100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf: The Fashion Designers
Meet the unique, fabulous, and ingenious designers who spark creativity and innovation in both the regional and international style-spheres, breaking the mold of traditional fashion with their grandiose couture concoctions.
Anyone who has seen Francis ‘Izhcka’ Zeta and his work would notice that he is out-of-this-world. Uber-eccentric style, dramatic demeanor, and his amazingly grandiose couture fantasies all come into play. Anti-establishment and one who is just fashionably different but on-point, he expresses that being different was never something he strived for, but rather something naturally embedded within his personality.
Izhcka is Creative Director at Jacy Kay Couture, serving as the brand’s foremost artistic force. Evident from their long list of local and international elite clientele, they have proven to be a favorite in the market.
When it comes to creating pieces, the eternally-elegant Audrey Hepburn has and will always be Izhcka’s muse. He tells us: “My design philosophy is classic Hepburn. It is something I always apply no matter the nationality of my client.” Izhcka realizes that being recognized in such a huge industry does not come easy, especially as a Filipino. Having worked with a multitude of clients, who can be difficult at times, Izhcka stresses that having a flexible attitude is crucial: “Success as a Filipino doesn’t come easy. It comes with perseverance, tolerance, and a high level of calmness.” A further key to success he thoroughly credits is continually studying one’s craft. He says: “Continuing education, researching for the latest trends in color, garments, and style while maintaining the network of people necessary for success is a must.”
Yen Red AB
You can’t dull his shine. His glamorous creations are noted for their inventiveness, attention to detail, and beguiling fantasy. This, of course, is Yen AB of the couture atelier Yen Couture in Abu Dhabi,
2017 has presented a lot of successes for Yen as a fashion designer. Besides retailing in London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and New York successfully for the second year, his ingenious designs were also featured on 2 American TV shows – HBO’s Insecure and CBS’ Watch Magazine. His pieces also made the glossy pages of Harper’s Bazaar and were donned on the red carpet at Cannes and the American Country Music Awards.
On top of a favorable attitude, the designer believes that the ability to conquer and rise above any negative circumstance is critical to success. Yen says: “My mantra is rooted in never dwelling on a problem too long. Always trust your gut and work smart by having options and solutions in advance.”
Of every facet of his profession, more than anything, Yen greatly appreciates how something wonderful can emerge from a mere sketch. He articulates: “The entire process of creating something from scratch intrigues me. That magical moment when something materializes out of nothing. That’s the reason I’m designing today.”
Before finally recognizing his dream, and establishing a couture atelier of his own, Garimon Roferos has been honing his gift for fashion all through his career, having worked under the wing of some of the industry’s most elite names – including Michael Cinco.
Successfully spearheading his brand, Garimon Roferos Couture in 2017, his masterfully crafted gowns have gained acclaim from his clientele here in the Gulf and beyond. Recently, Garimon was also handed the honor of designing a gown for the Philippine President’s grand-daughter, Isabelle Duterte – which she wore for her debut photo shoot at Malacañang Palace. Being invited to the official ceremony this January, he notes: “I understand that some may have found a way to make this controversial, but I love my home, the Philippines, and was grateful to have been bestowed with this privilege and in a very small way, give back to my country.”
Winning a coveted award earlier in his career at the Concours Internationale des Jeunes Creatures de Mode’s D’Incitation, held in Paris, Garimon has proven that Filipinos can do more than fare well on a global scale. To make it, he elaborates: “Never stop creating new, innovative, and unique ideas.”
Shelfred Cañaveras Surdilla
Don’t be fooled by his age, but Shelfred Cañaveras Surdilla has been rising steadily in the local fashion scene, ever since he arrived eight years ago at the age of twenty. As the Managing Director of Shelfred Le Couturier – Luxurious Modern Abaya, he was successfully able to transition from his modest beginnings as a garment finisher into the owner of a luxury abaya fashion house, through hard work and a sheer commitment to his craft.
Shelfred mainly designs for the chic and fashion-forward Arab women of the UAE, as well as those within the Gulf region. However, his refreshing twist on the culture’s classic gown has made different nationalities embrace the beauty of the abaya – paving the way for the brand’s newer European audience.
With the dream of expanding internationally, Shelfred advises budding designers to value good work ethic and to possess an unwavering sense of dedication towards all facets of one’s trade.
