“Never have I seen a room so full of beautiful people.”
This is how Mr. Eli Gonzales, Chairperson of the Fashion Design and Technology program at iACADEMY, started off his speech. And I guess he was right. The Marquee at EDSA Shangri-La was packed with people last Wednesday, April 3, ranging from parents and special guests to fellow students, looking fashion show-ready.
“Fashion Forward” is iACADEMY’s biggest fashion show to date, partnering up with Panasonic Manila Fashion Festival 2019 in order to showcase their graduating Fashion Design students’ Project-Based Learning and theses looks.
The students were tasked to design outfits that would not only be innovative but sustainable as well. Senior high school student Latisha Tan said that it was “very challenging kasi it’s our first show as designers,” and that upon seeing their designs on the runway, “nakakaiyak… kasi we got to show na even if we’re just senior high school students, we were able to showcase our talent and also embrace sustainability.”
Eli Gonzales’s opening speech set the tone for the show, talking about his dream of changing lives with clothes, just as the Fairy Godmother did in Cinderella. In his message to the graduating class of 2019, he said, “Find [your] Cinderella. Design for them. Use fashion to transform their lives, bring joy, and perhaps, give a chance for them to succeed and find happiness.”
Then the show finally began, starting off with the senior high school students’ individual designs.
The first few looks were full of colorful, quirky pieces that made me want to go to a fiesta, pompoms, and flowers blurring across the runway. As the show went on, however, designs started to become more monochrome but refined, all the same, a number of sparkly numbers that were still entertaining.
There were a number of pieces that stood out to me, most especially Emanuel Riñoza’s two gowns, each with headpieces reminiscent of Alexander McQueen’s mask designs, just subdued. Although I’m no fashion expert, I’ve watched enough Project Runway to say that the construction of his dresses, at least from where I was seated, was top notch. The senior high school student noted that because he was exposed to beauty pageants when he was younger, he was inspired to create looks that would make women look beautiful.
There were also a few designs worn by some of iACADEMY’s ICONS, a number of students that I assumed have made quite an impact in the school. Each student wore monochrome looks, seeming to have formed some sort of a rainbow had they all lined up side by side.
The college students’ designs came next. The 6 students of the graduating class created 5 looks each, collections infused with each of their distinct styles.
Most of the collections, although unique in their own ways, were made up of designs that focused on solid colors, which is why some of my favorite looks of the night were from Shika!, whose designs were full of patterns and colors that gave the simpler silhouettes a fresher look.
Despite the minor construction issues and technical difficulties, such as models tripping on trails and slowing down the pace of the runway because of their skirts, I almost forgot that students and not professional fashion designers constructed those looks.
After the show, I managed to speak with Miss Vanessa Tanco, President and CEO of iACADEMY (who was looking very fashionable herself) about the importance of Fashion Forward, not just for iACADEMY’s Game Changers but for the fashion industry in the Philippines, to which she said, “I think it shows that the Philippine talent is at par with the rest of the world so we should continue doing events like this to showcase the talent in the country.”
I then asked Sir Eli the same thing. “We would want the world and the Philippines to know our point of view when it comes to design. There are a lot of design schools out there but iACADEMY’s view in design is to be more transformative. Instead of just selling dreams, we are suggesting solutions to real-world problems.”
Keeping the objective of creating fashion forward and sustainable designs in mind, I think the Fashion Design and Technology Graduating Class of 2019 did an amazing job worthy of a grade of an A– it would’ve been an A+ had the models walked better in their dresses. Kidding aside, it was a great show that got me excited to see what these designers come up with next.
“Fashion is very powerful,” said Sir Eli, and I couldn’t agree more. Some people may not think much of it but it has a bigger impact than one would think. It has transformative power, not just for people but for our environment, as well, which is why this show is so important.
iACADEMY’s Fashion Forward not only pushes its students to go beyond themselves and think of better ways to create clothes but also reminds us that fashion is not just about looking good. It’s about finding solutions to critical problems while still feeling good about ourselves.