The craftsmanship of the Filipinos is making itself known to the world as it goes beyond the local fashion scene into international runways and Hollywood black-tie affairs, patronized by society’s crème de la crème and prominent celebrities from across the globe. Over the years, the Philippines has produced world class talents that have inspired every Filipino artist to discover and develop their innate abilities, so they can excel. And, the Pearl of the Orient couldn’t be more polished as several of its talents enter the international spotlight of the fashion industry. So, here are the famous Filipino fashion designers being acknowledged for their superior designs in the prime of Filipino artistry:
1. Monique Lhuillier
Monique Lhuillier may be the first name that would come to mind when speaking of internationally renowned Filipino fashion designers and this comes as no surprise, after she smoothly made her way into the world of fashion and earned a name for herself as one of the red carpet favorite designers for Hollywood A-listers.
A pure blooded Filipino couturier born in Cebu now based in US, Diane Monique Llamas Lhuillier is a fashion designer known for her bridal gowns and ready to wear collections. She has couture fashion houses in Los Angeles, California and Upper East Side Manhattan.
How She Started
Monique was born and raised in Cebu. She studied in Saint Theresa’s College, before going to the Chateau Mont- Choise in Switzerland. Then, she moved to Los Angeles to study design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising or FIDM.
She started creating couture wedding gowns, when she found insufficient selection of bridal wears, while looking for her own wedding gown in 1995 and finally in 2001, she opened her first fashion house.
Inspired by her mother’s elegance and sense of style, Monique is now a designer who shapes sophisticated blueprints of her creative imagination, while encapsulating femininity and prestige into all of her designs.
Monique Lhuillier was inducted as a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2003 and she also received the Presidential Medal of Merit-Philippines in 2006 given by former president of the Philippines, now the congresswoman of Pampanga, Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo.
The creations of Monique Lhuillier have been frequently featured in local and international magazines. Below are just some of the latest records of her designs displayed in some of the leading fashion publications all over the world:
Bello Magazine, March 2015. Bello Magazine is a Los Angeles-based fashion and lifestyle magazine popular for digital and entertainment publication. For their “Decadent” March 2015 issue, actress Sophia Bush graced the cover of the magazine wearing a pink ball gown from Monique Lhuillier.
Brides, March 2015. Model Britt Marin was on the Brides magazine cover for their March 2015 edition wearing Monique’s “Stella” wedding dress. It came out in newsstands on March 3. Brides is the world’s largest bridal magazine based in America featuring wedding gowns, reception ideas, stories, advice and etiquettes.
Weddings 2015, Vogue Mexico December 2014, The Hollywood Reporter 2014, C Magazine Summer 2014 and Bloomsdale Spring 2014 also featured Monique Lhuillier’s designs for their editorial shots. Lupita Nyongo was also photographed and featured on InStyle Russia for their April 2014 issue wearing a pink and salmon dress for their “Most Beautiful People 2014” article.
In March 2015 alone, Monique Lhuillier spruced up many Hollywood celebrities like Brittany Snow, who was spotted wearing her Pre-Fall 2015 navy jacquard sleeveless top and skirt during the premiere of DirecTV Audience Network’s Full Circle in Los Angeles on the second week of March 2015. Jullianne Hough also wore one of her Pre-Fall 2015 lace embroidered cocktail dress during NYSE Closing Bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Other sightings of Monique’s creations during the past three months included Louis Roe’s blue printed gown when she attended the 87th Annual Academy Award, Michelle Monaghan’s marsala dress for The Vanity Fair Oscar party and Emma Stone’s black lace dress for the 2015 Film Independent Award.
First lady Michelle Obama was also seen wearing a beautiful white embellished gown during the 37th Annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington D.C. in December 7, 2014 created by Monique Lhuillier.
2. Michael Cinco
From Catbalogan City, Samar, couturier Michael Cinco is another pure-blooded Filipino who has broken into the international fashion scene and now has Hollywood celebrities and royals from the Middle East as clients.
Now based in Dubai, the designer is known for his couture gowns embedded with Swarovski crystals. His creations are inspired by classic Hollywood movies with Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn as his self-proclaimed muses.
