Chapter 4: The Advent


4.   THE PHILIPPINE FASHION WEEK OCTOBER (The Advent)

 

 

It is the fragrant lack of practicality that makes
high-heeled shoes so fascinating: in terms of
static mechanics they induce a sort of
insecurity which some find titillating.
– Stephen Bayley

 

 

A model (from Middle French modèle), sometimes called a mannequin, is a person who is employed for the purpose of displaying and promoting fashion clothingor other products and for advertising or promotionalpurposes or who poses for works of art.  Modeling is distinguished from other types of public performance, such as an acting, dancing or mime artist, although the boundary is not well defined. Appearing in a movie or a play is not considered modeling. However, models may be considered to express emotion in their photographs or video.  Caustically, because clothing is needed to be modeled for all people, a variety of shapes and sizes is required in models.

Female models should be around 34-24-34 in (86-61-86 cm) and between 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) and 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) tall. The ideal measurements used to be 35.5-23.5-35.5 in (90-60-90 cm), which were the alleged measurements of Marilyn Monroe.  However, today’s fashion models tend to have measurements closer to the AMA recommended shape, although by no means do all models have these exact statistics, and fashion houses may require other sizes for their models. Although in some fashion industries, a size 00 is more ideal than a size 0.

The often skeletal shape of many fashion models has been denounced for warping girls’ body image and cheering eating disorders. Organizers of a fashion show in Madrid in September 2006 turned away models that were judged to be underweight by medical personnel who were on hand. In February 2007, six months after her sister, Luisel Ramos- also a model – died, Uruguayan model Eliana Ramos became the third fashion model to die of malnutrition in six months. The second victim was Ana Carolina Reston. Luisel Ramos died of heart failure caused by anorexia nervosa just after stepping off the catwalk.

The preferred average dimensions for a male model are a height of 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) to 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), a waist of 28–33 in (71.12–83.82 cm) and a chest measurement of 36–41 in (91.44–104.14 cm).  Male runway models have been noted as being skinny and well toned to fit the clothes, whereas editorial models cover all body types from slender to muscular.

Supermodels are highly paid, high profile fashion models. These (usually female) celebrities, also known as cover girls, appear on top fashion magazine covers, in catalogues and in fashion shows. What categorizes one at “Supermodel” status is their diversity of work in each category of modeling: swimwear, runway, spokes, catalogue, commercial and lingerie.

The first model widely considered to have paved the way for what would become the supermodel was Lisa Fonssagrives. The relationship between her image on over 200 Vogue covers and her name recognition led to the importance of Vogue in shaping future supermodels. Her image appeared on the cover of fashion magazine during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s from Town & Country, Life and Vogue to the original Vanity Fair. Models like Dorian Leigh and Jean Shrimpton have also been dubbed the first supermodels.  In our generation, we delighted on Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Christie Turlington, Tyra Banks and Kate Moss.

In more ways than one, beautiful models are still considered one of the  most insecured breed of humaniods ever to walk on earth.

A few years ago, I became close to a supermodel that I will name Maye who seemed to have a problem with the word genre.  Sometime in 2007, I was in the Philippines for yet another quick getaway.  I emailed Kay that I would love to see her for a catch-up.  So, I gave her an SMS inviting her to join me for a beer at TGI Fridays a few days before I fly back to Dubai, to which I got that infuriating reply, “Hu u?” (Who are you?)

 

 

Actually, it all went like this:

 

Jon:  Hey Maye.  I am in the Philippines.  Let’s have beer at TGI tonight?

 

Maye:  Hu u?

 

Jon:  It is Jon.  You did not save my number, girl?

 

Maye:  Sorry, sinong Jon?  (I am sorry, Jon who?)

 

Jon:  Verzosa.  Ano ba!  (Verzosa, you motherfucker!)

 

Maye:  Oh.  Genre?

 

 

 

(What was I supposed to say?  That I am a traditional masochist?  That my work revolves on the obscure?  That my fetish is the foot?  That I am, in fact, an arsonist of my own emotions?  That I am the representation of my own mistakes?  That my writing is a genre of sound and fusion?)

 

And so I texted:  Genre?  Male.

