Designer Roland Alzate has finally arrived

2012 Look of Style winner Roland Alzate with, from left, Stef Cabal, Look magazine editor in chief, Amanda Burrell, British Council of the Philippines country director, Sandy Prieto Romualdez, Inquirer president and CEO, and Thelma San Juan, Inquirer Lifestyle editor and editorial director of Look.

TO a neophyte designer, winning a fashion design contest for the first time ever can be


considered a fluke. More often than not, luck plays as big a role as skill and talent in the outcome.

But the whole equation likely changes if you win again in a bigger, more prestigious contest in no time. A pattern that transcends mere luck or tsamba emerges, in the process, cementing your reputation in the competitive fashion industry as a new name to reckon with.

Roland Alzate, or Rense to friends, finds himself in such an enviable position. Barely a year after winning the top prize in “Weaving the Future,” a fashion design tilt organized by members of the Fashion Design Council of the Philippines, Alzate, 27, again bested nine young and equally driven colleagues recently by winning the Look of Style awards.

Venue for young talents

Organized by Inquirer Lifestyle and Look magazine with the British Council of the Philippines, the annual contest, which is now on its third year, aims to recognize young


and emerging talents by honing not only their design skills and taste levels, but also their business sense and marketing savvy.

Each designer was asked to create a five-piece collection, which underwent the exacting scrutiny of a panel of judges from the fashion industry as well as lifestyle media. Judgment day culminated in an evening fashion show, where judges picked what they thought were three of the best pieces from each designer.

Alzate showed three modern, formfitting and editorial-ready dresses with their own design quirks: one was made from leather with patchwork detail on the upper skirt and bodice fashioned from old leather jackets. His strongest piece was a cream-red-and-pink jusi and piña rayon number with woven solihiya-like detail confined to the waist and skirt.


In keeping with the contest’s eco chic theme, he sourced the jusi from an old wedding gown. His second piece, a black-and-orange ensemble with electric-pleated skirt, had a plastic overlay that packed a lot of visual punch.

For several days after he won, this blog got a number of search engine terms like Roland Alzate and Roland Alzate Look of Style. This guy, who started designing professionally barely a year ago after a two-year apprenticeship under seasoned designer Noel Crisostomo, is definitely on a growing number of people’s radar.

Defending their lives

During a series of earlier deliberations, contestants were also asked to defend their designs as well as to explain what their respective career


trajectories were. They were made to understand that turning their designs into actual clothes was just the beginning. There were also a number of seemingly unglamorous aspects to consider such as running an organization, financing and marketing.

As part of his prize, Alzate will receive an all-expense paid trip to London sponsored by the British Council to attend a one-week intensive fashion design course at the prestigious Central Saint Martins.

What tipped the contest in Alzate’s favor? We interviewed three of the evening’s eight judges after the contest to find out.

Bag designer and businesswoman Amina Aranaz Alunan considered the contest a toss-up between Alzate and Vania Romoff.

“Based on what I saw,” she said, “their collections both have potential for growth and marketability.”


Alunan cited Alzate for knowing his customer and developing his own fabrics, a combination of piña and rayon from weavers in Aklan, to cater to this segment. She liked Romoff’s ability to parlay her high taste level into elegant tailored pieces that exuded confidence.
Journalist-turned-hotel executive Mel Cuevas had this to say: “If you look at Roland’s pieces individually, each had a good concept. I think he also had an edge since he had some retail experience, showed exceptional workmanship and made good use of fabrication.”

Kindred spirits

Veteran designer JC Buendia admitted that his favorite contestant was Romoff because he identified with her design sensibilities, but he


also saw merits in Alzate’s work.

“I think what made Roland win was his ability to mold materials into real-life clothing,” he said.

For all the contestants’ creativity, Cuevas pointed out a valid observation that, although certain pieces stood out, no particular collection was consistent enough either in terms of look or workmanship.

“Even the winner’s collection, for me, wasn’t as consistent, as he showcased different techniques for his three-piece collection,” Cuevas said.

My Inquirer colleague Cheche Moral viewed it differently. I’m quoting from her loosely. Given the limited number of pieces they were asked to do, Moral said, it’s quite difficult for anyone to show a consistent look or line. You have to take each dress on its own merits.


My Top 5

Well, apart from Alzate and Romoff, designers Mike Yapching, Jun Artajo and Ivan Raborar caught my eye during the show. Apart from showing fresh looks and techniques, their fitting and sense of proportion were better than many of their colleagues’ works.

But one of the evening’s edgiest looks came from Renan Pacson, who did ashen blue tailored separates made from fabrics woven from recycled plastic bottles.

But the look, complete with huge black scarves that nearly covered his models’ faces, wasn’t as visually appealing as Alzate’s and a good number of other contestants. I’m giving Pacson an A for audacity.

REY Villegas

Raborar and Artajo also deserve to be mentioned. Raborar fused crocheted fabrics with seeds to produce a resort collection teeming with ’60s vibes. Channeling looks from the ’40s and ’60s, Artajo came up with a vinta-inspired jusi and silk-cocoon collection that was visually appealing for its vibrant hand-painting using techniques similar to batik-printing.

Of course, it was much more different once you get to see their clothes up close and scrutinize them inside out. Based on this aspect alone, Alzate’s collection passed with flying colors, according to insider chatter.

Should Alzate further push the envelope by joining yet another local contest next year? Now that he has come this far, he has little to gain should he win again, and more to lose should he be edged

ALZATE and Burrell share a light moment during awarding

out. Confucius says focus on the real work instead. The third time may no longer be a charm.

(For a complete picture of the 2012 Look of Style awards, don’t forget to buy a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the nation’s undisputed No. 1 newspaper, tomorrow, November 16. You can also log on at Jim Guiao Punzalan and Alanah Torralba shot all pictures used in this story.)


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