How He Started
Michael Cinco was a Fine Arts student in the University of the Philippines – Diliman, who studied design training and had his apprenticeship with highly-regarded designers in the Philippines. In 1997, he moved to Dubai, which he called the haven of haute couture.
In 2002, he went to Europe in search for fashion inspiration and ended up studying in Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design. The following year, he went back to Dubai to set up his own couture house. Soon, he began creating wedding gowns and dresses for the royalties in Gulf and Arab areas and made a successful partnership with Swarovski, whose gems he incorporated into his creations.
Over the years, Michael has amassed several accolades that helped cement his name in the fashion industry. Below are some of these awards:
- Winner, People’s Choice Award in Dubai Fashion Week 2010
- One of the Top Movers in Dubai in Ahlan Hot 100
- Nominee, Best Designer – Grazia Style Awards 2011
- Finalist, Breakthrough Designer in WGSN Global Fashion Awards 2011
The designer also represented the country during New York Fashion Week in November 2011. In 2013, he was given the title of “Asian Couturier Extraordinaire” by the Asian Couture Federation.
TV and Magazine Features
America’s Next Top Model Cycle 16. Michael is the first Filipino designer to be featured in the U.S. hit modeling competition, America’s Next Top Model. Supermodel and host of the show Tyra Banks asked him to create an eco-inspired collection using recyclable materials for the TV show, which was broadcast during Cycle 16. He was again asked to participate in America’s Next Top Model Cycle 17.
Jupiter Ascending Movie 2015. In one of the scenes in the movie Jupiter Ascending, Mila Kunis wore a magnificent sheer gown with red floral details created by Michael. He got the offer to work for this movie after costume designer Kym Barret saw his amazing collections in Swarovski’s Salt magazine in 2012.
Harper’s Bazaar Arabia July/ August 2014 Issue. Best-selling music artist from Barbados, Rihanna, graced the Arabian Harper’s Bazaar cover last year in a black embroidered outfit created by Michael.
Prestige Hong Kong 2011. Prestige magazine in Hong Kong featured Chris Brown wearing a Hood and Shirt from Michael Cinco’s collection together with the creations of other notable fashion designers like Dolce and Gabbana and Balmain.
Michael’s creations graced various local fashion magazines like Preview, Hola Magazine and Wedding Essentials last year. He also created the iconic gowns worn by some of the hottest celebrities in the country like Marian Rivera’s Php2M imperial wedding gown and Toni Gonzaga’s Cinderella-inspired gown, which she wore while hosting the Binibining Pilipinas 2015.
Lady Gaga was one of the distinguished celebrities who went “gaga” over Michael Cinco’s couture, after she was seen wearing his gold beaded gown in January 10, 2015 during a charity ball in Los Angeles.
In the 2013 Golden Globes Awards ceremony, Sophia Vergara flaunted her curves in a black sequined Michael Cinco gown, which became one of the most talked about dresses on social media for the event, according to E! red carpet host Guiliana Rancic.
Also in his list of celebrity clients are Naomi Campbell, Britney Spears, Fergie, Paris Hilton, Dita Von Teese and Christina Aguilera, who was seen wearing his creation during one of the episodes in the latest season of The Voice.
3. Furne One
Another Cebuano designer, who is also making waves in the international spotlight, is Fernando Barrios or who is more famously known as Furne One. He, along with textile expert Rashid Ali, own a couture house in Dubai called Amato Haute Couture, with “amato” meaning “beloved” in Italian.
Amato Couture is an avant garde label featuring experimental and theatrical pieces, which became one of UAE’s first global designer brands to earn royalty and international celebrity clients.
Furne One doesn’t want to be everybody else when it comes to fashion. Having an identity is very important to him, and true to his words, his creations are known to be intriguing and highly innovative, successfully winning their brand’s goal to create a visual and sensory experience to their clientele.
How He Started
Fernando Barrios or Furne One grew up in Cebu City and studied in the University in San Carlos, where he got a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Inspired by his mother and grandmother‘s stylish inclinations, Fernando joined the first Mega Magazine Young Designers Competition in 1994 and came out as the winner. One of the judges, Josie Natori, asked him to work for him in New York. Furne One trained in Paris and became Natori’s apprentice before going to Dubai.
