A product of intense dedication—this was how veteran fashion designer Mila Imson described Filipiniana.
“Without the passion of those who promoted the Filipina attire through the centuries, we would have to visit museums in order for us to appreciate the effort of our ancestors,” she said.
On June 26 at 6 p.m at the Multipurpose Hall of the Philippine National Police Head Quarters, Camp Crame in Quezon City, she will have a fashion show themed “love with passion”, which will feature the evolution of Filipiniana. Aside from the fashion show, it will also present ballroom dancing, raffles and other exciting activities.
She adds, “We aim to pique the interest of those who are not regularly exposed to the Filipiniana like foreign ambassadors. We also want to rekindle the interest of government officials who grudgingly wear the Filipiniana in special events. We want to tell them that what they’re wearing or seeing is a testament to our creativity as a people and it should not be trivialized.”
In preparation for the event, they needed to perform ample research, “It would have been a lot easier if there were enough materials to consult. But this task proved to be daunting since there is a dearth of books and documents that delve on the Filipina attire. Luckily enough, there is this little book written by Eric Cruz which served as our main reference. And of course, after the research, we had to copy and refine the look of the dress based on some extant, black-and-white illustrations. That required a lot of imagination.”
A fashion designer’s journey
Having a hometown that is known for jewellery trade, it was inevitable for Mila to be hooked with fashion design, “I grew up in Meycauayan, a town known in the jewellery trade. I started designing jewelries when I was in high school. But I had always wanted to design attires that would match the accessories that I created. And I find it hard to conjure designs for accessories without thinking of what my clients would wear. It was natural for me to dabble in fashion design since it is inseparable with the art of designing accessories.”
In 1982, she opened her jewellery business, which saw her starting with only three workers under her fold. Eight years after, she already had sixty workers; then, she decided to venture into a business of creating fine jewelry.
Hard work and creativity paid off when her creation was pronounced as the Best Product Design by the Katha Awards in the Manila Fame Exhibit held last March 2012.
“I would say that I had a fairly successful run as a jewellery designer because I recognized early on that I had to be flexible in order to survive. I try to harmonize metals with the natural environment and so you would often see leaves, feathers, tree barks, etc. in my designs. I had to constantly refine my designs and innovate just so I can compete. This would also entail investing in machinery. I believe that technology is vital to my art. In the jewellery business, stagnation means death.”
She admires Juls Dizon, Mila Dayrit and Nina Ricci for being geniuses in integrating the natural environment into their works.
What is Filipiniana?
Mila said that Filipinos gritty response to the countless challenges of our turbulent history was manifested by Filipiniana, “We can glean from it the resilience and the adaptive spirit of the Filipino. In fact, I view the Filipiniana as a statement that dispels the notion that we are a country of great imitators. Of course, there’s no denying that we love to copy and assimilate foreign influences. But all cultures borrow from every other culture. We Filipinos have mastered the art of Filipinizing foreign influence. From this tendency, we’ve created the Filipino identity. Our irrepressible spirit that is an amalgam of influences pulsates in the things we’ve created, from woven materials to the pieces of jewelry and dresses.”
In her fashion show, she would like to showcase the elegance of the patadyong, malong, saya, tapis and the camisa or baro.
The proceeds of the ticket sales will help indigent but gifted students go to school.