Final thoughts for my final year

A cube of various colors organized in 3 by 3 set with the rest of its color clan at their respective sides sits daring anyone passing by to mess up its neatness. A daredevil comes along, picks up the the cube, light in their grasp, dared to twist the colors off various sides. A row of red would sweep to the left, with the rest of the red would go the other way. A blue would break the rows up. A yellow enter the scene. There’s a green that popped up in one corner. Oh the white says hello. The orange slides through. Utter chaos of colors as the daredevil jumbles to cube in his hands, tongue out. Twisting up, twisting down. One row to the left, a column to the right. He pushes his hand as if daring anyone to organize it back. Everyone would look at each other. One by one they’d twist one row to the next so the colors would return back to its family of colors. Often one side would return to its organized state, but the rest still in chaos. As the next side gets reorganized, the first one would go ballistic, then back. Nobody got it right back up. Then again, til someone, experienced enough to know the pattern of each colors, would push one row after another. He’d twist the cube so swiftly, calmly nothing’s getting organized. He’d stay at one side of the cube, only turning to other side to check his progress. Back to the same side he’d twist each row. As he’d twist, the colors start to build back up and soon, the Rubik’s cube was back to its organized state.

It’s the only way I know how this year has unfolded. I began my year, organized and well planned, then something came along to add chaos (yeah, I’m talking about coronavirus), then it was a game of twists and turns trying to organize one side, then messing it up while reorganizing another. In the end, I just had to focus on one thing, look at the progress, then keep going.

I didn’t find that focus until late this year. I started pattern making my dresses, knowing exactly how to do it. I organized my weeks making sure I’ve toiled enough, so that by the time I’d get to making the final garment, I was ready. Turns out, something was still against me. The fabric choice was a curveball, french seaming was unprepared for, weaving was too overwhelming. It was utter chaos. As the project progresses, a lot of what I know in garment construction and patter making, had to be unlearned so I can accomodate to some mistakes and mishaps I learned. The weaving, most especially, was the part of the project that was all learning along the way. I never worked with a nail and a hammer, I suddenly have a 1m x .7m loom with 70 nails on one side, 50 nails on the other. Did it without breaking a fingernail. I never designed my own textile, here I had to weave a whole lot of panels to make a garment. I just had to keep doing new things, don’t I? It was this newness of the method and the project that always led me to ask, am I good enough with what I’m doing? Am I really pushing the limits more? Why am I still holding back when I’ve tipped the edges up a bit? Am I really a designer? Am I pushing boundaries here? Do I provoke questions? Am I designing to solve a problem? Which problem needs solving?

I have gone through all of those questions and until now I never know the answer. All I know is that I enjoyed the game and I’m getting addicted to it. I wanted more Rubik’s cube, some made in white frames, plastic, wood, glass, I want them all. Small size, big size. A marathon, a relay, a competition, give it to me. I want to keep going. Further, I want to make this research into reality. With coronavirus hitting those on the lower end of the social status harder than the 1% who can pay 900,000 Philippine pesos for a lockdown worth of grocery (that actually happened, and made it known on social media), there’s a need to keep the people thriving and alive. Fashion has changed in the face of Covid-19. It had pushed the conversations to actions. We’ve only been talking about the problems, but rarely do we make it a reality. Instead, companies keep searching for loopholes to stay profitable than ethical. The Philippine fashion industry is not as innovative as those making names in the world stage. But, as in true Filipino spirit, we take the negative and make something out of it. Rajo Laurel staged his latest collection digitally, making it the first digital runway, seen live by millions on Facebook, elites and the mass, Filipinos and foreigners alike.

I don’t know where I will find myself after this year. I have ideas that needs a lot of confidence to make true. But I am hungry to do more, to learn more. I am hungry to make this project’s ideas into a reality where I can bring more Filipino craftmanship to New Zealand, then the world stage. It’s a collective work, and designers are doing their own part. I want my works to contribute to making this a reality. But it is such a big dream, and I have just finished four years of introductory learning to such a large industry. Fashion is so vast, and culture is so wide. There’s so many ways forward.

