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You’ve got to hand it to Freeway for having the balls to pull off the National Artist series, and quite successfully, too, I might add. While I normally veer off from mainstream or shopping at the mall except for the basics, I honestly feel pretty darn happy when I get to wear something inspired by the works of a National Artist. And how Freeway has designed the series! The clothes are certified classics in so many ways that I’m pretty sure they will endure trends that come and go. I already own something from the Ang Kiukok collection and I plan on buying a red dress from their Jose Villa Garcia one. I even have a boyfriend shirt from their sister company, Solo, when they launched the Larry Alcara series. Their latest, the Ramon Valera collection, did not disappoint. But you have to see it and fit it, to be believed, because I think the clothes are more impressive on actual people than when I just see them on the rack or on pictures. Tomorrow, October 15, they will be available on Freeway (and The Row, of course) branches, but they held an advanced viewing of sorts last Tuesday so let me share with you some photos of the event.
Two things that make The Row (with brands Solo, Freeway and Ensembles) quite close to my heart: firstly, their shops are always well-lit, and I think their choice of design, wallpaper and furniture for the most part is interesting (I’m just sucker for damask and vintage frames, I suppose). Secondly, they don’t skimp on packaging. Your purchases, like this press kit above, are usually packed in brown paper bags with beautiful printing and even the tags are conceptualized quite well. I’ve been a multimedia artist and designer most of my life, so I appreciate attention to those details. I gush over good typography and layout even on clothing tags.
Tessa Prieto, hostess for the night, interviewing the special guests: people related to the late designer and those who have worked with him. Aureo Alonzo, Nick Legazpi Jr., Peching Zulueta Gomez. And yes, that’s Mrs. Imelda Marcos you spy on the little left center.
I’m frustrated because there were four or five outfits that really wowed me but I wasn’t able to get clear shots of them! They happened to be my favortes from the show, not just in terms of design but also how they were styled. Let’s hope my sister got some of them and will post them on her blog soon. The models were beautifully made up to look like updated 50-60s chic. (I have a lot of shots of the chinita model, she was wearing some of the best ones in the collection, in my opinion).
Another thing that this series did good: I was familiarized with Ramon Valera’s work. I’m a little embarrassed that I know almost nothing of him, just a vague mention some few years ago when I first heard about the National Artist awards opening up a category for Fashion in 2006. He was the country’s first to have received the honor. I was so impressed at how the event was handled, and so enthralled with the little history lesson that night, that I decided then and there to make him the subject of an upcoming article for The Philippine Online Chronicles, since I am assigned a designer spotlight this month.
Definitely one of the highlights of the event was the short tête à tête with Mrs. Imelda Marcos, who proved herself charming and gracious; I could see how she got to be a congresswoman now. I told my sister I once spied Mrs. Marcos doing her shopping in Divisoria and she made my head turn because I wondered who the towering lady was. It took a few seconds for her signature butterfly sleeves and upstyle to sink in before I recognized her. My sister said that she was definitely one of Valera’s favorite patrons, just his type: beautiful and tall. If you saw the Valero exhibit that day, you wouldn’t be surprised. The designs on display were meant to be shown off by such women.
It was said that Valero always went for the beautiful. He didn’t want to be mainstream. His niece, Peching Zulueta Gomez shared to the audience what her uncle once said: “I don’t want to be popular. I want to be famous”. I don’t know what he would have thought of his work commemorated in such a way, but I for one, couldn’t be more thankful. I went home that night feeling good about the local arts, and finally discovering Ramon Valera’s works in this show (and accompanying exhibit in Glorietta 5). Special thanks to Ms. Mira Sagrado for inviting me to this wonderful event, and I hope, that when people come to Freeway, they will adore the collection as much as I do.
If my balikbayan friends went home, I’d definitely recommend them to drop by The Row, seeing as most of them are designers and artists as well, and I know they will appreciate a piece of home–inspired by a National Artist no less!–to take back with them.