MANILA: ASIA’S FASHION & SHOPPING CAPITAL, GRADUATES TO DESIGN CAPITAL
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Good Day to you fellow global citizens!
In 2011, I published an article titled “FILIPINO FASHION DESIGNERS IN HOLLYWOOD: SHOWCASING MANILA AS ASIA’S FASHION CAPITAL” (See: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com/2011/02/filipino-fashion-designers-in-hollywood.html). In that article, I highlighted the maturity of Filipino fashion design, so much that it had reached a level of continental and global acclaim.
Manila has been the fashion and shopping capital of Asia for over a decade already. It once enjoyed that status alongside another ASEAN city, Bangkok. Unfortunately, or tragically, a huge flood beset Bangkok fairly recently, which caused the pull out by many global industrial investors based in it. Bangkok’s own fashion designers left on a diaspora, which took Bangkok off the list of very important cities in the global fashion circuits.
Manila henceforth enjoys a celebrity status for being the sole Fashion Capital. In the latter part of the 20th century, that envious status belonged to both Tokyo and Hongkong. But as the Bob Dylan poetic line “the times they are a-changing” hauntingly reminds the big players in all fields, so did Manila move up to overtake both Hongkong and Tokyo in the fashion field.
As the title suggests, Manila is also the Shopping Capital of all Asia. That means from East to West, North to South of the continent, Manila is THE SHOPPING CAPITAL. Shopping malls in Manila have the best mall architectures in the whole continent and count among the world’s best, e.g. Gateway Mall’s winning the World’s 11 Best Mall Architectures couples of years ago, which enhanced the power of Filipino fashion and Manila’s shopping magnetism.
That title of Shopping Capital used to belong to both Hongkong and Tokyo as well. So you could just imagine the slide of both cities to 2nd fiddle as Manila and Bangkok zoomed up meteorically to take that crown, though sadly Bangkok did slide down (God forbids that it will lost the crown that it enjoyed for a short 10 years).
Today, there’s another milestone event that is shaping up: Manila’s graduation to a Design Center for the whole of the ASEAN at least. That’s just a minimalist statement coming from the industrialists of ASEAN. Come to think of it, a country or city that had reached Fashion & Shopping Capital continent-wide will likewise get the crown of Design Capital for the whole of Asia.
Filipino consumers might be wondering where are all those Filipino fashion designs being bandied by the tri-media and cyberspace. Well, fellow Filipinos, you only see fashion via the RTWs viewed by your focals every week in the shopping malls, and RTW fashion constitutes only 16% or 1/7th of the totality of work by fashion designers in the Philippines.
84% of all Filipino fashion designs are generated for the couture business. Many fashion designers in fact do sub-contracting for some bigger fashion design firms whose very own end-users are individual couture fashionistas and corporate retail outlets. With all the great fashion designs going around in Manila and Cebu, all that a Filipino needs to do is get ideas from them, design their own clothes, and look for good cutter and ‘sastre’ (tailor or dress maker) in the wet market to finish the product.
By being a Design Capital means that Filipino fashion designers will train fashion designers from across Asia and the oceans and also welcome those emerging designers from other countries to do sub-contracting for the big players in Manila. Hopefully fashion institutes will catch up for installation and training of the young designers across the world.
In my own honest opinion, the top universities in Manila—University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila University, De La Salle University—should launch fashion departments within their own backyards. It is now time to do so. Pitoy Moreno, top fashion designer, already won his National Artist award, so that recognition should translate into the university’s adopting of the fashion as a line of the arts.
Let’s all expect exciting developments to come regarding the fashion world and it’s partner institution the mall retail business. If generating great fashion sustains the enticement of retailers to ever build majestic mall architectures, then shall there’s joy and fun indeed in visiting Manila and the Philippines by enthused tourists both domestically and internationally.
[Manila, 08 November 2013]