Priceless, unique, and brilliant—these are the words that fashion designer Jor-El Espina uses to characterize his creations, and more importantly, those he uses to describe the Filipino culture which he lives to preserve.
Establishing himself as a master of bridal and Filipino formal wear more than a decade ago, this Ilonggo talent focuses his gaze beyond the horizon of the familiar just last year. The creative gears and cogs in his head began to turn once more, all in an effort to create products that wouldn't just be original and eye-catching, but packed with symbolism and meaning as well.
The result was something totally unforeseen, but now beloved by his loyal following: handcrafted Filipino streetwear that incorporates traditional weaves, designs, and materials that elevate local craftsmanship made by and for the Filipino.
"Before, when we say local fabrics, what comes to mind is costumes, curtains, and table runners. Why can’t we make it relevant to the millennials, to the fashion-conscious, to others? And by doing so, at the same time, it’s raising awareness of our culture, too" Jor-El says.
His new venture saw him traveling to anywhere from Ilo-Ilo for hablod, Zamboanga, Basilan, Aklan, and even the far North in search of prized Ifugao fabrics and weaves that now define each and every one of his street wear designs. In fact, this is exactly why Jor-El chose to set his heart on reinventing the reputation of local weavers and their products' potential.
"[Buyers] don't realize the value of the fabric, the value of the craft that our ancestors have. I realized myself too that these pieces are really precious, because they could disappear if we don't care for them," he reflects.
With Jor-El's genuine efforts to preserve and promote this element of Filipino art and culture, he hasn't only helped the communities he's tapped so far, but also successfully shared the love, respect, and admiration he has for local artisans with his market.
After all, his most popular item, the unisex "bomberong"—his intricate take on combining the traditional barong Tagalog and the staple fashion piece bomber jacket—completely sold out last year when he first participated in ArteFino. Without a doubt, his unprecedented success proved to him that he had done right by following his intuition and using his skill to pay tribute to his national identity.
"I have to thank the people behind these beautiful things: the weavers, bead workers, and the sewers. This is my tribute to them," he adds.
Along the bomberong, his dresses, button-down blouses, cover-ups, and sleeveless tops are also all in demand by satisfied customers both old and new, and will be available at ArteFino 2018. It's important to note that all of Jor-El's pieces are one-of-a-kind, though he accepts customized orders which he can collaborate on with interested parties—so don't miss the chance to take home one of his creations that we're sure will be a hit with everyone who takes notice of them.