JOHN HERRERA, the Filipino designer who was named Britain’s Top Designer in 2017, has just opened his eponymous flagship store at Edsa Shangri-La Plaza. There, 10 to 15 pieces of his off-the-rack bridal gowns and evening dresses are available.
“There is a market for ready-to-wear (RTW),” Mr. Herrera said during his store’s opening on July 10.
After long relying on couturiers to supply its formal clothes needs, Manila has, of late, welcomed international labels that sell RTW gowns. Mr. Herrera is aware of this, and he gladly joins in the party.
“I am brave enough to come up with off-the-rack because I know it can compete with Rosa Clara or Vera Wang, which are here now.”
He noted that in London, brides-to-be have many RTW choices and they prefer the convenience of buying RTW. He said he wants the same for Filipinas.
“I think the Filipinos are starting to be ready for it. I am proud of the collection because of how forward they are. In London, every bridal store in is tangible. We are trying to get rid of the drama of preparing for a wedding. I want stressed-free brides,” he said as the reason behind his store.
In 2015, Mr. Herrera joined the International Fashion Showcase produced by the British Fashion Council where he won the London Emerging Designer Award. He launched his own brand in London after that. That same year, he flew to Tokyo, Japan for the Fashion Week and wowed his audience.
Mr. Herrera’s designs are influenced by Filipino cultural images like the aswang (ghoul) and agila (Philippine eagle). His designs are structured, edgy, and definitely high fashion.
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The bridal gowns at his store are tame and traditional by his standards.
“I am thinking of a lot of women, in their 20s to 40s when I was doing the designs. I don’t think even the matron brides are not going wear our dresses. It fits demographics: size, shape, silhouette. We have a broad spectrum,” he said of his shop’s offerings.
His sewing and embelishment techniques are modern, but the silhouettes — ballgown, mermaid, straight — are classic.
“I was taught in the traditional way of making clothes so quality is important to me. I am addicted to sewing. The inner part of the gowns are machine-made because that’s how you create an accurate seam, but the embroidery and the beading are handmade. I am also addicted to hand-stitching, embroidery, and beading — anything that makes a dress stand out because of its uniqueness, I am all for it,” he said.
His bridal gowns are in traditional white on nude and were inspired by the Antiquity collections that he saw at his favorite museums, The Louvre Museum in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where “they love to highlight the white parts of whatever architectural masterpiece the masons have done by staining or putting them against a darker stone.”
It follows that his designs undergo the same process. “So what I do with my bridal gowns, the ones that I really truly love, are nude palettes under the white beading or whatever. If you look at it from afar, it looks like the bride is naked, and the beadings look like they are sewn on the body of the bride. I am not claiming that I am an original — I’ve seen these things being done by other great designers here and abroad — but I love the idea and I hope more brides will try the nudes [dresses] besides the white ones,” he said.
Nude, in fact, works with different body types including full-figured ones, he said.
“A pure white gown is unforgiving. When you have a nude (fabric) under, especially if it is matte, it recedes and you make more contours in the body. Whereas in white, it brings everything forward, making you look bigger,” he said, while suggesting that taupe, nude, and tan work best for the full-figured woman. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman