THE MID-2000s were a great time to be a certain kind of designer. The full effects of the looming financial crunch that would define the latter part of the 2000s would not be felt yet, and it was okay to be rich. The shock and vulgarity of the early 2000s, playing with reality TV and the early days of mainstream internet have slightly worn off. Styles in this present decade have sobered up, but the years before it showed a special kind of wealthy wearer: she wasn’t the teen in metallics and glitter of the early 2000s, best exemplified by Paris Hilton. This was a buttoned-up rich girl with a sense of fun, say like the present Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Designer Sassa Jimenez, who celebrated her 10th anniversary in fashion in a show last week in Makati, came out of this milieu. Her dresses, through the years, show a party girl who finds herself increasingly sober in the mornings. Her early work showed experimentation in cut and fabric, but her work today is exemplified in a giant blue-green ball gown presented in her anniversary show. While it displays the designer’s early sense of frou-frou and fun, with regards to texture and workmanship, it also displays a maturity on both the wearer and the designer.

Other designers from the period have come and gone, but Sassa stays. “The unwavering support of my clients, family, friends and colleagues in the industry are what really brought me here. I think that nature of my job has a lot to do with the people around you and I’m lucky to have found great support from a lot of people,” said Ms. Jimenez in an interview with BusinessWorld.

Ms. Jimenez studied Creative Writing at the Ateneo, but pursued a degree at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA, graduating cum laude. She made her industry debut in 2008 in Philippine Fashion Week. “I truly consider that my big break. Everything snowballed since my first major fashion show and I really owe a lot to that experience. I wouldn’t know half of what I know today if I didn’t take the risk of doing that show,” she said.

Speaking about how her areas of study: that is, literature and design come, together, she said, “I think just being able to express myself creatively through any medium is an advantage. I guess what influenced my work was being around people who shared the same passions as me really inspired me to do more creative work. I’ve always been surrounded by creative people and that really propelled me to pursue something in fashion design.”

We suppose that it’s this little bit of lit that makes her designs just so, which she sometimes describes as “whimsical.” Fashion is usually dominated by men, giving form to an ideal woman to be looked at in a certain way by men. When women take the helm when it comes to clothing — knowing how a woman’s body works, how it moves, and how a woman thinks — results in something different. While other designers usually take this as a cue to release women from bondage, resulting in more freedom of movement, Ms. Jimenez’s creations unleash what a feminine woman thinks she can be.

“Being a woman who designs for other women is so empowering. It’s so nice to be able to talk about what we like wearing, sharing our insecurities about our bodies and going through changes together as we age. It’s always nice to know you have that relationship with the people that wear your clothes because it broadens your knowledge of your market.”

The world can be cruel sometimes, and we often need escape. Speaking about the femininity and fantasy in her clothing, she said, “It’s always healthy to fulfil some sort of fantasy that we have and I think that can be achieved through fashion. Clothes have always been a great avenue for self expression and I want everyone to experience that.” — J.L. Garcia