Monday, 23 March 2015

The PHILIPPINES at the International Fashion Showcase 2015

It was London Fashion Week on 20-24 February, and even though my fashion credentials are not up to scratch anymore, the feeling of being in the know slightly rubbed off me when I viewed the astounding collection of the Philippines design delegates to this year's International Fashion Showcase. 

I was meant to post this on the same week, but I put it on hold to sync with the publication of my write-up about the event on The Filipino Expat Magazine, which you can read HERE

The International Fashion Showcase (IFS) was born in 2012 as an offshoot of the ambition to give the London Olympics a lasting cultural impact. The British Council and British Fashion Council present the largest annual public fashion exhibition of its kind which now hosts nearly 30 countries and more than a hundred emerging talents in the global fashion industry. 

The IFS is the only event during Fashion Week that's open to the public. So whether you delve into or just dabble in fashion and may not necessarily be part of the industry, the fashion showcase gives you a glimpse of the future in sartorial terms. Sarah Mower, MBE, British Fashion Council Ambassador for Emerging Talent and European Editor-at-Large of, believes in London as Europe's most hospitable environment for creativity. 

Two of the designers who made the cut to represent the Philippines in this year's showcase are friends of my friends here and back in the Philippines. I went to support them, and see the possible bespoke piece I've been thinking of getting for myself. Since last year, I've made a decision to purchase at least one fashion item from a Filipino designer.

This display and the one below are from the Nigerian delegates

Fashion Curation is another category of the IFS that focuses on booth installations that set the layout of the display and highlight the theme of the designs. The above Nigerian entry won this year's Best Curator award.

The Philippine exhibition was round the back, so before getting there, I had the chance to admire the works of the designers from other participating countries. My apologies though that I'm unable to give you a detailed account of each country. The IFS was the third exhibit I have visited on the day and it was an overwhelming visual and aesthetic experience. I normally would spend the whole day in one exhibit alone. I'm very pleased to find out that some of these ones that caught my attention eventually won the major awards.

A design by Colombian Julia Manisto who won the Best Designer at the IFS 2015

Now, on to my main event. . .

A very good friend of mine from way back my magazine days has been telling me about this very talented Marine Biologist turned accessory designer whose works have caught the very discerning eye of Vogue Italia and made him the very first Filipino to be included in the Vogue Talent for Accessories featured in the indomitable fashion magazine's 50th anniversary issue. 

A Marine Biodiversity specialist, Ken Samudio doesn't have a formal training in fashion, but has employed his knowledge and expertise in creating pieces that resemble textures found in nature. Up-cycled beads, the main material in his creations, are made from recycled plastic water bottles, sea glass and other sustainable materials.

In the above photo, Ken told me that the lower part of the cape was made out of melted glue sticks. I don't remember the last time I held one, but I remember using it in school for Practical Arts projects.

This cuff is perfect; I wish I ordered it sooner, and he probably would have had it prepared on his way from Manila to London.

In keeping with the curator's theme of mythical creatures from Philippine folklore, the colourways Ken and his fellow designers brought to London are of the darker variety. His website shows the brighter coloured ones which I'm more keen on.

Designer extraordinaire Mr Ken Samudio, and me. I'm not a poser, so I don't really like being photographed all the time, but I had to have one with Ken before he becomes too unreachable :)

Ken took home the first runner-up accolade for the Best Designer category, besting other 109 designers! The Best Designer Award went to Julia Manisto of Colombia.

For more information on Ken Samudio and his work, click HERE. His pieces are currently stocked by Luisa Via Roma and in Barney's stores, in collaboration with another highly acclaimed Filipino designer, Betina Ocampo.

I'm more an accessory collector rather than a clothes horse. The more unusual the pieces, the better. So these sculptural bags and cuffs from designer Michelline Syjuco's collection are a runaway winner for me.

Skulls are always immediately associated with Alexander McQueen, so to see emerging designers giving their own twist to an otherwise macabre object is refreshing.

She calls the above bags "Yorick", and you would be surprised to know that they are hand-carved and hand-painted wood decorated with prefabricated stainless steel hardware, antique watch parts, and repurposed bathroom fixtures.

These cuffs are made of recycled century-old Philippine hardwood and salvaged fallen trees from countless typhoons in the Philippines, decorated with repurposed stainless steel hardware and semi-precious stones.

"Tiyanak" (Child Demon) handbags

"Kamandag" (Venom) handbag with added beaten brass element, aside from the wood and semi-precious stones

Creations by John Herrera

My favourite from John Herrera's collection

Urbanwear by Renan Pacson

Installation by costume and set designer Gino Gonzales

Tony Evan's dramatic and unusual headpieces

Safety pins, among other household items, make up this jacket

It was the second time for me to pop in to the International Fashion Showcase exhibit; I can guarantee myself a third.

