Fashion designers are being accorded significance by major museums around the world. Guo Pei, Anna Sui and Vivienne Tam are featured in China: Through the Looking Glass until September 7 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk runs until August 3 at the Grand Palais in Paris; and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty will be on view until August 2 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
If you don’t have the time and the means to satiate your fashion fix from the aforementioned exhibits, your next best resort is a visit to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to view Jesus Lloren: Musings with the Muses. Filipino haute couture at its finest will be on display until July 20 at the Bulwagang Fernando Amorsolo and Pasilyo Victorio Edades.
Musings features Lloren’s 2014 Red Charity Gala 40-piece collection, where he paid tribute to Filipino visual artists from Juan Luna to Charlie Co. A few days after the October gala, the CCP called Lloren and asked if it could exhibit his clothes. The designer readily agreed.
If my erratic memory serves me right, Lloren is only the third homegrown designer given such importance by a venerable art institution, after Joe Salazar was feted in the Timeless Terno exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in 2003, and Salvacion Lim Higgins was given a tribute, SLIM: Salvacion Lim Higgins, Philippine Haute Couture 1947-1990, at the Museum of the Filipino People, National Museum of the Philippines, in 2009.
I can only surmise that Musings is the CCP’s subtle way to “introduce” the masters of Philippine visual arts to a younger generation more concerned with Instagram filters, Tumblr posts and Facebook feeds. The clever move can be effective, especially when visitors engage in a deeper discussion as to how, for instance, Lee Aguinaldo’s Linear 95 (1969) inspired Lloren to create a column gown made of raw silk suiting, silk dupioni and silk crepe.
Fashion students who fancy themselves as artists can have a field day identifying which Vicente Manansala artwork informed Lloren’s piece made of duchesse satin, silk dupioni, linen, silk shantung and faile; or how Lloren reinterpreted Romulo Olazo’s Diapanous-Tulip into a silk twill, piña creation; or why Ang Kiukok’s Fruit on Table (1975) became a sexy number of stretch crepe, grosgrain ribbon and various beads; and when Anita Magsaysay-Ho can influence an entire collection of wool-blend suiting and cotton sateen.
Musings with the Muses is exhibited alongside Access, a series of photographs by supermodel-photographer Jo Ann Bitagcol, which were directly inspired by Lloren’s 40th piece which he calls Pananaw, a dress he created as his reaction to the other 39 artist-inspired pieces. “It was the choice of the curator, my friend Albert Avellena [of Avellana Art Gallery], to have my own piece as the inspiration. He said, ‘We couldn’t put, say, Arturo Luz—because people would then ask: Why Arturo Luz? Why not some other artist? So it’s better that it would be Jojie’s piece,’” Lloren explained.
Bitagcol is presently in New York to pursue photography assignments and further studies in the visual arts. The waifish supermodel has served as Lloren’s muse for the longest time and she photographed the fashion editorials that accompany the exhibit. “I approached Jo Ann to do the photographs, with models like Grace Tagle and Monika Sta. Maria. We had the pictorials a few months ago because we planned to do a book about the collection,” Lloren said at the exhibit’s opening, then demurring, “I can’t say that I’m publishing the book, or that we have a publisher already. Initially, we planned that the book will be launched tonight. But then we had a meeting and we thought: Why don’t we make this more beautiful and not rush the making of the book?”
Lloren said the proceeds of the upcoming book will go to the CCP and the Clothing Technology department of the University of the Philippines (UP), of which he’s an alumnus. “We won’t earn anything from the book, with the last centavo of the net proceeds to be divided between the CCP and UP,” he promises.
So, will the couture creations gain greater value because they have been exhibited at the CCP?
“Well, you know, people here have a different mindset. They’d just say, ‘But why? They’ve been used already!’”