If I had to learn only one thing the whole time I was at Massey, is that with the right support and great environment, we can do anything. While Massey showed me a snippet of what the industry looks like, I had to also go out there and experience it. I’ve left a comfortable job at a coffee shop to work in menswear retail. I’ve volunteered in cultural foundations. I’ve met new people. I was pushed to text people I barely speak to. I learned to be specific with what I need and want. I learned to step on rocky ground so I get to the other side. I have met great friends that walked with me, some have left me, some said hi, others watched. I met great mentors, that although I barely picked their brain for ideas and suggestions, I will always have their guidance to help me throughout a new endeavor. I know I’ll always take every opportunity to come back to Massey and remember everything the past four years have allowed me to take in. I’d bring these learnings to the Philippines, so I can bring the Philippines back to New Zealand. It’s about time people, and I mean the world, to know about the Filipino art and design. We’re not just singers, we’re makers too.

So, thank you for a crazy final year. It was intense, it was invigorating, it was creative, it was vibrant. And it was never depressing. Off to the next one.

And no. No more studying. Just yet.

Tatsulok Final Garments

Barong Shirt dress with Tapis
Baro’t Saya Combination
Balabal dress

Promotional Ideas

The promotional part is a collaborative work with my dear friend Regine Panlilio, who’s been on board with this project since day one. Actually, since second year. I’ve let her have free reign in the media part of the project, visualize it her way, but keeping in line with the brief.  We have had meetings together to talk about the film, which then complements the photos that will be part of the lookbook. We wanted to create a film that not only shows the clothes, but provides more of the story, a summary of how colonial thinking are infiltrated in people’s mindset, and overall, in a community. As a mainly Christian country, the biggest influencer is the church, and thus the white dress. At home, we get to be a little bit freer, thus the woven dress.

The execution of the lookbook, however, was perhaps the last bit I thought of in the entire project. Keeping in mind the whole project, I still made sure that regardless of time constraints, the lookbook still speaks with the theme of the entire project. So many of the project is part hand made, part digital. So I knew that juxtaposition is in there too. I opted for raw edges to get that look and feel.


The film was indeed Regine’s vision, however, we had multiple meetings to make the film capture the message of the collection. As this is a project to empower Filipino culture, I wanted to get as many Filipino creatives I know as possible. I’ve always known the photographs will be great. We’ve worked together since 2011 or so and I knew she’ll be able to portray the images with the message in mind. It was the film that was a little bit harder because it’ll be our first major film to do together. 5 minutes of film can say a lot of things. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A film is made up of thousands of pictures. Also, adding the speech made by Manuel L. Quezon, elevated the film up a notch and pulled together the film.




The music was arranged b y my brother, Renato Robrigado from the original song Tatsulok where the title of the project is based from. Composed by Rom Dongeto and originally performed by folk-rock Buklod. It was the first time I worked with my brother creatively and I never knew how to professionally give him a brief nor did he not ask me for any questions regarding the feel of the music. I was never strong with my music description. I listen to what sounds good, but I can never understand it the way music artists do. So it took a few renditions before arriving at what made to the final film.

Lookbook Ideas

Lookbook Ideas

Pop out style pages, from
Stitch bound style, from Originally found at
Accordion style, originally found in

Review Form Update: Virtual Fashion Show with #RajoRunwayOnline

Last night, for the first time in years, I went on Facebook awaiting a very exciting new experience for the Philippine fashion industry. Rajo Laurel, one of the Philippines’ biggest fashion designers staged his first online fashion show. I was there waiting in anticipation on the same Facebook page the Philippine elites and celebrities he dressed were also viewing. This digital stage disregarded my location so far away from where it was hosted and equalized people. For the first time, I sat front row at a fashion shows I probably would have never seen if it was produced in person. I did not have to crane my neck to have a good look at garments through the shadows of the well off.