 

The fashion world and the entertainment industry was never my world.  I found it bare, full of inflated hollowness and people, no, androids who would commit suicide when they wake up in the morning with a tiny zit in their upper lip.  When my best friend Norman’s brother Mael asked me to aid his talent and events production company, I strongly said yes for the simple reason that I wanted to mow that world.  It would be education for me and it stimulated me beyond belief.  Imagine working with gods and goddesses?  And the comic relief of the whole experience for me! 

When I began cultivating myself, relatively being one of them and perceiving the idyllic scenario to which I enjoyed with glee, I began to see.  To see clearly one of the most misapprehended vocation known to man.  Particularly to my insipid world filled with devious (literally) ogres who call themselves the corporate powers that be.  I began to see clearly the genus of what is beautiful inside and what is beautiful outside.  And what is not.  This surface that sufficiently embodies beauty and allure became my recreational area that I criticized surreptitiously but felt gratified for in the end. 

It was an excursion that I will never forget.

 

 

 

THE GLORIETTA, MAKATI

October  10, 2010

 

 

My friend Visam is a commercial and print model.  He was part-casted in the talent and events agency that I was engaged in.  After the go-see that I had to be present at, I saw myself walking with him to The Glorietta, in Makati, under the mammoth rain with only umbrella to swathe our six feet frames.  I had an H and M shawl wrapped around me and Visam had his gym bag to shield us from the nauseating bucket down.  The umbrella was worthless because we were both so huge that only our heads were bailed out in vain.  As we walked by The Shangri-La Hotel-Ayala, a flow of floodwater met our path and Visam slithered towards the sidewalk, where I was towed down helplessly halfway to the cement because his right arm was in my shoulders.  We survived that fairly well, amused even, as I thought of how exasperating Manila can get during the monsoons.  I guess some ten years back, it would have been just a conventional disaster but having lived outside the Philippines for years, in this manner, rain can become really strenuous.  Surmounted by his slip and our remarkable walk coming from San Antonio Village, Visam decided that we stay at The Glorietta mall because cabs and the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) were impossible at that time and the downpour was just as horrendous.  We settled at KFC for chicken and coffee.

 

As soon as the chicken arrived on our table, I wanted to show aggression to the dead fowl and eat it with all happiness from all that rain and the entire day that was spent babysitting models at the San Antonio Village modelling agency to which I was water boy, towel bearer, coach and psychiatrist to six models our agency enquired to attend for a probable booking for a March lingerie and under wear summer collection.  Visam, already a connoisseur both in television and print modelling, took on, saying that he hadn’t done ramp in a while.  The chicken, already steaming in simulation, was waiting to be demolished by yours truly when Visam called out, “Let’s give thanks and pray!”, took my hand and in a swoon, began praying stridently, oblivious that we were, in fact, in swarming KFC.   Immediately, I swallowed my saliva and closed my eyes.  We prayed.

 

Models.  We’ve seen them everywhere.  They are in magazines, television and movies, fashion shows, walking at Trinoma mall, trying to leaf through hardbacks at PowerBooks, their legs crossed, criss-crossed and high towards their bosom, their abdomens as hard as rocks and their bony, miniature faces looking like corks glued to their implausibly stretchy bodies.  They are the demigods of the fashion planet.  The human hangers who parade in their moping bearing in front of the style ogle, the curious and the beautiful, the perverts and the tasteful, and critiques who checks the clothes, gives it a thumbs up or thumbs down and mutters beneath their breaths, “Slut.”  Yes, we judge them all the time.  We judge us all the time but these bone collections have been slaughtered by audiences from ramp to ramp, photo shoot to photo shoot and from the grocery where they procure their organic food and zero-carbohydrates-high protein dietary needs.  We have called them everything:  kept man, slut, fag and lesbo, ugly, anorexic bitch, BITCH, biatch, you name it.  Why? 

Because we are so insecure of their perfection. 

As much as they want to be like us more often than not.

And deep down inside, we wished we were as picturesque as they are.

**************************

“. . . and so you see, Jon, salt retains water in your body, so less salt, actually, no salt.  So, look, I carry this coffee water bottle all the time because I’ve completely given up on sodas.  It is easy to make.  Just a single sachet of Nescafe Classic with a litre of distilled water, not mineral OK those have loadsa chemicals, no sugar! , REMEMBER sugar becomes fat and it is bad for the skin.  Look, I am eating my mashed potatoes without the gravy, ewww, gravy is bad bad bad.  As much as these chicken balat (skin) is just bad bad bad . . . “  Visam rabbit on, sermonizing with passion about how punishing oneself was essential to be as gorgeous as he is.

