A DESIGNER-LED fashion initiative, the PHx Fashion Conference aims to provide a holistic, inspirational, and informative experience for Filipino fashion practitioners, and ultimately, to expand the market for Philippine fashion. The conference — to be held on Nov. 11 to 14 at the Philippine Trade Training Center in Pasay City — will tap into the combined strengths of Japan and the Philippines to incubate the next generation of global Filipino fashion designers.
“I think it’s about time that we have this conference in Manila, that we really push the Filipino designer to think beyond the Philippine market,” current head of the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and founder and creative director of Aranaz, Amina Aranaz-Alunan told BusinessWorld at the conference’s launch on Sept. 3 in Makati. “I’m not saying that the Philippine market is not enough, because it is. There’s a lot of growth in the Philippine market. But I think that somehow, it’s also our responsibility to tell the Filipino story to the rest of the world.”
It’s easy to note that gaps in the Philippine fashion industry, which has yet to launch a brand or a personality on the same level as, say, Christian Dior or Gucci. These gaps would include lacunae on manufacturing, which Ms. Aranaz-Alunan acknowledged. However, she said, “The main challenge to bring it to the global market is really information on how to do it.” She cited that a lot of young designers need information on buyers, suppliers, government procedures and support, and matters such as taxation and shipping logistics. She also said that while the government, through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), can give support, “If you compare the support the government support that the Philippines gets, compared to other neighboring countries, it’s not the same.”
“It’s not an overnight fix,” she admits. “It really has to be a shift in culture; a shift in mindset. It’s really an entire ecosystem.”
The conference — co-presented by DTI through its agency The Philippine Training Trade Center (PTTC) and the FDCP — will bring together resource speakers and lecturers from both the creative and business ends of the fashion industry to discuss overseas market opportunities and best practices in a regional and global level. It is designed by Philippine fashion practitioners for their colleagues, especially the fashion designers working on their labels.
“The Japanese fashion industry turns over sales of approximately $143 billion. It’s one of the most exciting and most important fashion markets in the world,” former model Teresa Ortiz-Matera of LIT Fashion Consultancy, who is a PHx Fashion Conference project adviser, was quoted as saying in a press release. “That’s why it’s also exciting to look into it and see how we can learn from it.”
Speakers from Japan will work together with some of the biggest names in the Philippine fashion industry, and the four-day conference will dive into the Japanese market’s culture and patterns, export costings and pricings, and modes of distribution. It will also discuss how Philippine fashion can create a relevant global presence, and how Filipino designers can compete in today’s digitally operated global fashion industry.
Australian fashion director and editor Jason Lee Coates, and marketing and business administration expert Hirohito Suzuki of H3O Fashion Bureau will be among the speakers at the conference. Established in 2006, H3O discovers fresh brands and emerging talents from Japan, Asia, and the rest of the world, and helps them create a strong base in the Japanese fashion industry and the global market.
Also among the conference speakers are Ms. Aranaz-Alunan; fashion retailer Mike Concepcion; London-trained Filipino fashion designer Carl Jan Cruz; former fashion and lifestyle journalist and co-founder of the Tokyo-based skincare brand Damdam, Giselle Go; DTI-CITEM executive director and former fashion editor Pauline Juan; founder and designer of Tokyo-based Filipino clothing and shoe brand JMan, Johann Manas; LIT Fashion Consultancy’s Ms. Ortiz-Matera; and co-owner and design director for Proudrace, Rik Rasos. More speakers are to be announced soon on www.phxfashion.org.
Aside from creative talks, panel discussions, and workshops during the conference, select participants will also get a chance to have their design portfolios reviewed by H30 Fashion Bureau’s Mssrs. Coates and Suzuki and LIT Fashion Consultancy’s Ms. Ortiz-Matera.
It can be inferred that the Philippine fashion market is ripe for the picking. Environmental concerns and a distaste for the ubiquitous are slowly shifting consumers to fashion that is sustainable, artisanal, and produced on smaller scale — which just so happens to be what the Philippines is known for.
“We could never compete with the mass-manufacturing, huge factories that China has,” said Ms. Aranaz-Alunan. “We are about artisanship, small, and meaningful. We’re lucky now that it’s also what the international market is looking for.”
“The world is looking for products with meaning. It’s just right for us now, because that’s what we can do.” — JL Garcia