This was not the first time it’s done in the industry. Shanghai staged its fashion week virtually this year. The presence of Covid-19 that spread across the world had forced brands and events to be produced digital. Conversation on the future of the industry has been in discussion for so long now. However, early this month it was opened to a wider range of audience for free at the Vogue  Global Conversation held early this month digitally. The people in the industry expressed a feeling of being adamant about the change of show space. Or at least, not fully willing to let go of the old. While there is a common agreement amongst the speakers that a stimulating experience in being part of the community of the brand is still important (and simply nice to have), the possibility and the chance to do something online is not looked down upon, and even inviting. One speaker noticed that having access to the shows online brought in thousands more viewers compared to the 600 invited and ticketed guests in the physical show, allowing for a wider range of customers. Fashion, as always, is open and even adapting to the never ending change in society.

So last night, in true Filipino spirit of resilience, Rajo Laurel celebrated his birthday with a first in Philippine fashion industry. Together with Saga Events, they revolutionized the industry by staging a virtual show amongst the community quarantine the country is still experiencing. It showed a new collection from the fashion designer where unlike a recorded version of a fashion show, it was shot as if the viewer is right there sat front row. The show was an hour long (including a long wait at the beginning) where emcee sat in a space in her home in Metro Manila (I believe it is), speaking to the designer in his own space in the province of Batangas. Saga Event’s Robby Carmona, the managing director of the show, was also present online to talk about the process of digitalization of the show.

I have to be honest, I expected a show filmed live as it was literally happening. Alas, they were a cut and sewn videos of pre-recorded model walks, projected online live from Saga Event’s Facebook page. The show aired at 6 pm (10 pm NZ time) in the tropics where the sun sets at 5 pm all year round, but the models were walking outside under the blazing sun as though it was 12 noon. The opening remarks were live, however. Although it took too long (typical in a Filipino event), it was the part that made watching the show felt live. Fast forward to the actual fashion show, compared to the opening, it happened in a snap, almost literally. Especially after a brief blip on the connection, which caused me to miss a good chunk of the fashion presentation’s beginning where most of the individual garments were shown. With a triple split-screen effect at the end, it was difficult to catch up on the looks I missed. However, it did make for an exciting virtual show.

I realize now what stimulating, inspiring experience that is missing online. On the one hand it gave me a sort of feeling of being on front row seat allowing me to appreciate the clothes up close. However still lacked that presence of over-dressed people, alcoholic beverage in hand confined in a space to watch people walk by. For a student, this gives a sense of excitement for a potential future.

I don’t know if a live recording of a model walking an empty catwalk is the future. However, the speakers at the Vogue Global Conversation does make a great about this possible future (even after Covid-19 is dealt with): there is room for both physical and virtual shows in the future. The future is not to plan for showing online but to visualize, plan and design a show that both in-person guests and online viewers can appreciate at the same time.

Manifesto Homework: The Vision, A Creative Manifesto

This manifesto is via WGSN. It embodies everything I believe as a fashion designer in 2020 and the future.

Keys are:

Red: Underline what the manifesto is championing, advocating, arguing pleading for or against.
Blue: Highlight significant persuasive or emotive language.
Yellow: Highlight evidence in the text that indicates who the manifesto written for (audience/ reader).
Green: Underline the key points of the manifesto.
Orange: Point out anything you do not understand, and anything you think is extraneous.

Catalogue Essay Writing: Denouement

“They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!”

Blanche DuBois, Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams


She entered the stage in a white coat extruding a presence that made her distant from the realities of the streets of New Orleans when the audience were introduced to Blanche Dubois. Her demise was announced at her arrival at Elysian Fields where her sister resides with her husband. In Greek mythology, Elysian Fields is an underworld. This project came about as a response to a previous project created – a white 1930s dress with a blush pink ribbon for the character’s opening scene. An expression of a childlike innocence and far removed from reality. Everything these set of photographs suggests are not. Denouement is a photographic series that portrays the closure of Blanche DuBois’s chapter in her own Elysian Fields as told in the play Streetcar Named Desire written by Tennessee Williams in 1947.

