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THE GALLERY at Greenbelt 5 erupted with applause as Filipino fashion designer Randy Ortiz unveiled his latest collection of contemporary cocktail attire inspired by local fabrics at his 35th anniversary show.
The event filled the spacious gallery steps with the who’s who of Philippine showbiz, politics, and high society, though mallgoers were also able to stop by and look on in admiration. Mr. Ortiz, whose decades long career saw him become a beloved “designer to the stars,” gathered all those who had been part of his journey for this milestone collection.
Mr. Ortiz grew up in South Cotabato in Mindanao, though his parents were Ilonggos born in the Visayas. In the 1970s, when his father became a Constitutional Convention delegate, the Ortiz family moved to Luzon.
This resulted in a hodgepodge of influences that the designer would unwittingly bring with him for the rest of his life.
For this reason, the 70-piece collection celebrating his career of 35 years was divided into three parts, each representing a main island group. Kicking off the runway show was a colorful homage to Mindanao, carrying into a second stretch with references to Visayan barongs and balintawaks, and finishing strong with Manila wear for city living in Luzon.
All designs featured beautifully intricate local embroidery, dramatic yet sophisticated silhouettes, and unique patchwork takes on menswear.
On the runway were an array of models, both young and old, local and foreign. Notably, Mr. Ortiz’ close friends who were top models in the 1990s were there: Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez, Wilma Doesnt, Phoemela Baranda, Raffy Ladao, and Jack de Mesa, among others. Singer Ogie Alcasid hosted and presented the designer’s narrative before the show.
Onlookers were wowed by the sheer range of native handwoven fabrics, from ina’ul and t’nalak from Mindanao to piña and hablon from the Visayas to inabel and indang from Luzon. On the men these translated to jackets with bold colors and mixed patterns while the women were given tastefully draped silk tops paired with fashionable patterned skirts.
The show, directed by his friends Jackie Aquino and Robbie Carmona, convey a new direction in Mr. Ortiz’s career, one that puts local culture and heritage front and center. It is also a perfect match with Ayala Malls’ “Bravo! Filipino” initiative, hence why the runway show was held in Greenbelt 5.
“My designs are not necessarily different from before, but they’ve leveled up and evolved,” he told BusinessWorld after the show. “They have become more Filipino, a direction I really want to take for the next 35 more years.”
As for what it took to come up with a collection full of rare, indigenous fabrics, Mr. Ortiz said, “It takes a lot of research. You really have to study your craft. Some fabrics I kept with me for so many years before I used them.”
He noted piña in particular being so rare due to how expensive it is to manufacture, a common frustration among many Filipino designers.
“You have to hoard. In my profession, that’s just what I had to do, but I knew that one of these days, I would get to use the fabrics the way I want, in a way that will help me tell my story,” he said.
In this fast-paced, high-tech society, the door is wide open for designers to use the many resources at their fingertips to hone their craft and develop their identity. For Mr. Ortiz, this identity has become that of “a Filipino who loves his country more than himself and really wants to level up Pinoy fashion.”
“My work is an expression of my love for my country, for my family.” — Brontë H. Lacsamana