Chito Vijandre’s fashion presentation a couple of weeks ago is still the talk of the town as the interior designer returned to the runway after a 30-year absence in the fashion scene. The well-applauded show was the highlight of the annual glam fundraiser by tireless philanthropists and style muses Tessa Prieto Valdes and Kaye Tinga.
Now on it’s 8th edition, Tessa and Kaye have been organizing the event each year to benefit the Philippine Red Cross and the charity projects of the Assumption High School batch 1981.
Curiosity got the audience as Vijandre noted in earlier press statements that his 40-piece collection would be his take on the Filipiniana style.
Vijandre is an established interior designer and co-owner of home and lifestyle stores Firma and AC+632, which he established with partner Ricky Toledo.
In the 70s, he was among the students who stood out at Slim’s Fashion and Art School founded by fashion icon Salvacion Lim Higgins. Back then, the young Vijandre’s talent already got him the admiration and patronage of Manila’s elite and fashionable set, including the likes of Tingting Cojuangco and La Divina Chona Recto Kasten.
Fresh out of school at 20, when lunchtime fashion shows were the rage, Vijandre mounted his first one-man show at the famous La Concha at the Hyatt Hotel.
This year, he joins the roster of top Filipino fashion designers handpicked by Valdes and Tinga for their annual Red Charity Gala affairs. Other designers who have participated are Dennis Lustico (2009), Furne One (2010), Michael Cinco (2011), Cary Santiago (2012), Ezra Santos (2013) Jojie Lloren (2014), and Lesley Mobo (2015).
Onstage, the Vijandre’s vision was unabashed visual pleasure as he showed creations that flaunted multi-colors, textures, fabrics, treatments, and bold accessories. Clearly, the collection would have none of the conventional baro’t saya and barong that inevitably comes to mind at the mention of “Filipiniana.”
After all, Vijandre told InterAksyon, “The inspiration was not the Filipino dress itself but moments in history such as the pre-colonial era, the Galleon trade, the Japanese occupation, Spanish colonialism. So it was a lot of history, not (about) the dress itself.”
His rebolusyonaryas, at the end of the show for instance, presented models looking like strong and feisty gladiators wearing elaborate facemasks and oversized metal accessories on their bodies, and over light fabrics with metal-thread embroidery. In the same series, he also presented slinky gold-toned gowns made from chain metal intricately pieced together, with silk chiffon added for contrast.
The designer started working on the clothes since January this year. As for the beautiful fabrics that kept the audience in awe, Vijandre narrates that each time he travels abroad, he always brings home textiles that catch his eye, not exactly knowing what to use them for.
At the show, the crowd was transported not to a particular recorded epoch but to a utopic fashion moment where tribal Filipino meets modern Victorian; steam punk meets 1920s Philippine Carnival Queen fashion; Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan meets Game of Thrones, and so on.
And yet, the confluence in each piece appeared to be charmingly odd yet insanely desirable.
From among the tables, one could see reserved socialites applauding and nodding with approval at Vijandre’s maximalist fashion proposition.
One surmises that Vijandre’s fashion is within the context of theater and performance—still with the aim to delight as he had done when he would churn out creations for lunchtime shows back in the day.
After the Red Charity Gala, Vijandre said he’ll continue his work in interior design and run his concept shops, “I really just wanted to fulfill my creative juices, to create beautiful dresses. But I’m not going back (to do fashion).”
All 40-pieces from the show, meanwhile, will be kept for “archival purposes,” shared Vijandre, “I really wanted to create something again, and I haven’t done something in 30 years. So, okay, I said, I’ll do it. And so I did it. Plus, I really can’t say no to Tessa.