2 Pinoys to compete in Asian fashion designer search

Text and photos by Angelo G. Garcia

Posted at Apr 03 2017 05:30 PM

Jerome Tayao

Maria Esmeralda Palaganas

Tayao's design was inspired by the coral reefs of Coron

Palaganas' winning design was inspired by the rice terraces of Ifugao

Maria Esmeralda Palaganas and Jerome Tayao

Jerome Tayao (third from left) and Maria Esmeralda Palaganas (third from right) with competition judges

MANILA – Two young Filipinos were recognized as best in class for their works in a recent competition for fashion designers. 

Jerome Tayao, 21, and Maria Esmeralda Palaganas, 23, bested 50 other participants at the Philippine leg of AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search 2017 held last Saturday at Edsa Shangri-La hotel. 

The two will face off with designers from nine other countries in the ASEAN region in August at the Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week Ready to Wear (KLFW RTW) in Malaysia.

KLFW RTW founder Andrew Tan headed the selection of Filipino representatives with AirAsia Philippines head of crewing Hannah Serrano, FashionValet head of marketing Veen Dee Tan, One Mega vice president and creative director Suki Salvador, and local fashion designer Anthony Ramirez.

“This year, we had so many potential Philippine young designers. I’m actually very excited, I mean emotionally, I just felt like I wish we can have more winners. I’m excited what I see from the Philippines,” Tan said. 

The Philippines has yet to win the AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search since joining in 2016. This year will prove to be a challenge as more countries, namely Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, will also have representatives in the competition.

This year’s grand winner will receive 150,000 AirAsia Big Points, P280,000 fund to produce a capsule collection to be sold at the online shop fashionvalet.com, a six-page spread in AirAsia’s in-flight magazine Travel3Sixty, a mentorship from the KLFW RTW team, and a confirmed slot to showcase a full collection at KLFW RTW 2018.

“At the end of the day, KL Fashion Week is all about ready-to- wear. So the most important things are wearability and marketability. The designs of these two fall firmly on those two categories,” Tan said. 

“AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search is opening doors to young designers to come on board. It’s a rare chance for them to be able to be given this opportunity.”


Tayao, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of the Philippines, presented a colorful design inspired by the coral reefs of Coron. 

He admitted that he has yet to actually see the reefs, but his dream of traveling to this hot tourist destination is the reason why he chose it as an inspiration.

“The strength of my collection is I will literally put my inspiration on my garment. My inspiration is corals and fishes, turning them into patches and appliques and sticking them on the garment,” he said.

Tayao plans to use various fabrics like knitted cotton, neoprene and mikado for his designs. Playing on a layered concept, he will use bold colors in modern and classic silhouettes.

A former Architecture student, Tayao started designing in high school, creating costumes for class productions. Transferring courses proved to be his best decision as he instantly fell in love with fashion design. 

His family, friends, and teachers believe in him so much that it was the school director who signed him up for the competition. He only had one week to finish his whole concept.

“My preparation period was very short because it came at a very short notice. I only had one week because the directress of our school told me she signed me up without my knowledge,” Tayao said.


Palaganas, on the other hand, took a total of two weeks to finish her design. She drew inspiration from the rice terraces of Ifugao, a favorite family vacation spot. 

She said that all of her designs feature traditional Filipino silhouettes, but with a modern twist.

“I’m from Bulacan but every summer we go up to the Cordilleras, so it was really the terraces that inspired me for fabrication. It was my goal to make traditional silhouettes of the Philippines and make it a bit more contemporary,” she said.

Palaganas graduated from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and originally wanted to pursue a career in business, but in the fashion industry. It was her mom’s advice and the creative side of fashion design that pulled her to becoming a designer. She looks up to Belgian designer Dries Van Noten as her fashion icon.

“I really wanted to go into business but I knew if I graduated with a business course, I’ll be in fashion. I just don’t know what I’m going to do, but I think I’m going to enjoy fashion,” she said. 

“But my mom told me, ‘if you’re going into business, you’re going into fashion, why not specialize in it? So that’s why I took fashion and design,” she explained.

Palaganas’ designs are modern with a hint of old world charm. Her color palette is dominated by green and black. 

Tulle, chiffon, and neoprene are her fabrics of choice, and she adds movement to the garments using fringe details.