Filipino designers shine in London charity show

by Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Mar 13 2012 09:23 AM | Updated as of Mar 14 2012 05:55 PM

LONDON - A handful of talented Filipino fashion designers from around the world wowed the crowd at a society fundraising event by a UK-based philanthropic group.

Prospero World presented the first ever London Philippine Fashion Show in aid of the Ayala Foundation, a non-profit organization aiming to provide solutions to poverty issues in the Philippines.

Held at the trendy Victoria House Basement in Holborn, the event featured eye-catching designs of haute couture, cocktail dresses, evening gowns, and unique accessories.

Designers and brands on show included Jasper Garvida, Bergamo, Cary Santiago, Celestina, Federico de Vera, Josie Natori Couture, Joyce Makitalo, Jun Escario, Lesley Mobo, Lulu Tan Gan, Mich Dulce, Michael Cinco, Pepito Albert, Rajo Laurel, Randy Ortiz, Silk Cocoon, and Wynn Wynn Ong.

“It was fabulous and well-attended by the elite crowd,” said Michael Cinco, a Dubai-based couture designer best known for his elegant luxurious designs popular with Arab royals and Filipino celebrities, and championed by supermodel Tyra Banks on television series ‘America’s Next Top Model’.

“This is a very good platform, especially for us designers who are not based in Manila, and showing here in London, such a beautiful and vibrant city for fashion designers like us. I’m very happy to part of this event, and it’s for charity,” Cinco added.

High society

The charity fashion event was attended by distinguished guests from the worlds of finance, business and fashion, who seemed enthralled by the designs on show, providing regular outbursts of gasps and cheers as models walked on the runway.

Princess Marie Chantal and Prince Pavlos of Greece were also in attendance, as well as British author Toby Young, and BBC ‘Antiques Roadshow’ presenter Philip Mould.

Philippine Tatler Editor Anton San Diego and Manila Bulletin Creative Consultant Melo Esguerra flew in from Manila especially for the event.

“There are a lot of business moguls, global taste makers and influencers, it speaks so much how this event is well-received by the global community,” observed Esguerra.

“I find it to be a blessed and privileged position to be in London right now, watching the showcase of the best of the Philippines, the best of designers, that actually sends a message to the world that Philippine style is so distinct and world class.”

The event raised approximately £112,000 on the night from tickets and donations, as well as auctions of antiques, fashion items, and trips to Asia.

Fernando Ayala de Zobel from the Ayala Corporation was at the event to lend his support to his family’s foundation. He told ABS-CBN Europe: “The audience seemed to enjoy seeing all the designs from the Philippines, so I’m very happy with the way it turned out. We’re always very willing when other groups try to help the Philippines. Our designers were always very generous with their time. When the Filipino community get together in these countries, they’re always very generous. All of that attracts people to our country, and to be in a fashion capital like London is a great opportunity to showcase the great talent that we have in the Philippines.”

Good education

Proceeds will go towards an educational project by the Ayala Foundation. Launched in 1998, Centex aims to provide high quality education to bright students from the poorest backgrounds. It currently works with two state schools in Manila and Batangas, and has consistently topped rankings for the National Achievement Tests in the Philippines.

“We really hope that these children will get into the best universities and share their knowledge. It’s important to have great mentors, that’s why I really believe in this project,” enthused Alicia Motte-Munoz, one of the ‘sponsored models’, a group of 12 business professionals who raised funds for the charity by strutting alongside professional models on the catwalk.

“I’m half-Filipina, half-French, and I really believe in education, and so when they asked me to become one of their models and help them fundraise, I found it very difficult to say no, and so I thought I’d beat my stage-fright and give a hand.”

Ayala de Zobel revealed that the event already raised a guaranteed P8 million for Centex after costs have been deducted.

Discovering Philippines

The London Philippine Fashion Show was organized by Prospero World, a London-based philanthropy consultancy firm advising groups and individuals on the most effective way to do charity.

Prospero World Director Zita Schutt came up with the idea after a research trip in the Philippines in 2010, where she was exposed to the difficult circumstances of impoverished Filipinos.

Whilst in the country, Schutt was encouraged by a friend to visit Makati where she discovered a whole new world of Filipino fashion designs.

“We had a look and we were so amazed because we didn’t expect that,” she recalled.

“A year later, when we were talking to NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) in London, they said people don’t know anything about the Philippines. They don’t know about the amazing creations, and about the fun that people have. And we wanted to give them that. Let’s change their minds, and let’s give those children that we saw to make a huge difference to their communities.”

She concluded: “I really want people to have an amazing time, to see the dresses, to help the kids, to go to Philippines on holiday, and to embrace this place.”