Renowned Filipino fashion designer Jerome Lorico used his memories of the Mayon Volcano eruption in the ‘90s to create designs for the PHx Tokyo 2020. The reception of the Japanese market was “good,” but Jerome knows he can do better if he wants to represent Philippine ingenuity into the Japanese fashion market.
“I never see myself as someone who needs to rest on any accomplishment or experience that I’ve had. Being creative is a process and the only way to get better is to stay curious, to keep working, and creating,” says Jerome Lorico, an accomplished designer for more than a decade, to Newsfeed 360.
It’s temptingly easy for Lorico to rest his laurels on a rich career thus far. He had an internship with renowned couturier Alexander McQueen’s menswear department; assumed a teaching position at the groundbreaking Fashion and Culture and Fashion Criticism in Meridian International Business, Arts and Technology College (MINT College) which espouses a modern approach to education; and has a list of victories in prestigious tilts like the Japan Fashion Design Contest.
But Jerome, who started on his creative journey by helping make accessories for his family’s business, believes in moving inexorably forward and upward. “There is always room for improvement, and there is always something to learn in every situation or experience that is given to us,” he intimates.
Thus, when fashion consultant Tetta Ortiz-Matera invited the Filipino designer to participate in PHx Tokyo in 2020, Jerome quickly signed up. The program seeks to support fashion and accessory designers and introduce their brands abroad through a sales exhibit. PHx Tokyo is a joint project of Tokyo-based showroom H3O Fashion Bureau, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) of the Philippine’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Matera who moved to Japan in 2013.
“They were looking for designers who would complete the group that will be presenting collections for the Japanese market,” Jerome recalls of the invitation to join the CITEM-led design incubation program. “(Tetta) mentioned that they saw my work in my studio and that this was the reason they got interested in my brand. I was excited knowing that the project was something that hasn’t been done before and also challenged me because I know that it was going to be a little difficult with the global pandemic and all the restrictions that go with it.”
Jerome believes that he is “not a complete stranger to Japan” even if this year’s three-day presentation at Tokyo’s fashion district last July 7 to 9 was the first time his brand was introduced to Japanese buyers. “I was able to represent the Philippines twice in the International Fashion Design Competition in Tokyo a couple of years back,” he shares. “And I was also able to tour and study in the city. It was a great thing to be invited because it felt like a cycle and that being able to show something again for the Japanese audience was long overdue.”
Together with seven other Filipino brands – Bagasao, Feanne, HA.MU, J Makitalo, Jill Lao, Kelvin Morales, and Neil Felipp – Jerome attended panel discussions, workshops, portfolio reviews, and other activities. PHx Tokyo offers lessons in various processes in fashion, such as building and sustaining a brand’s appeal especially to the international market.
On hand to collaborate with Jerome and the rest of the designers were Ortiz-Matera, and H3O Fashion Bureau Fashion Director Jason Lee Coates and Marketing and Business Director Hirohito Suzuki. Both Coates and Suzuki were speakers at the 2019 PHx Fashion Conference in Manila, “an event which brings the fashion industry together to discuss overseas markets and best practices on a regional and global level,” according to its official site.
Jerome says his LORICO SS (Spring/Summer) 2022 presentation for the sales exhibition “explores organic tech and sportswear derived from traditional and modern references. The pieces are an exploration on both the familiar and the unfamiliar in terms of shape, texture, and material curated for new urban exploration.”
In press interviews he gave for PHx Tokyo, the designer reveals that his collection for the program draws from his memories of the Mayon Volcano eruption in the 1990s. His walk home from school then was filled with gray shades, haze, and recollections of fine grains of sand falling onto his palm. His PHx Tokyo booth showcased pieces such as suits, shorts, and shirts for men and robes, dresses, and skirts for women executed in a monochromatic palette. Jackets, vests, and scarves were available for order, too.
Jerome says the agency handling the program relayed to him that the “reception (for his line) was good.” But he believes he still needs “to have more patience and be more consistent to break into the Japanese market.”
The designer says his favorite part was meeting the rest of the “amazing Filipino designers who were part of the program.” He enthuses, “Getting to know them, listening to their struggles, and their visions created a bond (among) us. It also enlightened us and gave us new perspective about our industry now, and where we want to steer our individual brands in the future.”
He and his fellow participants went through the fashion program during the pandemic, which undoubtedly placed them in unique circumstances due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. Jerome considers it a plus that he was able to work from home as he was able to more keenly focus on the work at hand and the minutia.
“As a designer, I try my best to avoid fortuitous elements in my designs. Being able to avoid being distracted by the outside world helped me to muster all my creativity into accomplishing the collection,” he maintains.
He admits that it was a challenge to work around the restrictions of the pandemic to produce the products required for his collection. But the experience has underscored one lesson for Jerome.
“Difficult times really teach us to be more resourceful. [Our PHx Tokyo experience] proved how Filipino (artists) can endure and still be creative in any given situation. This project gave me personal insights, as well as realizations for my brand. The future is unclear but I definitely want to keep going,” he concludes.
About the Writer
Joyce Reyes-Aguila writes lifestyle articles for various national publications when she’s not busy with her day job in HR analytics and talent operations. She loves coffee, wearing black, and Super Junior.
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