  

 I looked at my tummy and had to admit that I can’t even get as close to where he was pointing at.  I looked at my very oily spaghetti and almost threw up.  When a few weeks back, I started running and cutting dinner altogether, I knew deep down inside that I was obsessed with looking good, feeling good and feeling good about myself.  Dubai, in the recent years, being in love and not having enough time to exercise because I’d rather sleep from exhaustion than go to the gym, I went from 73 kilos in 2008 to 83 kilos earlier this year.  I don’t look fat because I am 6 feet tall but I hated seeing myself in the bathroom naked.  My boyfriend P didn’t mind at all telling me, “What for?” after I told him I seriously had to waste away because I’m beginning to look like a metro station by the minute.  Nevertheless, I looked at Visam’s perfect big teeth, chiselled facial bones and told myself, “I was you some fifteen years back when I was in college, a frail, bohemian Literature major who ate only vegetables and Sky Flakes crackers for two years.  Adulthood and stress commenced after that, hence, food became a consolation for which, above all that, I weighed heavier and looked pudgier.  But I will be thinner again someday.  After I eat this chicken and spaghetti! “

 

 

Alam mo (You know), when I met the girl models this afternoon at the go-see,”  Visam went on, “ sabi ko sa sarili ko (I told myself), I am so lucky to have a girlfriend who is not a model.”

 

 

“What’s up with that?”  I asked, intrigued.

 

 

Kasi (Because) I know that she is real.  I’ve been surrounded by all these beautiful models in the recent years and I just find them, I don’t know, garbled.  They have this way of wanting to be treated like they are still in a photo shoot.”

 

 

“Meaning?”

 

 

“They constantly need to be reminded that they look good and worse, if you told them that they look more beautiful without all the make-up, they would retreat away and would tell their friends how boring you are.  And they have friends, no groupies, who are just like them.  So cold. They are a stockpile of denigration, mind you, and the way they babble on and on about their projects is sooo mind-numbing.”  Visam sighed and for the first time, I saw lines in his elastic dark face.

 

 

“And your girlfriend?”

 

 

“Oh, she is special.  She is kind-hearted and undemanding.  She is even chubby, do you know that?”  Visam chuckled, “And most incredibly, she goes to the same church where I go to.  We are both God-fearing and we like each other genuinely.”

 

 

I beamed, tapped his hand and said, “Good for you, hon.  Finish up, it is almost 10 PM, we need to catch the train.”  as the word chubby haunted me towards the night.

 

 

FASHION NATION

THE BLOCK, SM NORTH EDSA

September 29, 2010

Mael Cautivar along with Chancellor main man, Round One Productions’ stylist and seasoned fashion designer, Eddie Castro, and yours truly attended the Fashion Institute of the Philippines’ Fashion Nation, a year ender fashion show by their graduating students, showcasing their exclusive collections for the public to see.  Apart from revealing their inventive work, a designer of the year will also be awarded after the show and he or she will obtain a trip to Paris, France and a grant to Fashion Institute of Paris to boost his or her talent on a privileged echelon.  Among the judges were fashion ambassador of the Philippines, Renee Salud and elegance engineer for the stars, Frederick Peralta.  It was electrifying!

The show was gleaming with materials that ranged from modish recycled textile to chic, digitally printed fabrics that were seemingly conceptualized from the forthcoming urban doomsday.  One can easily transgress from where he was situated if he delved innately into the spirit of the assemblage.  It was rowdy and blasphemous and at the same time, multi-layered by Woodstock 60s and the classic 50s with its Chevys and overly-powdered noses.  I examined the designers themselves being infantile and full of soft antagonism and I told myself, “All there saleable merchandise that will make and break an artist’s future.  Such mental concoction!  I wonder if they can write about their clothes too.”  Hours later, Frederick Peralta told me how lucky these designers were because they can have the resources instantaneously because the demand has swelled over the years, when back in the 80s, as Eddie Castro evoked, they would ride the kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) around Binondo to pull together textiles and beads for their creations.  Through time, designing has also turned digital that you can actually draw your motifs at home using your personal computer.  Times have changed and so did fashion designing in the Philippines.  It used to be a very backbreaking profession and people had to work very hard, get the right connections and get trained outside the country to be established.  Not anymore.

