Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mama Renee's Living Legacy

By Oliver Oliveros, Editor-In-Chief

Ollie David, who was the overall chair of Philippine fashion icon Renee Salud’s recent smash hit fashion shows held at Double Tree Newark Hotel in New Jersey and at the Philippine Center, the building that houses the Philippine Consulate General in New York, pinned down in her opening remarks that Mama Renee, a moniker for the well-loved fashion designer, who rose to fame in the ‘80s, has been “at the forefront of creating intricate masterpieces that weave native piña (pineapple fiber), abaca, and the Maguindanaon’s inaul, among others, even way before other Filipino and non-Filipino fashion designers started to claim that same exact design process.”

“Mama Renee’s original intent and his still ever-burning passion to promote only the Philippines’ indigenous fabrics in his fashion pieces makes him even more relevant till this very day,” Ollie added.

For Mama Renee, he did it—and still doing it—to show his enduring love for the Philippines and the Filipino people. He also believes our native fabrics and meticulous beadwork and embroidery should be seen all over the world.

So it’s not at all (or hardly) surprising to meet a brood of young fashion designers today who have been following the footsteps of Mama Renee. One of these promising young designers is San Francisco-based Anthony Cruz Legarda, whom I had the pleasure of meeting with at San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel in Manhattan a few years ago. Legarda incorporates authentic hand-woven fabrics especially that of the piña, into unique American wear. In fact, Mama Renee and Legarda, alongside fellow Filipino fashion designers Patis Tesoro and Dita Sandico Ong, not too long ago collaborated on a fashion-trade show called “Fibre Filippine,” which features high-fashion pieces made from local fabrics abaca, banana, salago, maguey, buri and, of course, piña, held in Rome.

In the same league as Mama Renee and Legarda is Betina Ocampo, one of this year’s recipients of The Outstanding Filipino-Americans In New York (TOFA-NY) awards. Also inspired by the complex handmade fashion pieces of tribal communities in the Philippines, Ocampo launched a luxury t-shirt line, Betina, in 2012, while finishing her studies at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan. To her credit, her designs have been featured in premier fashion magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan.

And the list goes on.

Bottom line is that what Mama Renee, together with a few fashion designers, started several decades ago has continued to grow in the safe hands of our new generation of Filipino couturiers.

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