P.S. This space turns 2 today, 23 March. Thank you all for being around!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

For Lack Of A Better Word

I'm moved by words. I pondered if it's in equal measures with astounding photos that are almost eloquent. Words take precedence, for they create images in my mind which I can't physically look at or hold. I see them floating in space before me, queueing and rearranging themselves to form the words I consciously pluck from the assembly line to articulate and express myself.

Sometimes though, there are no words to describe what we feel or think. What did we do when we were children and could barely spell or pronounce our names? 

We made up words. 

There's no stopping us, adults, from doing the same when our supposedly wide vocabulary still leaves us speechless from time to time. 

 On his blog The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, graphic designer and filmmaker John Koenig more than made up for the lack of better words to name certain emotions, he also accompanied the entries with narrative videos not only for entertainment value, but also to further illustrate the definition of the words.

I was drawn to these ones:

n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time, which is like standing in front of the departures screen at an airport, flickering over with strange place names like other people’s passwords, each representing one more thing you’ll never get to see before you die—and all because, as the arrow on the map helpfully points out, you are here.

n. the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist—the same sunset, the same waterfall, the same curve of a hip, the same closeup of an eye—which can turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap, like a mass-produced piece of furniture you happen to have assembled yourself.

n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.

n. a moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored—an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknowable to you, because ultimately neither of you has a map, or a master key, or any way of knowing exactly where you stand. 

Mal de coucou
n. a phenomenon in which you have an active social life but very few close friends—people who you can trust, who you can be yourself with, who can help flush out the weird psychological toxins that tend to accumulate over time—which is a form of acute social malnutrition in which even if you devour an entire buffet of chitchat, you’ll still feel pangs of hunger. 

n. a conversation in which everyone is talking but nobody is listening, simply overlaying disconnected words like a game of Scrabble, with each player borrowing bits of other anecdotes as a way to increase their own score, until we all run out of things to say.


n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Ecstatic shock
n. the surge of energy upon catching a glance from someone you like—a thrill that starts in your stomach, arcs up through your lungs and flashes into a spontaneous smile—which scrambles your ungrounded circuits and tempts you to chase that feeling with a kite and a key.

n. a relationship or friendship that you can’t get out of your head, which you thought had faded long ago but is still somehow alive and unfinished, like an abandoned campsite whose smoldering embers still have the power to start a forest fire.

n. the dream versions of things in your life, which appear totally foreign but are still somehow yours—your anteschool, your antefriends, your antehome—all part of a parallel world whose gravitational pull raises your life’s emotional stakes, increasing the chances you’ll end up betting everything you have.

Hanker sore
adj. finding a person so attractive it actually kinda pisses you off.

adj. hearing a person with a thick accent pronounce a certain phrase—the Texan “cooler,” the South African “bastard,” the Kiwi “thirty years ago”—and wanting them to repeat it over and over until the vowels pool in the air and congeal into a linguistic taffy you could break apart and give as presents.

Dialecstatic made me smile at the thought of how the Scottish pronounce 'six'. Ask one to say it for you. Then make them repeat it.

John Koenig is described on Facebook as someone into jazz piano, deep image poetry, and nostalgia. Interesting, but not surprising, judging from his word-weaving talent. 

The stalker in me googled him. 

It turns out that there are a few John Koenigs out there, and the most famous is the ninth and last commander of Moonbase Alpha from the film, Space: 1999, played by Martin Landau.

Like dictionaries where words all seem to be made up had the etymology not been placed next to it, some authors exist in our literary imagination in the form of their pen names. Or screen name. Or stage name. Or a name other than their name. 

Whatever the case may be, I'm 'wordenvious'. I wish I was the one who came up with this genius of a dictionary.

What about you? Ever made up a word?

Sunday, 15 March 2015

On Children and Motherhood

It's Mothering Sunday in the UK and Ireland, and although I celebrate the American one in May (the Philippines, where I was born and raised, is heavily permeated by American traditions and Americanisms), I'm prompted to share my thoughts and feelings about today's important celebration as I had one of those occasional bursts of motherly instinct yesterday.

The Mr was made a godfather to a very close friend's daughter. I came along, of course, as it's a major family gathering.

We stayed after most of the guests have left, and we all gathered around the dining/front room to properly catch up and banter with each other. Our friends' eldest son, who's been doing some watercolour artwork lately, made a hilarious portrait sketch of my partner. The nine-year-old then offered to do mine.

He directed me to look at him then turn my head sidewards. I think he has perfectly captured my aura. What do you think?

My fondness of him stems not only from the fact that he's such a lovely boy, an entertaining conversationalist who loves hanging around the aunts and uncles, he's learning the piano, very sporty, and he gives the tightest hugs; He's the same age as the son I almost had. 