Other versions of this sampler:

Denouement is a series of photographs previewing the final parts of Blanche Dubois’s story in Tennessee William’s 1947 play Streetcar Named Desire. Her narrative began at the end of the lifestyle she once had when she arrived at her sister’s apartment in New Orleans via a streetcar named Desire. It was the first project I produced when I returned to Massey in 2017 where students were to respond to one of the projects created in previous first year studio papers. Unlike most of the other students, I too began at the end, and so the concept had to come from a project I created at Southern Institute of Technology where I transferred from. There I designed a garment for the opening scene of the play, a white 1930s dress with a pink bow, a portrayal of a Southern Belle’s childlike innocence from reality. In this project, there was nothing innocent nor perfect, just the death of one’s lavish life they once knew.

Making the Weaving and into the Balabal Dress

Oh the weaving process. Probably the most overwhelming task out of any of my work. Suddenly, I had to unlearn the past few years to make this garment happen. It’s not that I don’t need planning. It’s just a different planning than pattern making. Maths were involved, especially dealing with stretch fabrics. However, the percentage of the stretch doesn’t necessarily work the same way as patternmaking with a stretch fabric as it is dependent on the tension I apply it. All explained in the video. As I’ve never done any textiles paper, except for embroidery, I didn’t know where to start. Everything is laid out open for me to pick and choose and decision making is my weakest trait. I’ve learned to make faster decisions than I previously have ever because of the personal deadlines I gave myself. Part of those decisions were loom making, colors and method. And whether I make a pattern out of the colors or make it free flowing.

The loom was hand made. 1m x 1m  but I placed one of the edges about 70cm. As I needed 50cm length, I thought this was enough for the stretch. Turns out, I needed 10 more cm. Nails were placed 1cm apart, and this also had to be decided. 

I’ve practiced and sampled this method in the first semester, however, I didn’t account for the little curve ball in the form of colors. I originally decided on using only old clothes to make the weaving as part of the sustainability angle of my project, and some old t-shirts are interwoven in the pieces, it wasn’t enough. With little time at the point of making the weave, sourcing old t-shirts that have colors that work together wasn’t practical. I had to go to a plan B of some sort. I went and bought new fabrics, sadly. And this was where my money went all over the place. I went and bought about .5 to 1 m of different color knit fabrics (weft), and 8 meters worth of pale lavender and pink knit fabric (warp). The colors I chose were more on the dark cool colors, shades of purples and blue. To brighten up the garment, I went for bright warm colors, such as yellow and red and pink. The warp stayed a single color. I wanted to portray the diversity and vibrant culture of the Philippines. For some reason, purple and yellow reminds me of the Philippines the most. Colors of the flag are also in there.

There were two methods that were at play here. First was the typical method which involves longer strips of fabric on all sides of the weaving. The second, which I ended up using, is a continuous strip of warp fabric, then pieces of strips along the weft. This became the choice because it allowed the weaving to drape more.

I put together this video so I can show how the weaving was done. Writing a it down will be a mission. Here’s the process of how the weaving happened.

Making the Dress

As there were no pattern making involved, draping was the best way to put the whole garment together. I popped two panels on a mannequin, and closed the ends, leaving the middle unattached for the head to go through. From there I decided where and how other panels will go. I had to make sure that the back is also is covered. Or maybe lengthen. Those were some of the things I had to think about.

The finished product happened while the photoshoot was happening. While the other garments were being photographed, I was “sewing”my model into the dresss. I used more strips of fabrics to attach ends together and close the garment shut. It’s zero waste, in terms of panels, as they remained the rectangle as woven, but instead of cutting the shape in the whole width of the fabric, I added to make the pieces, making the rectangle work for the body.

Making the Skirt

The skirt went through the same method of “sewing” my model into the skirt draping two panels, attached to one side, and closing in at where the other ends with a strip of fabric. I have no image of how this was done, however, it is pretty straight forward as seen in the final photos below

saya & balabal

Final Garments

Pattern Making the Baro’t Saya Dress Combination

While this may seem like the simplest design, this design perhaps was the one that had so many iterations of the pattern. From using various blocks to changing the back designs to adding new features. There wasn’t any specificity in this design except for three: it’s cropped, it has a terno sleeve and can connect to the skirt. Everything else can be designed anyway. It was the last thing I designed to complete the four-look collection and it was the one I needed to make the collection more cohesive. I was challenged at the beginning of the semester to add another look, and since I have one garment per look, I accepted. However, my design brain cells must have retired for the project and my technical brain took over because designing this look took a while. There were changes here and there, and this took the final seat. That means, more iterations as I pattern make it. See Weaving post for details

More details about the changes for the Barong Dress on CAD

There were multiple changes made with the patterns of the Barong dress to finesse its look and details. I began by removing the fullness of the dress that made it oversize, but I kept the volume of the original pattern at the hem.

