(Philippines Re-Designed is my collection of Facebook notes / thoughts about how to improve the Philippines’ tourism and design scene).
The Cherry Gil Moment
(You are nothing but a second-rate trying hard, copy cat!)
by Kristian Cruz
The grumblings are now more audible from an increasing number of my ‘creative’ friends: Why is there no discernible Filipino fashion style?
Based on what we’ve seen time and again during Philippine Fashion Week, what we are reduced to are copies of what the European fashion shows are doing. A year ago, I would have been upset by this. Maybe it’s just the freshness of 2011, but I am less bothered by it. Why? Because, I am slowly realizing that we can never find a definitive Filipino fashion style because we can never find a definitive Filipino broader cultural national identity in the first place. Ouch, right?
Let’s break this down. I don’t think we’ll ever find a Filipino national identity because of two things (which are not new propositions):
1) Because of our mix of colonial influences, can we ever untangle the knots?
2) Because of 7,000 plus islands, can we really expect a single land mass identity?
So, instead of trying to unearth what’s truly Filipino fashion, either by digging from the past (think, aboriginal) or by overly exotic-izing a perceived tribal-ness (think, use of exotic materials), can we, for one second, think that perhaps we already have one, that’s right under our noses?
Who? What? Where? How? Why?
Well… I am proposing that maybe we are too stuck on some sort of cultural nostalgia, fantasizing about a cultural past that either does not exist or is too far away, like the time of the Malay ‘balangays’ (tribal boats). Filipino Fashion Style exists. But to find it, we have to zoom in on the Present, instead of the Past. Zoom in even closer, Filipino Fashion exists at the town level, in cities that still project a certain cultural visual distinctness. If we follow this logic, we come to the conclusion that we actually have several present-time Filipino Fashion Identities, each represented by a different city.
There will never be a SINGLE Filipino fashion identity. Because, that will mean choosing one over another and if we do that, we disrespect the 2 reasons I mentioned above. It will disrespect our mixed history and our varied geography.
Before I give examples of its present-day incarnations, let’s disregard the major modern city street examples: the jeans + shirt look, the Korean hair look, the designer-label socialite look, etc. Every global city has this (maybe not the Korean hair). These modern day urban global-local incarnations are not unique to the Philippines. What I am trying to look for are town-city styles that have enough visual distinctness AND are actually worn in day-to-day real life… just like the hip boleros, capes and bowler hats worn by the Peruvians (super chic !!!). So, here’s my rough incomplete list:
– the mixed wool knit hats, candy-colored.
– worn with severely distressed soiled motorcycle jackets,
– the use of pink sweaters by men combined with another pastel color, such as a blue distressed blazer
– on women, the draping of dresses, on top of another dress, then another to carry the baby on a sling
2) certain towns in Mindanao
– not the stereotypical Muslim folk dance attire, but the use of tunics by men and women, on their everyday dealings
– the use of a looser pant on men
– the use of fur-like dried grass hats, to shield them from the rain
– the use of shirt collages (shirts sewn from different shirts)
– the Filipino cowboy-look (yes, there are cowboys in Masbate)
The next question is: Now that we know that a Filipino Fashion Identity exists (albeit fractured and varied), what now? What’s the benefit?
Well, for designers, they can perhaps use these as springboards for inspiration (so they can stop copying from the Japanese and have the gullible Philippine press celebrate blindly celebrate them as avant-garde). For the normal 9-5 person, the straw hats may not work but maybe the Sagada use of pink sweaters under a manly blazer can work. Or maybe, it doesn’t really have a pragmatic aspect to it and that’s ok. I guess all of this is just for argument: That, we do have a Filipino Fashion Identity. It’s just not in the cities, but in our provinces.
If you want to look for it in the major cities like Bulacan, Cebu or Manila, forget about it. If you really want to force the issue, I will go look for it in Quiapo or Tondo. Last year, I saw a tricycle driver wearing a jacket, primitively cut short up to the elbow area, to reveal a long sleeved shirt underneath, then having motorcyle gloves with the finger areas cut to expose the skin. It was one of the chic-est things I’ve seen in Manila.
Chic-er than the socialite Manila guy wearing a white shirt with suspenders, cropped brown shorts with black leather boots while holding a designer bag, wearing a Mad Men hat, then blog about it and call it ‘a look that I created.’ To say you created it is quite a stretch my friend, just check out the H&M catalog a few years ago. Dude, all I can tell you is: Google the word ‘hubris.’ The Ifugaos in Sagada have 300x more style than you. Why? Because they know the difference between having style vs. buying style.