It's been almost a decade, and though I sometimes think that I have hurdled the psychological and emotional scars of that unfortunate incident in my life as a young married woman, there are moments and instances when I miss motherhood --that stage, of which I have not even experienced the full and entire process, and the larger-than-life experience afterwards. 

A made-up term for that is anemoia, or nostalgia for a time I've never known. It's from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which is saved for another post.

I sometimes long for that child, and I have entertained thoughts of having one especially now that I'm with someone who, without an inch of a doubt, will make an excellent father.

But at the same time, my desire to have children is not the same as it was a decade ago.  It has eroded over the years, for every year that it was put off for another year.

Me and the artist

No. We, child-free women, are not selfish, as some pre-judge us.

Some of us do not deliberately and consciously choose to be child-free. Sometimes, being child-free is brought about by circumstances that are beyond our control or life events that open up and cement a realisation that not all women are meant to be mothers by virtue of having a womb.

I am past the concept of bearing children for the sake of having them as society expects me to. Not even my conservative mother is bullying me, so why should I accede to the rest of the world? 

The Mr and I sometimes joke about being parents to win the you-don't-have-chidren-you-don't-understand argument with patronising parents. Or I marvel at the idea of us having beautiful mixed race kids who will probably go on to become actors or beauty queens, or comedians (I know, that's gone too far, and an indication of a possible stage-mother inclination). But these are not reasons to have children. 

Still, the one thing that keeps me hanging on to passing on my genes is I may regret not having little ones when I know I'm capable of giving life to them. 

But then again, that's life. Sometimes, the most obvious life path and decisions are the most difficult to take and make.

My ovaries still have a few good years before they finally give up on me, and I have not entirely given up on the thought of being a mother. But in the meantime, I'm settling for being the doting aunt or godmother.  The world can never get enough of mother figures!

Happy Mothering Sunday 2015!

Thursday, 5 March 2015


After my old portable hard drive broke, I've been even more conscious about archiving and filing older and new digital photos. It's inevitable to find folders or photographs I have almost forgotten.

I was meant to go to Lyon in east-central France for work three years ago, but it was cancelled. But since the Mr has close friends who live there, we decided to go ahead with the weekend trip. 

I wasn't blogging then and had a rickety camera that not even pensioners nowadays would use, so the quality of my photos are not up to my current standards. I'd like to share that trip with you nonetheless. 

Main entrance to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière

Up to see a panoramic view of Lyon

Panoramic view of the inner city of Lyon from the roof the basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière

Can you spot me in the middle of Place des Terreaux?

This fountain was sculpted by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi in 1892. You may not have heard of him before, but some of you may have seen his most famous design: the Statue of Liberty in New York.  La Fontaine Bartholdi will be temporarily removed this year for restoration.

Lyon is a major silk production and weaving hub (the main reason why I was originally meant to travel there for work), and a significant setting for the beginnings of cinema as it was there where Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the cinematograph. The most famous Lyonnais is the aviator and 'The Little Prince' author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

France's third largest city (after Paris and Marseille) is also reputed as the country's gastronomical capital. You read it right: it's not Paris.

Our Lyonnais friends are neighbours with a Japanese chef who owns a restaurant the size of a tiny studio flat in London. If you've ever watched Rachel Khoo's cooking show where she also hosts diners in her tiny flat in Paris, our Japanese chef's dining area was smaller than that.

He served us a seven-course meal for dinner -- a dinner that stretched for five hours.  I have experienced dining in Italy which starts late, from around 9pm, but still finishes before midnight. In Lyon, we started eating at 8pm. By 1am, we were served a platter of cheese each after a first round of dessert. To an Asian like me who almost always would find cheese simply as garnishing on my pasta, I stayed away even from cheddar for a couple of weeks back in London. 

After three years, I think I'm forgiven for not remembering the names of any of the food I had that night, but you can agree with me that it was well-documented, to the amusement of our French and Northern Irish hosts who would wait for their Asian guest to finish taking photos of each plate after every course. Remember, that was before the time most have taken on the annoying habit of Instagram-ming every meal while everyone else around the Instagrammer is also on suspended time.

The following day, our friends took us to the market to stock up on charcuterie and cheese (yet again!) for our Swiss meal of Raclette.

Won't find these in England, but definitely in the Philippines, also with the heads still attached

Cheese overload

The Raclette grill ready for take off

Coupelles at the ready

Raclette is always accompanied by baby Bintje, Charlotte, or Raclette variety potatoes, pickled onions and a melange of other preserved vegetables. The Marlboros are optional.

There are places you go to just to drink, and then there are places you go to just to eat. It was the latter, one weekend in Lyon in 2012.  There are more spots to see and more cheese to eat there, of course, and we'll be back in due time. Perhaps when La Fontaine Bartholdi is restored.

Have you been to Lyon? What makes it different from Paris?

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