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How COVID ushered in relaxed, artisanal Philippine fashion

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 01, 2021 5:00 am

Looking at your closet today, dressing up to the nines seems such a distant memory. It’s almost like another person inhabited those clothes.

Just a quick review of 2019 fashion reveals pieces like belted blazers and structured body-con dresses, biker shorts, and the tightest skinny jeans. Requiring endless hours in the gym or a constricting girdle or Spanx, not to mention lots of prep time, these “hard” fashion trends seem to have disappeared in the pandemic fashion landscape. 

Even if you had all the time to work out, your body has been pampered by soft, loose clothing.  Even wired bras, the sales of which have gone down worldwide, is out of mind. And why is your closet even bursting with all these pieces, many of which you may have bought mindlessly or just because they were on sale?

With this new reality, a new consciousness has emerged where comfort is paramount and sustainability is key. There is also more focus on individuality, creativity and cultural expression, which all bodes well for Philippine fashion. 

Not only is buying local eco-friendly because of the low carbon footprint, but it also provides much-needed jobs during these difficult times when a sense of community is of utmost importance.

The pandemic has also made us more introspective, realizing what matters most: Quality over quantity, authenticity and pride in our roots.

Inspired leisure

Comfort need not be sloppy as Philippine designers know too well, mastering the art of leisurely tropical dressing through novel cuts that still flatter the figure without constricting movement. 

Dennis Lustico, who always makes women feel beautiful with his occasion wear, is just as thoughtful with his leisurewear, with interesting twists that add drama. 

Dennis Lustico’s Mirror tank top (via

Ivarluski Aseron brings his signature clean, architectural lines to pieces that are soothing to the eyes and forgiving to the overindulged lockdown body.Seph Bagasao also has structured, clean lines that can bring you “on a sensory voyage” through roomy, draped silhouettes with intrinsic details.

 Ivarluski Aseron’s Six top (via

Seph Bagasao also has structured, clean lines that can bring you “on a sensory voyage” through roomy, draped silhouettes with intrinsic details.

 Seph Bagasao’s draped and pleated ensemble (via @bagasaostudios)

Jun Escario’s separates may be for relaxing but, just like his gowns, they still have panache. 

Rosanna Ocampo knows what women want by designing pieces that are always feminine but with a coquettish touch, making even quarantine life brim with possibilities.

 Rosanna Ocampo’s Poppy top (via

Luxe resort

The caftan is probably a lady’s best friend, especially with all the lockdowns.  Even when forced to stay home, it gives the feeling of freedom and a resort vibe.

Alegre by Techie Hagedorn gets this mood down pat with light fabrics and joyous prints that call for yet another cocktail to celebrate.

 Alegre By Techie Hagedorn caftan ( via @techiehagedorn)

Jaggy Glarino, who wanted to “capture the feeling of exhilaration and comfort,” does so with interesting couture accents of pleating and a tuxedo bib that’s a sure hit for your next Zoom session or meeting out with friends. 

 Jaggy Glarino Anaya kaftan (via

Creative craft

Our skilled craftsmen can do amazing work that we sometimes take for granted until designers find new creative ways in both design and technique.

Bea Valdes and her team, who have elevated painstaking embroidery and beading with their intricate bags and jewelry for almost two decades, have done wondrous things with fabric, making bespoke ensembles that are easy to wear but have their trademark attention to detail from cut to embellishment.

 Bea Valdes Kidlat ensemble  (via @beavaldesdesign)

Lulu Tan Gan, who is another proponent of slow fashion and brings traditional craft to the modern era by combining her signature knits with piña, always evolves with the times and has created pandemic-friendly separates that are so versatile they can take you from home quarantine to resort and eveningwear.

 Lulu Tan Gan's Anna top  (via

Feanne’s wearable art pieces find their versatility in their reversibility, all featuring her elaborate illustrations of flora and fauna.  

 Feanne’s Kimono robe (via @feanne)

The free-spirited design process of Ha.Mu Studios results in some astonishingly wild ideas, like making hanky-cut fabric into a sculptural ensemble but executed with special attention to construction.

 Ha.Mu Studio’s Handkerchief dress (@_ha.mu_)

Paloma Urquijo Zobel’s Piopio line makes Philippine weaves relatable to the younger generation by playing on colors and patterns while honoring time-honored traditions of craftsmanship.

 Piopio handwoven top and trousers (@piopio_ph)

Cultural expression

Pride in our culture and history has never been as heartfelt, with designers reinterpreting our native costumes for the modern age. JC Buendia has made the terno everyday wear even for Gen-Z by updating the proportions, using digitized prints but adding couture embellishments like flower appliques.

 JC Buendia Terno top (via @jcbuendia_)

A desire to promote ethical fashion and a passion for embroidery resulted in Anna Marie Saguil’s Amarie line, which translates the barong into luxe leisure and resort wear.

 Amarie embroidered dresses (@amariebyanne)

Len Cabili has always been at the forefront of promoting Philippine culture and craft and is even one of the founding members of #DamaKoLahiKo, channeling her advocacy into supporting 26 indigenous groups all over the country to produce Filip+Inna’s handwoven wearable garments.

 Filip+Inna hand-woven top and trousers (via @filipinna)

Revival Dye works with the Itneg, an indigenous group from Abra in northwestern Luzon known for their abundant natural dye-producing materials and practices, as well as a rich culture, to create shift dresses embroidered with Itneg symbols.

 Revival Dye embroidered dresses (via @upche.costumemuseum)