MANILA -- (UPDATE) The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic had sent shivers even to the fashion industry. Fashion designers were left with no choice but to downsize their teams. Worse, some are even closing their ateliers, sending sewers, cutters and beaders to unemployment.
The inevitable was apparently felt even by noted fashion designers whose prominent clients range from beauty queens and showbiz stars to politicians and socialites.
It is for this reason a group of fashion designers was recently compelled to stage a digital fashion show, “New Normal: Fashion for Healing,” to start lifting up the fashion industry and keep the business alive.
It was designer Randy Ortiz who initially brought up the idea of doing something beneficial for the fashion industry, when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) started.
After Zoom meetings and Messenger video conversations involving noted fashion show and events director Jackie Aquino, Philippine Daily Inquirer editor Thelma Sioson-San Juan, PR maven Annie Ringor, CEO of Protacio Hospital Marco Protacio, marketing specialist Pen Roque, and Ortiz, “New Normal: Fashion for Healing” was conceptualized.
“We all realized how affected the fashion industry is,” said Aquino. “The industry was really hit hard with a lot of jobs at stake for some designers. We really felt we all had to do something.”
The Zoom and Messenger meetings were the easy part. “Like everyone in quarantine, you need some form of human interaction,” he said. “What started from ‘Hello’ progressed into what positive changes we can initiate.”
The designers were sent messages via text, Viber or Messenger. All of them were readily receptive. “That was how we sent out the concept, invitation and recommendation on how they were supposed to shoot the videos,” Aquino said.
Designers who agreed to participate in “New Normal: Fashion for Healing” were invited to submit a design shot in his studio, home or work area. The main message is to “Buy/Save Filipino.” The designers got a model to wear their specific and particular look in this new normal.
“In the end, it was still the designer’s personal artistic shot that resulted in the final product,” Aquino said. “In turn, the designers sent us their finished videos through e-mail, Messenger or Whatsapp.”
“We all have no income at this point,” Aquino pointed out. “We will find a way to re-invent our businesses by moving forward. E-commerce is the best option for now.”
More Zoom meetings with Aquino’s production team and his “dearest friends” allowed him to finish the project. “With the wisdom of all those around me and my JCA Productions team who put everything together, ‘New Normal: Fashion for Healing’ was born,” he offered.
A live fashion event was simply out of the question, so the social media proved to be the easiest way to reach out to a lot of people and instantly get their message across. The digital collection was uploaded into Aquino’s Facebook page and the participating designers in their respective Instagram accounts and on YouTube.
The video showed a cross section of designers from Manila, Cebu and Davao. Clearly, this is the first digital fashion effort of the local designers across the country for their “re-emergence, ray of hope and survival,” Aquino said.
Noted names included Randy Ortiz, Rhett Eala, Lesley Mobo, Mike de la Rosa, Lulu Tan-Gan, Philip Rodriguez, Albert Andrada, JC Buendia, Avel Bacudio and even accessories designer and model Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez.
There were also Joji Aguilar, Edgar Madamba, Vic Barba, Jun Escario, Ann Casas, Ariel Alvarez, Cherry Veric, Jan Garcia, Lagom by Ann Tuvera-Sardalla, Michael Raymond Tan, Nino Angeles, Pablo Cabahug, Joel Escober, OJ Hofer, Rob Ortega, Steph Tan and Yong Davalos.
Last May 31, Aquino and the designers had another Zoom meeting to discuss important matters that need to be done for the fashion industry.
Aquino is convinced the industry will continue to evolve amid this pandemic. “We will be producing what we call ‘back to basics,’” he stated. “Protective wear will be in demand and we still have a need to be fashionable in a manner dictated by the current climate that is simple, classic, functional and practical.”
Still, Aquino sees other designers being more part of their communities and working for the latter. “They can produce clothes for their neighbors and communities that surround them,” he said.
“It will take some time and we have to be ready for a lot of obstacles,” Aquino pointed out. “Sooner or later, we have to learn how to survive until a vaccine is discovered. But in the meantime, we all have to bravely move forward.”
Yet, for him, the best way to move forward is “one step at a time,” slowly, yet surely. “All of us in the industry are in a standstill, as we don’t know what the future brings,” Aquino said. “But there is strength in numbers. Together, we can. Together, we will.
“We have to find ways on how we can collectively help one another and be of service to the industry. That way, we can all help revive the fashion industry.”
Asked about what other suggestions he received from the fashion designers, Aquino readily offered, “They are all hoping for a Part 2, 3 and more!”