As mentioned previously, the center front panel doesn’t need a horizontal line to separate the placket from the rest of it. So I removed the seam to create one whole panel. I actually don’t know why I did it. I think it was so I could hide the raw edges of the facing, which wasn’t the best solution, anyway.

I wanted the collar to end at the seam where the placket begins and then straighten the placket from there. I moved the center panel line 1cm away from the neckline, however, I think I didn’t push through with this later on. The neckline was also reshaped to add space. After removing the fullness at the shoulder, the shoulder went back to it original  length and rounded it off to 14. The toile marks show 12.5cm length, however, I decided to keep the length at 14cm to have it look less tailored.

*Note: Ignore the yellow line as the old line was way down at the waistline.

What my to do list for this task looks like:

Sleeves were the biggest edit I did for this dress as the first one I did doesn’t even replicate the drawing at all. Angle is important in the design of the sleeve, so I began the iteration there. This dictated the height of the crown, which, as expected, is quite small as the angle is high up.

The shape took a while to pattern make. It took me a few tries, while looking at the cut from the toile to create the shape I wanted. As it is drafted flat and opened, and the toile is sewn in 3D form, I could barely imagined what the pattern actually looked like. (Next time, I am going to unpick the seams and open the sleeves to visualize the pattern.

Final patterns of the 2nd drafted pattern:

2nd toile and notes

The second toile presented a much better proportions, sleeves and overall look of the Barong dress. While there are still some noted changes that needs to happen, these are just in the details.

  1. The collar, as suggested by Robyn, to have the stand end at the original center front of the garment. That is to stabilize the corner where the placket and the collar meets. A gap will still be shown, but smaller as oppose to the original patterns. A gap is ideal for the design to emulate the typical mandarin collar on some Barong shirts.
  2. Placket needs to just adjust and have a better construction sequence as there is a part on the placket that isn’t enclosed by the collar. Robyn also suggested a method, which will be toiled as a sample.
  3. Neckline seemed to have gotten higher, a little change needs to happen here.
  4. A little more drop on the armscye is preferred. It has a casual feel to it that I prefer for this shirt dress. Most Barongs are worn in special events, as a uniform or business attire and this particular design is more everyday casual or street vibe.
  5. I wanted to try the sleeve with an coconut fabric interfacing that is stiff. May be able to help with the shape, but may be too stiff. Can only try, right?
  6. Need to still finesse the whole pattern as this will be my final pattern to submit.
  7. Remember to note sequence of construction for specification pack.

Pattern Making the Barong Dress

I started the collection with the Barong dress as it is the most familiar and I know the parts that needs to go. It’s the one in which the design is finalized and will only be changed in details instead of the whole design.

This is the starting block I used to start my pattern making for this garment.

I began pattern making for this garment using resources from Pattern Making for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong, which has details of the shirt, collar, placket, and sleeve changes. Design lines where my own.

The master shows the manipulations I made with the tunic block which I drafted from a bodice block. I know there is a women’s blouse block that I could use to start. However, the books showed instructions from the darted bodice block. I think it may serve well to keep a bit of the waist shaping at side seam. I expect this to change if the shaping at the side seam is better straightened instead of keeping the shaping. I also added panel lines to force the triangular shape of the garment and hopefully achieve the look that it is away from the body. This is so there are fewer layers underneath. We shall see.

Here I’ve added fullness through the middle to make the shirt oversized and created an extremely low arm hole (but I had doubts).
Notes on the front patterns of the Barong Dress.

