(image courtesy of Marni Ocampo; model Tina Maristela in Ingga by Ernest Santiago, shot in Sari-Sari Store Greenhills/Music Museum by Wig Tysmans)
By Regina Abuyuan, L’Officiel Manila, June 2016
Philippine fashion in the 1990s was a study in extremes.
On one end, says veteran fashion journalist Liza Ilarde, was the minimalist trend, represented by international high-end brands like Giorgio Armani and Yohji Yamamoto, all clean lines and impeccable construction. On the other was an edgier, bolder, but clever depiction of rebellion, best embodied in independent brands like Grocery, Defect, and Havoc.
There were no brands to represent the in-between, says pioneer stylist Michael Salientes. “It was a weird mixture of local and high, high-end,” he says. “There were no mid-range brands like the Zaras and Mangos. Even the little brands were high-end. No Gucci and Prada. A lot of Italian, but no French and British. We still had that ‘Made in Italy’ thing, that notion and belief that ‘Made in Italy’ was really good.”
But the Philippines was on the cusp of a sartorial awakening. “That was the time when I think the retail landscape was changing,” Ilarde adds. “A lot of international designer brands started to trickle in little by little.”
The Filipino clotheshorse—the one who didn’t travel much, at least—was gradually being introduced to these names by way of Linea Italia, a mix-brand store created by the flamboyant Freddy Panicucci. According to an August 2002 article published in The Philippine Star (“Freddy to Wear” by Ching Alano), Panicucci brought in the brands “to make Italian fashion (think Gianni Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianfranco Ferre, Alberta Ferretti, Max Mara, Trussardi, Valentino, and Roberto Cavalli) affordable to Filipinos. And eventually, to make the Philippines the fashion capital of Asia.” The first Linea store opened in 1982, and at its height, the Linea Italia Group of Companies and Marconi Fashion group had 22 branches.
Another favorite of fashion-forward Filipinos in the early ’90s was Mix, owned by the stylish and business-savvy couple, Ricco and Tina Ocampo. It carried labels like Cynthia Rowley, Fury, Issey Miyake Pleats Please, and Helmut Lang. Fashion retailer Jappy Gonzalez put up Homme et Femme in 1996, also a mix-brand store that carried names like Comme des Garçons. Then Anna Marcelo, who would later open Junior Gaultier in Glorietta, put up Portofino in SM Megamall. The store saw one of the earliest appearances of Prada on the local scene, “but Portofino didn’t carry capsule collections, they were just pieces,” Salientes elaborates.
Even department stores were bringing in luxury brands that you couldn’t find anywhere else. In Ilarde’s opinion: “It was also the prime of Rustan’s. It had brands like Christian Lacroix; it even had some Chloé when Stella McCartney was doing it. Some Vivienne Westwood. You don’t see those luxury brands anymore in Rustan’s the way you would see them in the ’90s. They also had Vivian Tam. Now it’s just a rack; before, it was a whole section.” It was also a time when “Filipino designers were starting to flourish and make their mark.”
“People were so into having clothes made,” agrees Salientes. “Inno Sotto was the king of the ’90s.” The preferred designer of the ladies of the Ramos and Estrada administrations, “he made a lot of exciting things happen in Manila. He brought Elsa Klensch here.”
(…then get the June 2016 issue of L’Officiel Manila to read the whole story :))