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June Samson Pugat: An artist’s rendition

AT the tender age of 10, June Samson Pugat already knew who Christian Dior and Gianni Versace were. “And around that age I knew how to properly pronounce Yves Saint Laurent and how the pronunciation of ‘Laurent’ differs from the American designer Ralph Lauren,” the genial designer declares with relish.

By the time he was 11, he was sewing dresses for his sisters’ Barbie dolls, making use of hankies with interesting patterns, textured fabric from a scrunchies and old placemats. The pegs for the evening gowns? The Miss Universe pageants, of course.

“I’ve always known that I would lean toward making formalwear and bridal gowns, but the present dyeing and hand-painting treatment that I do for fabrics perhaps came from a frustration during high-school graduation, when I wanted to custom paint my plain jusi barong Tagalog and my mom kept me from doing so because she was afraid that I would ruin the fabric,” explains Pugat, one of my favorite young innovators working in the fashion trade today.

That aspiration slumbered until some time in 2009, when Pugat’s break from Philippine Fashion Week (PFW) after the May 2008 show “drove me to explore more techniques in fabric manipulation and treatment.” He’s been using the techniques he learned since his return to PFW for Holiday 2010.

“Back in 2007, while still working as Frederick Peralta’s assistant designer, he asked me if I wanted to join PFW. That time, despite the fact that I still had reservations, I thought of giving it a shot. My parents sponsored most of the expenses to put up my initial collection. I worked on the patterns and some of the sewing, and my dear mentor had his sewers and liliperas aid me in everything else. After that, I started getting regular clients and so I thought it would be good to regularly create collections for PFW to keep myself visible,” Pugat explains.

Regular participation in PFW, he says, “always reaffirms my relevance as a fashion designer in the Philippines. But more than that, I also use it as a venue to show my range and to constantly challenge myself, figuring out how far I could go and grow each time.”

Angel Locsin, Iza Calzado, Ruffa Gutierrez and Nikki Gil count as some of his celebrity clients. “But for me, every client should be treated like a celebrity,” he assures.

Most of his inspirations come from literature and the arts, which he says he has a deep love for. As he has revealed, his mentor was Frederick Peralta but he is proud to have cultivated an aesthetic different from the renowned designer’s extravagant and lavish works, “which I do not dislike at all. It’s just that I believe as a designer, I have to have my own identity too,” Pugat adds.

For Spring/Summer 2013, he took his favorite poems by cummings, Neruda, Rilke, Garcia Lorca and some of his own works and hand-wrote them on his singular gowns with origami-esque detailing. It was like as if the poet’s ink had spilled on some geometric fantastical flower petals.

Does he see his business expanding into other areas such as beauty and accessories, or is it better to stay specialized, as in exclusively doing clothes only?

“For now, I am content doing what I do best. That’s custom-made formalwear. But I do see myself doing upscale RTW, too, and even shoes. If there is an opportunity, I would also love to venture into fragrances,” Pugat replies.

Would he recommend that someone fresh out of school work for a company for a few years to better understand the business before going out on their own?

“Having had an immersion with a retail company and apprenticeship with one of the country’s design greats, I would definitely encourage young hopefuls to do the same. I am proud of the things I’ve learned from school but there is still a whole lot to learn and there are things which are much easier and even faster to cultivate if you first work with people who know better, rather than just doing trial-and-error on your own,” concludes the young, fast-rising designer.

In Photo: Kristine, Patricia, Maan, Malu, Marian and Kelsey. (Photographed by Roger Nazar Lactao Jr.)








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