Joey Espino may not have his own Facebook account (âbecause if I did, I would just make all these nasty comments!â he jokes), but that hasnât stopped him and his Philippine Fashion Week (PFW) from becoming Internet and global sensations. Two seasons ago, his bi-annual extravaganza of live runway shows was a number 3 trend at Twitter (@PhFashionWeek), while the eventâs official website, www.philippinefashionweek.com, boasted six million hits last year.
âNow there are Singaporeans who actually want to watch Philippine Fashion Week,â he says as a full house of fashionistas file out of the SMEX Convention Center after The Ramp Crossingsâ unveiling of its holiday collection on opening night on May 22, a daring display of animal and paisley prints, slim silhouettes, and bold color combinations and cuts. âAnd there are Japanese designers who want to participate in Philippine Fashion Week. When I asked them why, they told me they find Philippine Fashion Week really big. Natawa ako,â he says with an impish smile and twinkle in his eye. âTheyâre the ones with the money and fashion sense and they want to show their collections with us!â
Like the chunky, sky-high heels and color-blocked trousers worn by the models on The Ramp Crossingsâ fashion show, it was only a matter of time before people would embrace the idea of Philippine Fashion Week. Espino, who drew inspiration from watching snippets of New York Fashion Week while on a business trip to see Josie Natori many years ago, initially dusted his hair with baby powder just to appear olderâand more credibleâto potential financiers. He also dipped into his own resources to fund a project that was more a business opportunity for Filipino designers than a mere platform for showcasing creative flair. âBut I was happy,â he once told a local broadsheet of his initial sacrifices. âAnd thatâs what life is all about: You simply have to do what you believe in. My accountant said, âYou may not have a good bank account, but you have a great time deposit in heaven.â So God will bless me,â he declared back then with much certainty, âin the right time.â
Clearly, the time is now. After debuting at the Ayala Centerâs Glorietta Activity Center in 1997, Philippine Fashion Week has called the colossal SMX Convention Center and SM Mall of Asia home since 2008. At one point, there were as many as 28 shows in this weeklong affair, but this year, Espino, a fashion show director whoâs a stickler for details and exceptional quality, decided to keep the shows down to a conservative 20 and streamline participation to those who could produce the required good, clean, and cohesive collection in six weeks. âI was looking to work with designers who were responsible and more serious about their work,â he says of the 80 who made the cut. âItâs not enough to catch peopleâs attention; the bottom line is to sell clothes.â
As such, Dubai-based designer Michael Cinco (who shares the stage with Rajo Laurel for Bench on Sunday, May 27, 7 pm at SMX Convention Centerâs Function Halls 4 and 5) and talented designer Jerome Salaya Angâs debut solo show (also on Sunday, May 27, 9:30 pm at Function Hall 2) are among the much-anticipated events in this 16th staging of Philippine Fashion Week. âI do my best to put up clean presentations,â says Espino. âI guess thatâs what helped us get a lot of attention worldwide. You name it, from Reuters to E! Entertainment Channel, Filipino designers are starting to get the exposure they deserve.â
International designers who dream of seeing their collections on the runway of future Philippine Fashion Weeks, however, will just have to wait. Espinoâs slick productions belie the surprising fact that the funds he generated for his shows are ânot sufficient enough to cover the expenses for Filipino talents. Thatâs why I donât have room for now for foreign designers. Still, at the end of the day,â he admits, âang gusto ko pa rin is to support the Filipino. I was never one to limit myself and I donât want to limit Filipino designers as well. We really need to promote them.â
When asked to give a sneak peek into November 2012âs Philippine Fashion Week, Espinoâs coy statement will surely have fans of all things fashion troop back to the SMX Convention Center six months from now to find out for themselves. âItâs going to be a power-packed lineupâ is all he will divulge.
The 2012 Philippine Fashion Week runs from May 22 to 27, 2012. Visit www.philippinefashionweeklive.com for schedules.Â