It’s always been the goal of people in the creative industries to push boundaries, when they can. But do limits exist? How can you push something to its limit, then take a look back, and still say it’s acceptable, even beautiful?
The trick, apparently, is to learn all the rules before you even begin to break them. Mark Higgins, the son of avant-garde designer Salvacion “Slim” Lim Higgins, used the terno as an acceptable. “Don’t change the sleeves.”
Mr. Higgins sits as a co-director of Slim’s Fashion & Arts School, and on Sept. 27, the school had an exhibit in SM Mega Fashion Hall’s atrium, featuring the best designs of its graduating students, with the theme “Laro” (“to play” in English). The exhibit will run until Oct. 3. The exhibit was done in collaboration with Swatch, and is evident in the dress forms and mannequins having the watches as heads. Apparently, according to Mr. Higgins, the partnership is perfect as the brand is releasing a collection called “Think Fun.”
As for the dresses, the students were told to “Play with colors, textures shapes. Think of children’s games, nursery rhymes: knock yourself out, but do it well,” said Mr. Higgins in an interview with BusinessWorld.
Some of the more striking designs we saw on exhibit was a man’s suit with butterfly sleeves, inspired by kites, by student-designer Marvien. A popular dress that attracted visitors to the exhibit was a terno printed with a design inspired by comic books by student Vanessa Pinlac, while several students attempted to interpret card games as garments, resulting in designs that were grand but playful. A design by Jomar Saldo recreates the lightness of childhood with a dress inspired by bubbles, executed with a Japanese technique that created small puffs of translucent fabric. Menswear was well-represented as well, with barongs taking cues from marbles, party games, and catching dragonflies.
“You can do something as outrageous as you like, but it has to be very well-made,” said Mr. Higgins, recalling what he says to students. His mother, Slim Higgins, was known throughout the 1950s to the ‘70s for creating avant-garde looks that took inspiration from playing around with Filipiniana, resulting in outfits that propelled the wearer well into the territory of Balenciaga. The designs showed a Filipina eager to join the party of fashion worldwide, while tiptoeing through the Filipino postwar politics and issues that shaped the nation. Asked about how his mother pushed boundaries in the conservative era of the ’50s, he said, “She would push the limits, and would do very avant-garde designs, but the women always looked beautiful.”
It’s one of the requirements for every student of Slim’s to know how to make a terno before graduating. The terno has fallen in and out of fashion, but it still remains in the collective Filipino consciousness, as seen in Slim’s exhibit. “It is part of the story of the birth of the Filipina,” said Mr. Higgins, when asked about the importance of students to learn how to make a terno. Of course, few of the ternos and dresses exhibited were wholly traditional, so the students also participate in the evolution of the national dress, experimenting with its form but still remaining deeply rooted in its origins. Mr. Higgins used artist Pablo Picasso as an example: while he is known for his abstract work, his earlier work reflects an artist skilled in distilling perfect form and enviable realism. “It makes for an educated designer.” — JLG