Friday, March 6, 2009


Coming to a ramp near you: Aavel Bacudio's confection
for April's Fashion Watch

Wealthy Filipinos used to hire maids from HK. Now the HK Chinese hire us.
How did we lose rice production to Indonesia and Vietnam? We practically INVENTED RICE!! What made us choose malls over meals?
Which brings me to our talent---fashion, advertising and other creatives. Why did we (that includes me) have to leave?
The original and most obvious reason was ambition. There was no way to move up in the Philippines if there was no opportunity. For me, that was in the Eighties. At that time Marcos had already raped the economy so much that we wuz beggin’ for it.

But by the time I returned in the mid-Nineties, there was STILL no opportunity when Hong Kong and Singapore were already huge trading ports, paying salaries equal to or even more (if you count housing and low taxation) than New York or London. My friends in America laughed until they cried when I told them my salary was going down every year. When I arrived, it was 25 pesos to 1 USD. When I left five years later it was 40 to 1.

When I came back to Manila, running magazines put me in touch with the local fashion business. By this time, the country was so enamored with what was ‘imported’ there was no going back for store returns. I’m not saying imports are bad. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea are huge consumers of imports, particularly true luxury goods. As much as Pinoys like to think so, Marks and Spencer, Nine West, Abecrombie and Fitch and the Gap are NOT luxury goods houses.

However, for us to sustain any form of luxury or middle market ‘imports’ economy, we must first learn to appreciate our own. And that means going to local designers NOT JUST for a wedding gown or a pink chiffon matrona ninang dress with matching taffeta mules!!! Thailand has a booming local fashion retail scene as presented in Siam Center. Singapore has that treasure trove of a dump, Herren Plaza. Although people bemoan Hong Kong’s loss as a manufacturing base, it has produced Espirit, Shanghai Tang, Blanc de Chine, Spy (v cute!) and Giordano. It is not easy. The Japanese, now the purveyor of chic and cool, were not accepted by their own department stores until they showed in Paris in the Eighties. The Taiwanese struggled with mom and pop businesses until one…JUST ONE … buyer with foresight at the Sunrise Department store kick started a whole industry that still exists and continues to grow today. They have a local designer selling jackets at 3000 USD that hangs in the same areas as Valentino and Chanel. The others sit happily in malls next to agnes b, Tod’s, Juicy, etc. There is no snobbism unlike in the Philippines. It could be education, it could be a strong middle class, it could be a long national history but…..

It is also ignorance of mall operators and snobbishness of the brands. Again, the lack of national pride. It is the duty of big business to educate its customers but they don’t. And so we have the biggest American bourgeois market outside America----the land of jeans, white shirt and loafers (which is not a bad thing on Margarita Fores but a uniform on everyone else!), tee-shirt, “It” bag, jeans and Jimmy Choos, all New York black (in the tropics?).…..

On the other hand, I have to commend Ayala Land for having an area for local designers in Glorietta 5. (I saw that last year so God knows what it looks like today) The time has really come and like I said, it takes one---one with foresight, one with belief and one with capital to take this gamble. I hope the rents will not kill the local brands. (Everywhere in the free world, rents are like cancer. They kill you)

Why is it that for us, if it’s local, it’s ‘pangit?” Of course there are things everywhere that are really diabolical (except Japan because there, they just have ‘weird”) but there are many things in the Philippines that can be developed but we have to work on our quality. I can think of several names that do not fail to disappoint ---Silk Cocoon scarves (Everyone goes, “Wow!”) Jewelmer, Happy Feet (My yoga classmates in HK and people in Europe want to know where I bought mine!), Bench, Budji, Kenneth Cobunpue, Regatta boxer shorts (one London journalist told me they are better than Turnbull and Asser’s), Rizal Farms, the Magsaysay honey cosmetics guy in Tagaytay. New York labels such as Kotur and Rafe (a NY-based Filipino-owned label) source materials and draw inspiration from the Philippines. As much as I dislike the owners, Celestina has put out a product that the country can be proud of. (As long as they pay their suppliers!)

If you have two things with the same price tag and the local one is better made, why would you choose the one from Marlboro Classics or the discount outlet? Because it has ‘status?”

I think aside from losing national pride, the country has also lost the memo posted in many closets across the word: That the “It” bag is over. For the true fashionista, “It” never really was.

OH OH OH OH....The Patola Vine came home practcially out of breath last night, heaving from the weight of its branches. It was at the garden center looking for a shovel to bury me with when it ran into none other than Dona Victorina ( who ALREADY BOUGHT A SHOVEL to bury one of the most popular bloggers and also bought a tungsten lamp to SHED LIGHT on the person behind a now defunct gossip blog!!

OH MY GAS!!! When will this happen?? VERY SOON!!!
OH MY GAS mag-load na kayo ng telephone because this will be BIG!


fuchsiaboy said...

amen to supporting GOOD, CREATIVE and TALENTED local designers. ;)

collinfongjr said...

thing bad to purchase import goods. But what will you expect to this Filipino's who has a colonial mentality. Aside from being a crab mentality. They really prefer imported goods like clothes and many more.

Anonymous said...

wait, mama kitty, i dont understand. when shopingera palingkera outed chikatime, you said you would be ashamed to tell anyone if you had chikatime closed. and now, you're praising amiel and papa brian because he allegedly knows who chikatime is? thats double standard!

Anonymous said...

All the things that you have stated are true. The only way for the country to catch up with our neighbors is by getting rid of colonial mentality and supporting local talent and sustaining it in the long run.

It is good to know that more and more local brands are coming out and being supported by the younger generation.

You should go back to Greenbelt 5 and Powerplant Mall in Rockwell when you visit Manila again. ;)

dindin said...

i love this post. if people could see beyond some of the "material details" here, they will realize how sensitive and right you are.i empathize with your sentiments. tama ka. we should stop being brown americans.

eyegames said...

Dahling, I understand how you soured on the American dream but unfortunately the American financial grip on everything in the world is hard to loosen.

It's the American Century after all.

Have you heard anyone hoarding yuans, HK dollars and rubles?) My point exactly.