For my first post on Style Files, something permanent here on BlauEarth, I caught up with Loejai Lopez, one of Ilocos’ top fashion designers. He was born in Batac, but raised in the urban jungles of Manila. If you learn that the designer is a former teacher with a master’s degree from the University of Sto. Tomas, you would easily assume he’s prim, with old-fashioned sensibilities, but not until you see his beautiful creations. I’ve seen two of his weddings and I was enchanted with his craftsmanship. He did the wedding trousseau of the Rodriguez-Co nuptials I featured in the blog.
Describe yourself in three words.
Simple, classic… cynical.
What’s on your playlist?
Laura Stevenson and The Cans’ Master of Art; music from Il Devo, Sting, Rihanna; also some Vanessa Mae, Mozart and Beethoven.
Your favorite color?
Red because it adds color to an otherwise gray life.
What kind of clothes would you never wear?
In the meantime, bright colors. I’m not mestizo, so I like subdued colors, earth tones like sienna or reddish brown.
What is the one thing in your closet that you can’t live without?
Other than my wallet, my mobile phone bag.
Do you cook?
Iberian food – callos, caldereta. I can bake a Black Forest. Dun napupunta ang pera ko when I started earning from designing clothes.
How long have you been designing clothes?
I was in grade IV when I designed my first dress – it was for a pregnant kapitbahay. December 1995, second year college ako when I started accepting commissions. My female friends and colleagues in the teaching profession were my first clients. The following January, may wedding trousseau na.
Do you have formal training in fashion design?
I attend seminars to check the latest techniques like laser cutting, etc.. They have trainors from Japan.
How would you describe your style?
Tailored-but-feminine. I work with patterns – scientific ang dating. I do a lot of ruching and fabric layering (like up to 5 layers) to achieve colors and silhouettes.
Which fashion designers have been significant reference for you?
I love Valentino, John Galliano. Sa local, I like the constructions of Patrice Ramos-Diaz.
What fashion magazines do you buy?
I used to collect magazines; I don’t anymore. I don’t want ma-pollute, ‘yon ma-influenced. But I do a lot of malling. I check the escaparate. I check myself if I’m still viable, if I’m still afloat. I read books, books about Coco Chanel. I read SLIM (Salvacíon Lim Higgins).
What are your thoughts on prints?
Prints should be feminine. I like Nina Ricci florals. Dior too.
Do you design for men?
Oh, yes. I love to work with men. It has to be smart and precise – there’s more challenge.
Name three people in your best dressed list.
Lucy Torres-Gomez, very feminine. Stella McCartney looks feminine in her tailored suits. Nicole Kidman. She can carry a tailored dress with utmost grace and dignity.
I see you’re inclined to the feminine and pretty, if a client requests hardware (stuff like chains and studs) in her dress, would you do it?
Yes, pretty interesting. It would be an opportunity to prove myself.
If you were to design a shoe, what would it look like?
A shoe, with an extended tip, in red velvet or patent leather.
What is your idea of a high school prom dress?
The market demands two types: bouffant gowns and cocktail dresses in sexy above-the-knee length. The dress has to be figure-flattering. Kids nowadays think wearing a gown is uncool. They like something not too dressy, but not too minimal. They are more practical now.
What are the challenges you have to face in your designing career
Some clients have difficulty paying. I work with the inventory of suppliers. I travel to Manila to buy materials at least once a week.
What are your pet peeves?
Fickle-minded. They don’t know what they want!
If you were to use an indigenous material to promote the Philippines, what would it be?
The abel. But then, I’m not happy with the abel. Too stiff. Look at this, I designed this hat, ginawa in Bicol. It’s made of sinamay.
What fabrics do you like?
I like silk chiffon… anything but jersey. It’s unforgiving, ‘di pwede sa ma-flab.
What silhouette is most flattering to a woman with no curves?
The semi A line balances the shortness or stockiness of a Filipina.
Have you done any fashion shows?
I had two major shows. One in Manila, a collection for my master thesis. The other one, in MMSU, was a fundraiser.
Any dream project?
To conquer Italy.
Do you make costumes?
Yes, for UNO Day, I’ve done an Indian boy and a Spanish matador, my favorites. You know, I do clothes for the third generation na rin, from the grandma to the anak to the apo. [Laughs.]
(Hahaha!) Para ka nang si Pitoy. Describe a memorable dress you designed.
A strapless dress with upper empire ruching and column skirt in fuchsia pink silk chiffon.
What else do you do besides designing?
Any quote you want to share?
People never say goodbye. They only say ‘so long’
Top photo by Blauearth. Middle photo (white dress by Loejai L. Lopez) via Ericke Tan on lookbook.nu.. Bottom photo courtesy of Loejai L. Lopez.
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