How Pinoy ex-janitor became 'designer of the stars'

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez,

Posted at Jun 14 2014 09:33 AM | Updated as of Jun 16 2014 05:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the glitz and glamour of the global fashion world, one Filipino designer never fails to look back at his humble roots in the province of Camarines Sur.

Avel Bacudio, who was born to a family with 9 siblings, said he grew up not having the privileges that he enjoys today as a fashion designer.

“Pati mga T-shirt at uniform, kailangan ko muna paglumaan. Hindi ako nakakagamit ng bago,” he said on “My Puhunan.”

As a young boy, Bacudio said he had to sell “malunggay” and bonnets knitted by his siblings. He recalled that on one rainy day, he waded in a puddle of mud with his hands raised just to make sure his goods were kept dry.

“Hindi madali maging mahirap pero ang sarap maging mahirap, lalo na kung nararamdaman mo ‘yung kailangan mo magsikap kasi ang pinagdaanan mo iba,” he said.

Bacudio went to Manila to work as a janitor for a fast food chain, and had to put his dreams of being a fashion designer on hold.

He made a small step towards that dream when he was 17, when he was hired as an assistant of a department store owner.

When he was not making coffee for his boss, Bacudio would take down notes and observed the operations of designers at the department store.

Avel Bacudio

Bacudio’s big break came when he was eventually named head fashion designer of the department store.

His designs gained recognition in the industry, despite not having any formal training in fashion design.

But Bacudio’s string of good projects came to a stop after one of his fashion shows failed.

The humbling experience pushed Bacudio to look back at his life in the province and reflect on his mistakes.

He opened a new shop and opted to live a simple life away from the limelight. The limelight, however, found Bacudio as he was again hired as head designer of a clothing line.

These days, Bacudio is known as the “designer of the stars,” designing gowns for the likes of actress and TV host Kris Aquino and ABS-CBN president Charo Santos-Concio.

His works have also reached the runways of New York, Tokyo, Paris and Milan.

In 2014, he was named Most Influential Designer of the Year by Mercedes Benz.

Despite all the recognition, Bacudio said he has not forgotten to look back at his humble beginnings.

“Kung saan ako nanggaling, kailangan kong balikan ulit. Lahat may rason kung bakit naging mahirap. Hindi naman siguro akong magiging Avel ngayon kung hindi ko pinagdaanan ‘yung paghihirap na ‘yun,” he said.