The past revisited

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By Joseph L. Garcia

“For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience… all the while, allowing memories to invest them with greater and greater importance.” — Count Alexander Rostov, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

EMBEDDED into every garment that has touched skin is a memory. In Glorious Dias, a vintage shop in Poblacion, racks and racks of clothing hold memories: of people, and of a world that has passed, and with every ticking moment, continues to do so.

Tops in black by designers such as Oleg Cassini were hung across the room facing racks of pants and skirts, while curator Jodinand Aguillon riffled through another rack of white tops. “Pleats, embroidery,” he said, while running his fingers through each one. “Everything has something that makes it stand out from any other white top.”

Most of the clothes in the store are at least 20 years old, making their continued existence even more remarkable. Mr. Aguillon began his collection with a load of 50 barong Tagalogs, sourced from, of all places, Canada, where he grew up. “I don’t know if we’re creative,” he said, speaking about his family. “But as far as business sense goes, my parents ran a bakery. That’s where I literally learned the ropes of, I guess, making dough, literally.”

Mr. Aguillon eventually pursued a career in the visual and performing arts, with stints in dance in Canada, as well as set and costume design in the Philippine theater scene. He then came to become a co-owner of art space Pineapple Lab in Poblacion, Makati, and after a move down the street from its original location, the space adjacent to it became a home for his collection of vintage clothing.

“This was supposed to be just a one-week pop-up shop,” he said. But the success of the pop-up just a few months ago convinced him to make the shop a permanent fixture.

The shop, Glorious Dias (using the Spanish word for “days”) is both a pun and a homage. “It’s kind of a nod to the glory days of back-then,” he said. Of course, the shop is also named after 1969’s Miss Universe Gloria Diaz, whom he thinks is indicative of the glamorous period that his collection represents. “Absolutely. First Pinay Miss Universe,” he said with a touch of pride.

“She came here, with her daughters. She loved it,” he said, gesturing to a mirror which has the shop’s name written on it, which brought its namesake some amusement.

Now, as we mentioned beforehand, most of the clothes in the store are at least 20 years old. “Knowing that it has lasted over 20 years, it’s going to surpass the quality of the garments being made now, as far as fast fashion is concerned,” he said.

While BusinessWorld riffled through the racks, Mr. Aguillon showed off his piece de resistance. One wall of the shop is devoted to his favorite dresses, some of them made by Filipino masters of fashion design: think Pitoy Moreno, Ramon Valera, and Patis Tesoro. He extended the skirt of a wedding dress, embroidered with butterflies in seed pearls and beads, created he said by Ramon Valera.

He then took down a party dress from the flapper era in the Philippines, reflecting an interaction between the Philippines and its American colonizers, showing a tiered skirt but decidedly conservative sleeves. “It’s very tiny,” he noted.

He then showed another party dress, in gold lace, weighed down with beads. “Look at that,” he said, handing the hanger over. “Feel how heavy that is.”

Every moment your eye wanders on that wall, you’ll find something to amaze you: from that rack, he took down a terno in fuchsia with black embroidery. This dress, he said, was from the 1930s — right when the terno’s silhouette was evolving from the Maria Clara to the dress we know today.

These pieces, unfortunately, are not for sale. “They’re not wearable; they’re brittle. But they’re absolutely beautiful. They should be appreciated.”

“Whether or not it has defects, holes; I appreciate the details, the print in the textiles, and the way that they’re made.”

“I think better materials, better craftsmanship,” he said, when asked why clothes — these pieces, particularly — are able to last so long, intact. “That saying, ‘They don’t make it like they used to.’”

“Hanging on to a piña (pineapple fiber cloth) dress that has holes and stains, it sounds crazy. But for me, the beauty of it is seeing how well they’re made, and that you don’t see that every day.”

With advances in technology at the fingertips of every designer, it should be simpler now more than ever to make the most beautiful, grandiose things, but in stores, all one sees is the same iterations, over and over again. Of course, changes in fashion and lifestyles have to be be taken into consideration, but also, “Good things take time,” Mr. Aguillon said, and hardly anybody now has the time to make, or wear such lavish outfits.

He’s not opposed to the new, as proven by the gray T-shirt and jeans he wore under his denim apron. “I don’t know if it’s really better,” he said about vintage clothing. “I like it for its uniqueness.”

He also talked about the experience of shopping for vintage clothing, from the perspective of the customer. “Every time you shop vintage, it feels like a win when you come across a gem that speaks to you.”

As he said this, this reporter went through a rack of black blazers, and ran my hands along a sleeve — “Oh my God, it’s Yves Saint Laurent!”

Mr. Aguillon just proved his point. “That reaction to that Yves Saint Laurent on that rack… that feeling. No one does that in a big retail store. No one yells, ‘Oh my God!’ But that happens here.”

“Clothing should bring about a feeling. You should feel great in the clothes you wear. So when you see something and it brings back memories… why not fill your closet with clothes that, I hate it (referring to the ubiquity of the Marie Kondo quote), ‘spark joy’?”

Glorious Dias is open on Thursdays to Sundays, and is located on 6053 R. Palma St. in Poblacion, Makati.