The placket was the most difficult to draft. I’ve only done this design once and I still haven’t wrapped my head around it. As I rarely design with buttons, this is not my area of familiarity. To be a little bit more precise, I looked into a traditional barong and how it’s made to understand the mechanics. I expect some changes in the pattern. 

I was thinking of making the front where the pleat stands into a woven detail as well. It may tie in with the design of the first look. But I’m not sure because of the woven tapis that goes on top. It may not be needed.

I was a little worried about the sleeves as the pattern looks so different. It did make sense, though, but I know I still have to see the toile to decide if it’s correct. Additionally, I looked closely at my sketch and tech drawing and realized I had the armhole opening designed to go past the waist. I have to see to know how I feel about such a big opening, it could be surprisingly good or just bad. I do like that the opening is exaggerated for this dress as it casualizes the formal barong.

Back pattern notes and pieces.

The collar was perhaps the easiest to draft. I started with a mandarin collar for the stand, then drafted the shape from there. I may have to open this up a bit for it to sit on the shoulders better. But will try this initial stage of the design.

The first pattern draft was quite successful in the silhouette, length and volume of flare. I didn’t have to changed much in the regard, however the toile presented detailed mistakes that needs to be sort out for the final garment. These changes are mainly:

  1. Sleeves – it’s not the design I was aiming for. The design looks like a kimono, dolman style sleeve but set in. It didn’t have the wide open hem that I first imagined. It is also very low, as I had expected.
  2. Collar – not sitting smoothly. Collar needs to open a few centimeters at the edge to sit nicely on the shoulders. The stand is also being pulled by the collar. I have spoken to Robyn about this and it just needs to be redrafted slightly.
  3. Placket – it is working alright and well, except the construction sequence needs to be noted so as to make sure the top of the placket where it’s not connected to the collar is bagged and the collar seats comfortably while allowing a small opening at the center front.
  4. Seams – need to figure out a way to find raw edges without having to use an overlocker (because I don’t like the look of it, high end is what I’m hoping to achieve) or lining (not really the look I’m going for). I looked into the construction of a typical Barong and French seams seems to be a commong choice as the fabric is light weight and (most of the time) see-through. This may be my first choice.
  5. Shoulders – I first designed this garment as an oversized shirt, so the first draft would show I opened the front and back by about 5cm on each side. However, as I had a talk with Sue, her suggestion was to set it back up to the original length. I may have to drop it a little more as I do like the dropped sleeve look – it has a more relaxed look.
  6. Center Front Panel – i don’t know why I had to cut the placket part of the center front from the bottom bit. I realized it created unnecessary line at the bottom of the placket when it’s completely acceptable to have a single center front panel where the placket would be attached.

Making the changes

Applying all these changes the first time. This was done in August, and now writing this in October. So much has happened in between. I managed to take as many photos as I could along the way, and annotate what’s needed. 

Removing excess drop shoulder

Collar Changes

Placket changes

Making a new Sleeve

Final pieces made for second toiling

It was almost there. But I have pointed out to Robyn some mistakes I noticed and asked for help.

  1. Collar isn’t sitting right. I needed to lessen the volume at the collar to let it sit. (Turns out, I sewed it the wrong way around. I didn’t need to change the pattern much)
  2. Sleeve, although Robyn likes it and said I don’t need to change it, I wasn’t getting the correct feel.
  3. Placket, I decided to shorten it to a typical button up shirt length.
  4. Pocket! What’s a modern dress without pocket?

By this time, I was starting to get frustrated and I needed to do something new. Tried CLO3D for the first time and tutorials were straight forward. To try it out, I used the Barong design. It worked, so I kept going.

Third’s a charm?

To the cutting table and sewing machine, I went back because there were more changes, more alterations to be done. I needed this to work the most. The Terno dress was doing alright, I needed this to work as well. I applied the following changes for the third toile:

No image taken of the final garment, unfortunately. I think I wasn’t getting new results no matter how many changes I keep making. By this time, I was starting to get frustrated and I needed to do something new. Tried CLO3D for the first time and the tutorials were straight forward. To try it out, I used the Barong design, thinking that if the programme isn’t too difficult to learn, I could use it to my advantage. Gladly it was.