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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, November 18, 1999

Courtesy of Edgar San Diego
Sheer fabric and progressive designs characterize
the work of Edgar San Diego.

Small strides
make big step for
Filipino designers

By Nadine Kam
Features Editor


JOHN Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld. Someday, Leo Rojas Gozar would like to see the names of Filipino designers Edgar Madamba and Edgar San Diego alongside those of the renowned European designers.

But for now, the director of Sunday's fashion show, The Holiday Collection, is content to be bringing the two Filipino designers to a new audience in Hawaii.

"We just have to slowly creep in and hope that people notice," he said. "Let's face it. We don't have the leverage of the Japanese. Because of their economic success, they can command attention in any field, tell people, 'Look at my product.' "

Gozar, who hails from the Philippines, has been staging pageants and award shows for Hawaii's Filipino community since 1991. Sunday's event -- a benefit for the Aloha Medical Mission that brings health care to developing countries -- is considered to be a crossover show, pairing the two top Filipino designers with Hawaii designer, Takeo.

"It always happens like that. We have to share the stage before we can run on our own," Gozar said.

Courtesy of Edgar Madamba
Designer Edgar Madamba concentrates on the details,
such as the layers of flounces on this skirt.

Madamba and San Diego were chosen to illustrate the extremes in contemporary Filipino fashion.

He described San Diego as avant garde, showing theatrical apparel with bared midriffs and see-through effects.

Madamba's designs are more classical, bearing such intricate details as tiny rosettes.

Besides economic positioning, another strike against the Philippines fashion industry has been the weather. Yearlong "summers" and annual monsoons created demand for utilitarian clothing that, until recently, has not been perceived as fashion forward.

Then there was the problem of raw materials, such as the jusi (pronounced "husi") woven from the leaf of the pineapple plant. The fine fiber is as sheer as organza and as stiff. Today, nylon and other synthetics are being blended with indigenous materials to make fabric more pliant.

Gozar credits former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos with advancing development of the nation's fashion industry in her promotion of a nationalistic sensibility and use of indigenous materials vs. Taiwan and Hong Kong imports.

"No matter what we hear about her, she influenced the culture," Gozar said. "She wore the clothes and raised certain elements of the arts. She's known as the patroness of the Philippines Cultural Center and the Folk Arts Theatre."

With interest in global trends due to the ever-growing communications network, Gozar believes it's just a matter of time before designers from Philippines become a force in Asia and America.

"Only recently the younger designers formed the Fashion Design Association of the Philippines. Their work only needs to be exposed," Gozar said. "We have to double our efforts to tell people that our products are something to look into."

On stage

Bullet What: The Holiday Collection
Bullet Where: Sheraton Waikiki Grand Ballroom
Bullet When: 11 a.m. Sunday
Bullet Cost: $35
Bullet Call: 593-9696 or 841-2999

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