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Local designers give mixed reactions to Rabiya Mateo’s national costume at Miss U prelims

By Brooke Villanueva Published May 14, 2021 5:35 pm

Filipino designers had mixed reactions to Rabiya Mateo’s overall look at the recently-concluded national costume competition of the 69th Miss Universe.

The country’s very own Miss U bet wore a Rocky Gathercole number inspired by the Philippine flag. The design council headed by Albert Andrada ended up completing it due to the designer’s unfortunate passing in March. 

Here’s what fashion experts thought of the creation, which featured red and blue colors as well as three shining stars.

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Michael Leyva, who has designed gowns for stars like Kris Aquino, said the piece fit the beauty queen perfectly. “The Filipina beauty is well-represented, fierce yet gentle. Rabiya wore it with confidence and sophistication,” he told PhilSTAR L!FE, adding that he particularly loved her wings. “I can’t wait to see the Miss Universe crown on her.” 

While Noel Crisostomo—Filipino-Canadian designer and creative director of Queen Street West—thought Rabiya did well, he expected so much more from the costume. “In my opinion, if she was wearing a two-piece beaded bikini and showed off more her curves, it would have lightened up the whole look,” he said. “I don’t know if they had a fitting of all the components together because from what I heard, the headdress for it was too big, that’s why it wasn’t used. Those issues, editing and fit, were overlooked.” But above all, he stressed that what matters is “Rabiya looked beautiful and she is doing and giving us 110% effort,” he continued. “I am quite positive that she can bring home our fifth Miss Universe crown.”

“I suspect the supposed missing headpiece carried the sunrays element because it is obvious to almost all Pinoys that there is a missing element somewhere in a flag-inspired costume,” said Eric Pineda, fashion and wardrobe consultant to Miss Earth, who has also made ternos for beauty queens like Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss World 2013 Megan Young. The  designer added that he also had a problem with the costume itself. “Nagmumukha tayong poor copycat of the Latinas. We can never beat them in that department. What we should do is to celebrate our being Asian or East-meets-West identity.” 

Fashion designer and stylist Monika Ravanera, who has put together various looks for Rabiya and Miss Universe Philippines runner-up Bella Ysmael in the past, thought the design team could have gone easier on the details. “I’m not a big fan of its proportion. The wings overwhelmed Rabiya’s little body frame—she could have used smaller and lighter wings. White or a lighter-colored swimsuit should have been considered, too, to break the strong blue and red-colored wings.” She, however, pointed out that Rabiya “carried the 21-kilo wings on her shoulders as lightly as she can with so much grace. This is Rocky Gathercole’s obra before his passing. This is a tribute to his artistry. He must be clapping up there as he saw Rabiya walk on stage.”

For renowned designer Rajo Laurel (who has created a gown for Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters and more), Rabiya’s prelims look was powerful, innovative, and fresh. “I haven’t seen our national costume represented like this ever! She’s like a modern-day superhero,” he said. All projects have room for improvement, but Rajo particularly chose to highlight the positive. “For now, we all need to rally and cheer our candidate towards positive encouragement.” 

The national costume tilt was held on Friday, May 14. Find out how you can vote for your favorite outfit below:

Photographs from the subjects' Instagram pages