SPENDING about half a century in the fashion industry, Auggie Cordero — who passed away on Oct. 24 — not only dressed Manila society’s best-dressed, but was also able to put the country on the map, presenting fashion shows all over Asia and the United States.
Mr. Cordero started out with a small atelier in Manila’s former creative district, Malate, in the 1970s. He had been dressing fashionable young things until his clothes caught the eye of late philanthropist and socialite Chito Madrigal. Ms. Madrigal — along with then-Hyatt Manager Peter Jentes, and directors Bobby Caballero and Gary Flores — organized lunchtime fashion shows at the hotel, watched by wealthy and worldly Manila socialites. Mr. Cordero would first find success there, and he would rake in orders by the time lunch was over.
According to a column of the Philippine Star (“Auggie Cordero: Still the Master,” Savoir Faire by Mayenne Carmona, 2006), the success at the Hyatt brought him places. Through the Hyatt, he had been able to stage shows in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. Soon after, he was headed to the United States, staging shows in Hawaii, California, and New York.
New York was the site of his dreams. In an interview with Tatler (“Master of the Craft” by Chit L. Lijauco, 2015), he said, “I was given an immigrant’s card in 1976, and the thought of apprenticing with the likes of Oscar dela Renta was irresistible! Turned out I was just sorting buttons for one month!” In another Philippine Star column (“The Simple Life of Auggie Cordero,” Chuvaness by Cecile Van Straten, 2005), Mr. Cordero said that in New York, he had been taking courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology and working for a Jewish manufacturer.
Back in the Philippines, Mr. Cordero would be the favorite of the high set. Though Mr. Cordero appeared in Imelda Marcos’ Nayong Pilipino fashion extravaganza Bagong Anyo (along with storied names Inno Sotto and Joe Salazar) in the 1970s, the change of guard in 1986 saw him dressing former president Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, as remembered by her daughter, celebrity Kris Aquino. In an Instagram post by Ms. Aquino in 2019, she showed a picture of her and her mother attending the enthronement of Emperor Akihito of Japan in 1990, with Mrs. Aquino wearing one of Mr. Cordero’s barong tunics in royal blue.
Mr. Cordero was also the favorite of socialite Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, a sister-in-law of the president. In 1997, prima ballerina Lisa Macuja wore an Auggie Cordero dress to wed tycoon Fred Elizalde.
Fashion designer Rajo Laurel told BusinessWorld in an Instagram message, “I am so saddened by this news. He was a brilliant man. A true arbiter of good taste and masterful elegance. His presence has influenced many generations of Filipino creatives. Such a tragic loss.”
In private, Mr. Cordero liked movies and books (both the Tatler and Philippine Star articles we quoted noticed his collection of DVDs and tomes). “In life, you must seek your own happiness,” he told Ms. Van Straten. — JLG