Founder of Dune Abaya, the modest Jun Ricaforte’s impeccable eye for local fashion has won over the loyalty of several powerful women across the emirates. Designing such timeless and luxurious pieces that elegantly transition from season to season, his abayas have even been donned by some of the nation’s prominent sheikhas.
A graduate of the New York School of Fashion Design and a former member of the Fujairah Royal Palace design team, Jun reveals what it takes to truly make it: “Great taste, professionalism in dealing with clients, and a genuine enthusiasm for what you’re doing are imperative. Know that it’s not all glamour. Be good to everyone in the industry, especially to your suppliers and tailors – they are the backbone of your business.”
With his designs soon available at the District Venue Dubai and USH boutiques, he aspires to continue creating refined abayas, to someday, see his brand in the top elegant stores of the Gulf.
Ryan Pacioles’ sixteen years in fashion have been finally rewarded with his dream come true debut at Fashion Forward Dubai in 2017, under the banner of Atelier Zuhra. Presenting a collection that was so well-received, Ryan voices: “Being a part of such a prestigious event in the world of fashion was an amazing experience and a true career highlight. It wasn’t only a great platform to exhibit my works; it was also a huge confidence booster.”
Together with being a skilled designer, Ryan who initially started in Saudi Arabia believes that being a good person is equally conducive to prosperity. He shares, “My recipe for success is rooted in my core values. First, be Kind. Kindness will open doors to a lot of opportunities. Next is Excellence. Give your absolute best in every aspect of your craft.”
Rising Kuwait based fashion designer, Resty Lagare has been moving up in the global fashion arena in recent years, with 2017 being the pinnacle of his design career. Along with unveiling his couture collection at Fashion Week in LA, Phoenix, and New York, he also earned the incredible break of dressing up the finalists of Germany’s Next Top Model, as well as super model host Heidi Klum.
Initially designing for fashion ateliers in Dubai back in the 90’s, Resty is now the resident fashion designer at Lovely Fashion in Kuwait. For two decades there, he and his team have been producing magnificent couture for members of the Royal Family, as well as local actresses and personalities.
His secret to success? Resty expresses: “Alongside good work ethic and constantly updating oneself with the latest trends, to thrive, fashion designers should also keep abreast with the latest social media tools that can help them market their creations.”
Recently appointed Creative Director at newly launched fashion atelier, Nymph Couture, Phio Enaje brings a fresh perspective to the industry, with an extensive background in fashion merchandising. Designing in the emirates for over seven years now, he not only creates fabulous gowns but also dabbles in shoes and accessories.
With a yearning for old Hollywood glamour, Phio’s design aesthetic unites the timeless essence of icons like Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, with the refined woman of today who effortlessly exudes grace.
Not swayed by today’s trend, Phio feels that achievement lies in staying true to oneself. He voices: “Backed with talent, passion, and perseverance, I have always followed my vision. This simple yet significant notion is an approach I apply to both my profession and life in general.”
Head Designer and Creative Director at Al Aroosa Aniqah – a couture brand whose name rings familiar with Emirati Women all over the UAE – Harvey Cenit never ceases to pique the interests of his clientele, with his fairy tale works of art that beautifully balance the delicateness of femininity, and modern couture’s opulent appeal.
Bestowed with several awards this year, a significant highlight for Harvey was being able to dress up his most recent muse, the beautiful Filipina actress, Maxene Magalona, for the Star Magic Ball 2017.
For Harvey, becoming an eminent figure in the world of fashion is no straight-forward procedure – he tells us: “There is really no known recipe for success. You just have to do whatever you are passionate about, take risks and don’t hold back. If you fail, learn from it, and accept constructive criticism. It won’t just make you better at work, but it will make you a better person too.”
Photography by: Alex Callueng, Mox Santos, Nick Velarde, Mayo Gayares and Remar Toledo
Illustrado 100 was made possible by sponsors: Giordano, Liali Jewellery, Mitsubishi UAE- Al Habtoor Motors, Michael Cinco Couture, Mapúa Institute of Technology, Centro – Amwaj Rotana Hotel , Max’s Restaurant Middle East and GVER – Your Friendly MarketPlace for Sharing
Co-Sponsors: Herschel Supply Co., Rove Hotels, The Medical City – Dubai , Filipino Institute UAE, MPQ Tourism, JAMES Travel and Tours Dubai, Off the Hook Seafood Restaurant, The Original Barrio Fiesta Restaurant – Dubai and Tapa King UAE.
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