Slim’s Fashion and Arts School starts an education fund for the future fashion elite

Cover Art Erka Capili Inciong

Words by

Digital Reporter

We’re all artists so you can’t expect us to stay in our seats like in a normal classroom,” Niv Lagman De Leon told SparkUp when asked about what studying in fashion school is like. De Leon is gravity defying, Elphaba from Wicked‑inspired gown took center stage at the Slim’s Fashion and Art’s School exhibit last October 17 at the SM Megamall Fashion Hall, with its classic terno sleeves ala‑Salvacion Lim Higgins(more popularly known as Slim herself) paired with sleek, villanous gloves and gold watches.

Getting into Slim’s was a bit of a struggle for De Leon. “Ever since I was young I was eyeing fashion already, but after graduation I had to work outside of fashion,” he recalled. “I also became a gemologist and I was also into interior design at some point. So designing has always been part of my life. I decided to quit my job and go to fashion school.”

Such a decision can’t be easy. In a separate interview, Slim’s Fashion and Art’s School co‑director and daughter to Lim Higgins, Sandy Higgins, told SparkUp that it costs an average of ₱30,000 to enroll in one of the school’s many modules, which include fashion design, dressmaking, tailoring, textile study, draping and even the business of fashion, to name a few. That’s why as of 2017, Slim’s Fashion and Art’s School launched the Salvacion Lim Higgins Education Fund, named after its iconic co‑founder and world‑renowned couturier.

“Slim’s as a school has been around 60 years and we’ve had in the past the school directors, patrons, members of the fashion community have helped some students in scholarships here and there. But it was never formalized,” Higgins explained. “So this is the first time that we’re actually formalizing this scholarship program. The Salvacion Lim Higgins Education fund which is named after the co‑founder, my mother Slim, is primarily going to be used for scholarships and initially we’re going to focus on existing students who are having trouble continuing because they need a little financial assistance.”

Acknowledging that the aptitude for fashion can come from people from different backgrounds and social standing, Higgins said that the need to focus on their own students first stems from the assurance that they are the ones who are seeriously considering making a career out of fashion. “Slim’s as a school takes fashion very very seriously and we’d like to help students who take it seriously—who really want to take it as a source of income,” said Higgins. “The reason why we are focusing on current students is most of the students who apply or enrollees to our school have never drawn or sewn anything. It’s hard to gauge where their potential is, whereas an existing student who’s been with us maybe for a few months already, we know how much potential they have, how disciplined they are, how serious they are. Because they have a track record we’re able to assess whether they’re deserving of a scholarship.”

And that’s good news for current students who are struggling to keep up with their studies in what is admittedly an expensive field. “Sometimes we see students enrolled on one module and then disappear for many many months because they don’t have money for the next module,” said Higgins. “And it’s a shame because that kind of interruption doesn’t help with their studies. Sometimes they have to go to work for a while. We have students who have to go to work for a couple of years then they come back.”

The students whose works were displayed smack dab at the center of one of the most crowded malls in Ortigas, SM Megamall, surely take their studies seriously. De Leon hopes to elevate the terno into everyday wear (“I would wear it everyday if babae ako,” he told SparkUp) through launching his own label.

Myka Dominado, whose partially hand‑stitched, bejeweled and embroidered terno was made from Indian cloth that she saved for her graduation piece, hopes to build a company around fashion. “In the future I see myself as a designer and an entrepreneur,” Dominado told SparkUp after greeting her grandmother and cousins who came to see the exhibit. “Hopefully I can build a company that has a friendly environment for the clothes that we will distribute.” She described studying as Slim’s as “masaya but pressured” because they’re trained to be on time and professional, which means beating deadlines.

The scholarship hopefully will not stop at students enrolled at Slim’s. “What we’re hoping is that later in a year or two we’ll be able to be a little more accessible to outside students,” Higgins said. Until then, aspiring fashion students can check out Slim’s through their website or at their Makati campus for a chance to be a part of the country’s fashion elite.