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RTW VS. Couture At The Phx Fashion Conference

A fashion conversation participated by Filipino Designers: Rajo Laurel, Rosanna Ocampo, Randy Ortiz, and Vania Romoff. You don't want to miss this.

No matter how pre-historic the term ready-to-wear and couture is, Filipino fashion designers, consumers, and enthusiasts have so much more to learn about the growing fashion market. With the surge of online shopping and the progressing access to worldwide goods, Filipino brands and ateliers are more challenged than ever. During the PHx Fashion Conference, designers: Rajo Laurel, Vania Romoff, Rosanna Ocampo, and Randy Ortiz conversed in a panel talk called Navigating through the Fashion World: RTW vs. Couture. The panel talk is also graced by Metro’s Editor-in-Chief Geolette Esguerra and co-moderated by Amina Aranaz-Alunan of Aranaz.

It’s a no-brainer that we live and breathe fashion even in the smallest bits. No matter how we see the clothes from department stores to boutique windows, these pieces of clothing shape how we dress up everyday. We’re also equally influenced by coveted pieces we see on the runway through the Instagram brands we religiously follow. The process in creating these pieces did not happened in a blink of an eye. Whether it is ready-to-wear or couture, these pieces went through several drafts and reconstruction to satisfy the Filipino market or the client.

The designers chose between ready-to-wear or made-to-order and elaborated on why they chose the other in terms of their experiences, present state, and projected plans for their brand or atelier.  

Rajo Laurel shares his love of building his atelier. He chooses couture because he appreciates the intimate connection with the piece specifically designed by him and his client. He remembers how joyous it feels to spend hours and hours on just choosing a color and at the end choosing the obvious. The time spent on constructing the garment piece-by-piece is what he feels attached the most. The joy also comes with hard-hitting challenges for his atelier. Rajo mentioned that as a designer you must be prepared when the opportunity comes and be realistic on making decisions that will affect your atelier in short or long term. When asked about his thoughts on sustainability, Rajo thinks that “We should change the paradigm shift on how we source our materials, how we make our clothes, and how we sell our clothes”. Navigating the fashion world in this digital age is tough but Rajo emphasizes that “If you are not passionate enough to stay and be involved through the ups-and-downs of being in fashion, you have to leave this room”.

Meanwhile, Rosanna Ocampo chooses ready-to-wear because there is a certain rush when a collection is complete and is ready to sell in stores. She mentioned that the demand of ready-to-wear is fast to the point where they would release a collection and customers of her brand would come in the store the next week asking if there is already a new collection. She added that in order to produce and sell pieces for her brand, every piece should live and breathe the brand. With this, she thinks that there is a giant need for quality materials in the Philippines that all brands and ateliers can work with. Apart from that, Rosanna thinks that “There is no excuse in saying you’re not creative, everyone can be creative because everything is at the tips of your finger, you just have to study, learn, and execute”.

With 30 years of creating made-to-order for his clientele, Randy Ortiz says that he chooses couture through and through. If he can do it for the rest of his life, he says he will be happy to do so. From the design process to the final one-of-a-kind piece delicately attached with the tag saying Randy Ortiz, the designer wants to emphasize that it is a tedious process and it requires a lot of hard work. He emphasizes that it is crucial to have an accurate business model to penetrate the local fashion market, invading the international fashion market is a different kind of competition also. Randy said “We have to patronize each other. Fashion in the country is growing because we are supporting each other”. With this, the designer feels thrilled for what’s in store for him and his atelier in the near future.

Vania Romoff, known for her coveted custom gowns, feels that she prefers to do ready-to-wear more. The designer thinks that having a brand means having the freedom to build your own collection while having an atelier means having a specific piece created for a single client. Vania thinks that she feels more fulfillment and growth as a designer when it comes to making ready-to-wear. Since each piece in the collection is designed by her, she values the fact that these pieces will be worn by a lot of people which means she gets to share more of her experience and work as a designer. Vania highlights the importance of growth in which she says “As your brand grows each year, you as the designer should develop different skill sets each time you pass a certain height in your career. There is so much to learn and these skill sets will help you along the way”. With globalization paving ways for the Filipino brands and ateliers, Vania thinks “We should charge head on with our culture and stories threaded to the seams of the pieces we make”.

Rajo, Rosanna, Randy, and Vania had different takes on ready-to-wear vs. couture but in the end these designers are striving for Filipino talent to be recognized in the local and international fashion markets. No matter which area they choose to excel, we must say that they each remain to be among one of the cornerstones of fashion in the country.