I looked at the models flouncing overdramatically on the ramp, looking fierce as ever, their minds wandered off somewhere above the burbling crowds and fanatical shutters of the photographers and saw a new word looming underneath my six cycle mind:  intrasexualism or the “self” .  Had it been two years before when metrosexualism, a pallid resemblance to the genderless look of the 90s, was such hype in the now-tarnished Malate bi-scene?  Bi meaning bisexual.  More than the stretchy pants and the Elvis-looking overprints, a metrosexual played with both style and mind-set.  Clearly, a dab of androgyny and free-for-all sex inexorably used to demote the level of chic into the dissident lifestyle.  It barely survived, especially in the Philippines, where general looks, manner and even sexuality, like the television commercials, changes every three seconds.  Today, as I scraped up the designs presented in this particular show, the line expressed a spanking new approach to the self, nature and surprisingly, eccentricity.  Intrasexualism is the genre that went inside my head as the models walked on as if telling the crowd to file in two lines.  One for male.  One for female.  Male go against male and likewise, female go against female.  Male and female are finally or shall we say, temporarily, friends.

It is also scrupulous how the marrow of this entire thrilling neon ride – this indistinct world where

clothing is not just clothing but an article of trade – is the industry that binds both market share and hopefully, longevity.  Models will always have expiration dates (they are humans, you know) but the item of campaign must and should linger on even after a few years of its first endorsement.  Contrary to the fact that it has been debated over and over again how marketing a product affects the buying public because they did not want to purchase a moisturizing cream Miriam Quiambao is propping up, but they also wanted to be Miriam Quiambao.  In a sense, the protagonist chic example that’s batted around is a distraction that obfuscates the mechanism at work. The main oversight is that, like anorexia, the coolest illness of the modelling world, the competitive mechanism being played upon is intrasexual. Fashion, and its advertising, is directed at women to incite competition between women. It further ignores that fashion designers don’t want their customers to be enthralled with the models. They’re trying to sell the image of the commodities possessed by the models. Their interest is in the beauty they create apart from reference to any other human buyer.  Implicit in all this is the idea that the product on display will somehow transmit the lifestyle. In all of this, the model is merely a proxy, not a focus. This is not to say that the attempt to associate the physical beauty of the model with a product aren’t used, but to call into question the assumption that advertisement’s goals are to associate the beauty of models with a brand or product in general. The emotion comes from projection into the scenario, through the product, not the body of the model. The model needs to be neutral enough for the viewers to keep all other things equal, but insert themselves in place of the model. Therefore, the model is the only non-essential component of an ad. 

On the contrary, fashion marketing is never about selling merchandise, it is about exporting an emotion. This is very basic, and key to understanding modern society.  All advertising is aimed at psycho-emotional manipulation; no other form of advertising exists at this point in time. Fashion designers are selling an idea – that you will be sexy if you wear these clothes – so it always has more to do with the model wearing the clothing than the clothing itself.  Two very diverse fashion philosophies, but both, in fact, incriminate beauty and creation. When I came face to face with Philippine prima stylist Liz Uy, I saw her as a big star as the supermodels themselves.  The fact that she was rumoured to be the President’s girlfriend and a talentedly fierce celebrity herself, no doubt, the fashion industry has done its leap making stars out of the creators and their designs, the models and their lives right before our eyes.  I liked Liz  Uy and her nonchalance.  She even told me that she was sick at the time but “getting better” with a smile.

After the show and sitting with Mael Cautivar, Eddie Castro and the extraordinary Frederick Peralta at Bread Talk, the three fashion specialists who, in part, became my three kings who brought me offerings of their wonderful world through beauty and creation.  “Ang yayaman ng mga designers na ito! (These designers are so rich!).  Mga Buena de Familia kasi (They all came from rich families) . . . “ , Eddie Castro was saying, again reminiscing the good old days when fashion designing was such a sweet struggle as I sipped my coffee listening to the three prattled on, smiling openly, knowing that I have entered a glimmering gateway for the first time

and it tastes good.

(To be Continued)

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