IN PHOTOS: Exhibit, fashion show, book trace evolution of Filipiniana

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Feb 25 2020 05:30 AM | Updated as of Feb 25 2020 06:51 PM

Gown by Pitoy Moreno. Leah C. Salterio

Gown by Pitoy Moreno. Leah C. Salterio

Gown by Richard Papa. Leah C. Salterio

Gown by Peter Lim. Leah C. Salterio

Gown by Dita Sandico. Leah C. Salterio

Gown by Tony Cajucom. Leah C. Salterio

Gown by Gerry Sunga. Leah C. Salterio

Gown by Ricci Lizaso. Leah C. Salterio

Peri Diaz creation. Leah C. Salterio

Renee Salud gowns. Leah C. Salterio

Renee Salud gowns. Leah C. Salterio

Philip Torres creations. Leah C. Salterio

Lito Perez creations. Leah C. Salterio

Steve de Leon gown. Leah C. Salterio

MANILA -- The evolution of Filipiniana fashion was masterfully presented in the recent fashion exhibition, “Obra Maestra 2020: Homage to Heritage,” by veteran fashion impressario Zardo Austria, last February 20 at the Shangri-La Plaza. 

Curated by Austria with designers Lito Perez and Mike Guizon, the event featured top Filipino fashion designers who took centerstage and bared their creations. 

The gala fashion show coincided with the exhibit’s ceremonial ribbon cutting that served as a prelude to the grand launch of the coffeetable book, “Obra Maestra: Evolution of Filipiniana Fashion,” by Austria.

“To be honest, after I co-produced and conceptualized ‘Marawing Salamat – The Best of Opera and Fashion for Marawi’ staged at the CCP Main Theater last April 2018, my real dilemma was how I would be able to surpass its high level of ingenuity and its huge turnout of guests,” Austria said. 

“'Marawing Salamat’ was monumental in terms of local production standards with a trendsetting idea that combined the big names in opera and fashion. Amazingly, we did it again in ‘Obra Maestra: Homage to Heritage.’”

After the staging of “Marawing Salamat” in 2018, Austria was inspired to document the collections of the fashion designers whom he personally selected and invited to join the Marawi show.

“My concept was challenging – relive the pomp and pageantry of Carnival Queens,” Austria said. “They should base their total look from terrestrial goddesses – The Goddess of Sea, The Goddess of Fire and Metal and the Celestial Goddess.

“The idea of Carnival Queens hit me because it actually started the Filipinos’ penchant for beauty pageantry. The Americans knew our weakness for festivities and beauty queens and this was their way of finally establishing a harmonious relationship with the Filipinos after years of bloodshed and uprisings under their colonial regime. The period of the Carnival Queens was the perfect template of the Peacetime years.”

As Austria went along, he felt the need to broaden the scope so he could tie it up with our cultural heritage and history. Hence, he developed a new concept: Tracing the evolution of the Filipiniana fashion in modern context.

“I was fortunate to meet Mario Feir, a certified bibliophile who owns a vast collection of Filipiniana materials he bought from auctions in the US and around the world,” Austria said. “He provided me exclusively with vintage photos I needed for the book and magazine, while I set up numerous fashion pictorials to capture stylized interpretations of the various eras as created by the designers.”
He was very pleased with the outcome of the coffeetable book, “Obra Maestra – A Portrait of Excellence in Philippine Fashion and Culture,” as well as the magazine, “Noble Ideas… To Aspire and Inspire.”

“I put out the samples of both publications during the launch in the exhibit venue and the guests were highly impressed,” Austria said. “They will be out by May in time for the grand launch and gala.”

Some of the biggest names in Philippine fashion design showcased the iterations of the quintessential Filipino look in the “Obra Maestra” fashion show and exhibit. Modern interpretations of the Filipiniana were presented at the Shangri-La Plaza Grand Atrium.

Participating designers were Renee Salud, Dita Sandico, Richard Papa, Roland Lirio, Steve de Leon, Delby Bragais, Peri Diaz, Albert Figueroa, Peter Lim, Ricci Lizaso, Glenn Lopez, Oskar Peralta, Edgar Madamba, Jontie Martinez, Jerome Navarro, Joyce Penas-Pilarsky, Lito Perez, Edgar San Diego, Gerry Sunga, Philip Torres, Edwin Uy and the late Eddie Baddeo. The creations of the designers were donned by fashion muses and not professional models.

“Obra Maestra 2020” was originally slated last September 2019. However, the passing of designer Eddie Baddeo, who was part of the fashion team, prevented the organizers from pushing through with the event. 

Baddeo’s demise was the “major blow,” according to Austria.

“I have nurtured Eddie as a fashion designer and friend for a long time,” Austria said. “When he was an upstart, I was promoting him extensively, the same way I’ve been helping all the other participating designers of the ‘Obra Maestra’ in their careers.

Austria even invented a catchy tag for Baddeo so people would readily remember him – Bad, Bad Baddeo, the Bad Boy of Fashion. 

“In my past fashion critiques as a fashion columnist of Daily Globe, Metro Magazine and Woman Today, I would unabashedly hail him as the ‘the fashion’s enfant terrible.’ That was, way back in the ‘80s – long before John Galliano laid claim to the title. His passing on was a big blow to me personally.”

Before Baddeo’s death, two other participating designers had heart problems. One underwent a major procedure and fully recovered later. The other was confined at the intensive care unit and, fortunately, is now released and recuperating. 

“With the quick succession of negative occurrences, I felt the time was not ripe for the exhibit, the launch and the gala show. My gut feel was right,” Austria said.

“Obra Maestra” fashion show displayed a rich blend of artistry, a celebration of the vibrant cultural heritage of Filipinos, where we come from and trace our roots. Even the music was traditional kundiman songs and rendered by noted singers – tenor Sherwin Sozon and soprano Tonton Pascual of the Lyric Opera of the Philippines, with Mike Austria, Al Gatmaitan, Homer Mendoza, Vince Conrad and Kathy Hipolito Mas.

The fashion exhibition featured highly-stylized couture creations inspired from pre-colonial times, then segued to the Spanish and American colonial eras and leading to the post-war, Liberation years that eventually sealed the rise of the male fashion designer. These were the golden years of Philippine fashion represented by the Big 4: National Artist for Fashion Design Ramon Valera, Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, Ben Farrales and Aureo Alonzo. 

With fashion director Nathan de Leon, “Obra Maestra” was a resounding success, based from the positive feedback that the organizers received from the guests of the exhibit and the audience of the cultural fashion show.

“I couldn’t ask for more,” Austria said. “I’ve been in the fashion business both as a chronicler and promoter for almost four decades and I would expect myself to be ‘jaded’ by this time. And yet, we, in the creative team, have surprised even ourselves in terms of artistic outputs.”

Austria believes the success of the exhibit and cultural fashion show lies in its strong concept and script, the overall creative and show direction, the individual talents of the participating designers and performers, and a creative team enlivened by the event’s mission and purpose. 

“It’s a wonderful collaboration of the best minds in music and fashion circles," he said.

Proceeds of “Obra Maestra” will benefit the construction of the Benedictine Sisters Reparatrices of the Sacred Hearts, a new monastery and chapel in Mexico, Pampanga. The exhibit also aims to raise funds for the Duyog Marawi Project, spearheaded by Bishop Edwin de la Pena and the Redemptorist Missionaries, as well as the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption.