths. This is so that I can correctly assign a task that is their expertise. Binabagayan natin yung work to their skills. I consider this an ethical practice because it maximizes their talents. As a result, members of my team are happy because they are doing something they are good at. Quality standards are high and this encourages them to improve and grow and better themselves. If I can promote employees, then I can hire more people and grow my team. That is very fulfilling for me, especially with this pandemic when all hope for our industry seemed gone for a while.

Check mate: Ollie Organza Shirt by Jill Lao

You design for the modern woman. What is your target demographic in terms of age, profession, etc.?

Some of my customers are women who lunch, which is interesting because they want something very special. However, most of my customers work. They are in their late twenties, thirties and forties. These clients want clothes that are practical but not sloppy. My clients let me know what they do on a daily basis, which sometimes includes picking up their kids, doing the groceries, or going straight to work. They expect to look a certain way. They either own their own companies or work in a professional setting. They want something comfortable but also professional looking, stylish but comfortable.

Eye for eyelet: Paige Boy shirt and Bonnie Shorts

Your collection Amelia focuses on hope after the pandemic. Do you believe a designer such as yourself should always reference the current mood to be relevant?

I think so. If I don’t take something from the current events, it will be hard for people to relate to it. As a designer, my job is really to forge function and aesthetic, not just pleasing to the eye but it must work for whoever chooses to wear it.

Summer girl: Bralette and Debbie Drawstring Shorts

What is femininity in fashion to you and how is it expressed in your Amelia collection?

The collection is primarily dresses. We use a lot of light, airy, breezy fabrics like organza, cotton eyelet, and lace. These are feminine fabrics. Furthermore, these fabrics let light through. I describe the collection as quite hopeful and positive.

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To see more of Jill Lao’s creations, visit their website , Instagram , or contact her at email .