At the storied fashion district of Harajuku in Japan, an eight-month fashion incubation program culminated in a showroom where eight new-generation Philippine brands presented their collections.
To conclude PHx Tokyo, a mentorship program spearheaded by the PHx Fashion Group and the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), Bagasáo, Feanne, HA.MÜ, J Makitalo, Jill Lao, Kelvin Morales, Lorico, and Neil Felipp showcased their Spring/Summer 2022 collections to Japanese buyers, press, and influencers at Lifork Harajuku from July 7-9.
Representatives from H3O Fashion Bureau and LIT Fashion Consultancy, whose firm grasp of Japanese fashion, retail, and lifestyle sectors steered the mentorship; the Philippine Trade Investment Center (PTIC) offices in Japan; and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Tokyo were onsite to facilitate the presentation.
Jason Lee Coates, one of the mentors for PHx Tokyo and director of H3O Fashion Bureau, noted that the diverse range of styles of the collection resonated the most with buyers in attendance. “It wasn’t like you entered the room and could pinpoint, ‘This is by a young designer from the Philippines.’ It was an interesting collection of individual brands with talent and ambition,” he said.
Coates shared that Bagasáo created the most polished international collection and lookbook, which includes the Helen blouson dress—a silk-cotton blend fabric dress has hand-stitched details and can be worn in three different ways—as well as blue-and-white coords whose pattern Bagasáo had to change five times to achieve the right shape and proportion.
HA.MÜ’s quirky sensibilities made their way to their Japanese market-ready designs, as well as to the radar of every stylist and editor who visited Lifork Harajuku. “These pieces are designed to be easily worn, but people will notice the quirky details right away when you put them on. We also made sure that these pieces are easy on the eyes so people will not have to look for a special reason to wear them,” brand proponents Abraham Guardian and Mamuro Oki explain.
An array of aesthetics further made an impression to those who attended the showroom presentation. For Jill Lao, her celebration of the modern woman is embodied by her Amelia trench dress. The combination of freedom, femininity, and utility in one look, alongside the rest of her dreamy collection, was well-received by Japanese buyers. Feanne added 10 new prints, exclusive to the S/S2022 collection, to her portfolio of timeless and eye-catching garments. For the Japanese market that favors style and comfort in equal measure, these pieces have also been tailored to be “one-mile wear” or clothing suited for activities within a mile of one’s home. The maximalist baubles of J Makitalo were tempered into dainty accessories evoking mystical-mod and rendered in aquamarine, pearls, rose quartz, and yellow jade, which are more to the liking of Japanese women.
Philippine designers’ exceptional material-manipulation skills were also on display and were emphasized all the more through inventive designs. The mini totes of Neil Felipp were part of the brand’s first time working with textiles, which entailed in-depth research on abaca and resulted in the innovation of the material, evidenced by its incorporation with twisted leather strips and metallic silver thread. To communicate important elements of its brand, Lorico reinvented the salakot, making the traditional lightweight headgear from cotton canvas and woven abaca. For his PHx Tokyo collection, Kelvin Morales updates his signature menswear pieces with a sustainability bent, as seen in shirts that use printed plastic bottles and abstract plastic bags.
“Every piece carries the story of each brand—clearly defined by each designer’s distinct point-of-view, and well-refined by the mentorship of Jason, Hiro, and Tetta,” CITEM Executive Director Pauline Suaco-Juan said. “We at CITEM are glad to be of help in this milestone of our PHx Tokyo designers’ fashion journeys. The PHx Tokyo team has demonstrated what creativity and unity can achieve, global pandemic notwithstanding,” she added.