Aside from being the big winner in the 1994 1st Mega Magazine Young Designers Competition, his “Victoria Geisha” 24-piece collection inspired by the geishas in Japan also won him Japan’s Women’s Wear Award, after his apprenticeship in New York with Natori, while he was still in Cebu.
TV and Magazine Features
While Michael Cinco won the hearts of America’s Next Top Model crews and viewers, Furne One conquered the west of Europe. Featured in Germany’s Next Top Model after being invited by host Heidi Klum during the finale of the show, Furne One proved that Filipinos are indeed world class designers.
His creations were also featured in Keysha Cole’s newest music video “She” and Swedish singer and songwriter Laleh in her music video “Colors”, which was released in March this year. Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Tour Book also featured Queen B wearing a white gown from Amato Couture.
The February 2015 issue of Velvet magazine featured Furne One’s collection. Fashion icon and socialite Olivia Palermo also graced the January 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine wearing a bejeweled high-waist boy shorts from Furne One.
For the past few years, Babylon magazine in Dubai, Marie Claire, Hot Kouture online magazine, La Femme, Guiseppe and Gilt magazine also featured his crafts for their editorial photos.
Furne One did the California Dream Tour outfit for Katy Perry, which led him to design for Nikki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, and Cher. During the Grammy Awards this year, Beyonce was beyond mystical in her performance on stage wearing a Roberto Cavalier gown topped off with an equally divine Amato Couture cape.
During the Super Bowl opening this year, Carrie Underwood wore an embellished dress from Amato Couture during her performance. In December last year, Lady Gaga was spotted wearing an Amato glitter nude dress and the phenomenal Marimar actress, Thalia, was also seen on TV wearing an Amato red sheer gown on one of her interviews last year.
4. Oliver Tolentino
All the way from Bataan, Oliver Tolentino rose to prominence as an eco-friendly fashion designer now based in Los Angeles, California. His feminine designs and glamorous silhouettes featuring eco-friendly fabrics earned him various awards in different environment-conscious competitions. Although he has worked with different fabrics, Oliver is known to incorporate native fabrics on his designs like pineapple leaves, abaca plant fibers, water lily leaves and silk cocoon.
How He Started
From a family of seamstresses in Orani Bataan, Oliver studied Advertising in Miriam College before heading to SLIMs School of Fashion Design and Philippine Fashion Institute to pursue his dream of entering the fashion industry.
A local fashion designer for over 20 years, Oliver finally reached his dreams after he left the country for the US in 2009. America opened the doors for him when he first put up his store in Villa Verde until he moved to Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood California in 2009, right near Dolce and Gabbana.
Because of his ingenuity, Oliver became one of the fashion designers who bagged many awards in different categories and cited below are just several of them:
1st prize, 2008 Bali Fashion Week
2010 Oscars Designer Challenge finalist
2010 Winner of Sustainable Eco Fashion Award in Bahamas
2011 Fashion Week El Paseo Designer of the Week in Palm Springs, California
2011 Samsung Metro Wear Icon
2011 Featured Designer, Rags2Riches
2012 Featured Designer at San Diego Women’s Week
2012 Featured Designer, Global Green Pre- Oscars Party
TV and Magazine Features
Oliver Tolentino is one of the few Filipino designers who got the chance to work for America’s Next Top Model. In ANTM cycle 18, the British Invasion, contestants wore his glamorous creations during its airing on February 29, 2012 in CW Network.
One of his bridal gowns was also featured on an editorial page of Harper’s Bazaar Bride Arabia Spring and Summer 2014 edition. He was also featured in the July 2012 issue of Signature J magazine for an article titled, “Oliver Tolentino, Designing Couture with a Twist of Eco Glam”.
In 2012, Zooey Magazine displayed an editorial photo of actress Anna Paquin wearing a pink peplum dress set from Oliver Tolentino and the March 2012 issue of The Boulevard magazine featured Oliver Tolentino himself together with his muse wearing his bridal gown creation on its front cover.
Australian actress Eliza Taylor was spotted in an Oliver Tolentino eyelet silk organza gown during the Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills, California on January 22, 2015. Actress Gina Rodriguez, named as one of 2015’s Rising Style Stars by Star magazine, was photographed wearing a crepe de chine green mermaid gown from Oliver Tolentino couture. The same dress landed her on People’s Magazine.
Actress Gabrielle Union wore a nude silk chiffon Tolentino gown with hand-draped bodice and flowy skirt with a high slit on the left leg as one of her several outfit changes when she hosted the 2013 BET Honors in January 12, 2013.
Emmy Rosum, Fergie, Rachel Leigh Cook, Victoria Justice, Kirstin Cavallari, fashion icon Jamie Chung and singer Carrie Underwood are just a few of Oliver Tolentino’s Hollywood clients.
5. Josie Natori
Josefina Almeda Cruz, who is more known as Josie Natori, is the CEO and owner of The Natori Company, a lifestyle brand known for lingerie and sleep wear as well as lounge wear and ready-to-wear dresses sold in upscale department stores in America and other countries. The company further extended to men’s wear and fragrances by the mid 2000s.
A successful career woman who became the first female vice president of Investment Banking, Natori ventured into franchising and furniture production before she became a notable fashion designer for her own brand.
How She Started
A native from Manila, Josie came from a family of entrepreneurs with both parents considered as business tycoons in the construction industry. At the age of 17, she went to New York to study Economics at Manhattan College. After she graduated, she worked in Meryll Lynch and Wall Street, where she met her husband, Ken Natori.
But, it wasn’t after she brought an embroidered blouse from the Philippines to a buyer in Bloomingsdale, when she realized she belonged in the fashion industry. The buyer suggested her to turn the embroidered piece into a sleep wear and this was when everything started for her.
For over 30 years, the Natori Company stood up through the tests of time and is growing stronger. Natori designs are described as where “life meets art”.
Josie Natori received the Galleon Award from the late President of the Philippines Corazon Aquino in 1998. In 2007, she was again awarded with the Lakandula Award by former President-turned-congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The award was deemed to be the highest honor for a Filipino citizen. The following year, BPI director Zobel de Ayala and Labor Secretary Marianito Roque presented the 2008 BPInoy Award to her, the ceremony for which was held in Shangri-la Makati.
She further received a Humanitarian Award from Fashion Group International and the People of America Award from Statue of Liberty by Ellis Island Foundation.
TV and Magazine Features
For this year alone, products from the Natori Company were featured in at least four prominent fashion and lifestyle magazines including Women’s Health for the March 2015 and January 2015 issues, Glamour Magazine for their February 2015 issue, The Oprah Magazine for February 2015 and Family Circle January 2015.
Last year, more magazines gave prominence to her brand like Harper’s Bazaar December 2014 publication, Marie Claire December 2014, Elle November 2014, Cosmopolitan May 2014 and Teen Vogue March 2014. Her creation was also featured in Oprah Magazine two years ago.
Given the diversity of her products, Natori Brand can be seen anywhere and can be worn by anyone in the US and in at least 15 more countries all across the globe.
Gossip Girl Leighton Meester was seen wearing a Natori sleep wear on one of the Gossip Girls episode. In the same TV series, she was also seen wearing a royal blue Josie Natori top and yet on another scene, an emerald robe of the same brand. Kerry Washington or Olivia in the TV series “White Hat’s Back On?” was spotted wearing a Natori camisole in the second season of the show and another award- winning series, Glee, saw Jane Lynch stunning in a Natori dynasty caftan.
Emily Thorne in Revenge was wearing a Natori zen floral top, as she recovering from injuries, while Jessica Lang was seen in a Natori phoenix robe in FX’s American Horror Story and another robe called “Mayon” was spotted in the Tia and Tamera show.
Selena Gomez was also displaying a sexy lace trim chemise from Natori in the front cover of Flaunt magazine, while Bette Midler relaxed on a sofa with her Natori dress, when she was photographed for the Vanity Fair magazine’s April 2013 edition.
From the royals in the Middle East to the A-listers in Hollywood and in other parts of the world, Filipinos have clients who can prove how they can be on the top ladder of creativity and ingenuity. Their deep appreciation of the Philippine’s rich culture and the Filipino’s inherent passion made these renowned fashion designers match, if not surpass, the leaders in the global fashion world.5 of the World Renowned Filipino Fashion Designers by Holly Bissonnette