Edwin Ao deftly sews ideas into the fabric of his life’s passion
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
HIS creations easily stand out on the runway, as a carousel of models romp the walk wearing his garments that are stitched and pressed with refreshing perspective. Conspicuous to the eye and stimulating to the mind — it defies traditional rules of fashion and setting unconventionality in style.
Counting it as a profession, Edwin Ao has been in the fashion design business for more than 10 years, starting out as an apprentice to two of the pillars of Cebu fashion – Arcy Gayatin and later Jun Escario – and as in-house designer for a local retail giant. Creative expression through clothes is something he has been passionate about since he was young, Edwin pointed out.
“I started when I was in high school,” he shared. “I designed clothes for some of my classmates or sometimes I would just draw sketches on my notebook. I later took up fine arts because at that time that was the link to entering the fashion design industry here.”
In 2000 Edwin – then a neophyte – was a finalist in a nationwide Young Designers Competition search hosted by fashion magazine Mega. This was followed with a mouthful of other distinctions, mainly representing the Philippines in the following exhibitions and competitions: Concours International Des Jeunes Créateurs de Mode in Paris, Asian Young Fashion Designers in Singapore, Asian Designers Collection for Tokyo Fashion Week, Malaysian International Fashion Week, for Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s Thai Textile Asean Design in Thailand, and recently the Asean Young Designers Arena in Kuala Lumpur.
“I enjoy doing tailored pieces,” he said of his work. “I like to fuse masculine and feminine concepts in one dress. It’s not so much of deconstructing, but twisting and exploring common patterns and injecting it with something new.”
While his works are praised for its avant-garde artistry, Edwin also does his part in supporting the industry through his participation in the recently held Asean Federation of Textile Industries, a convention that aims to link textile factories in the region and enhance the garment industry’s workforce skills.
“The federation wants to help the fashion industry here in the Philippines, especially since we’re not a manufacturing country, and essentially the textile and manufacturing businesses throughout Southeast Asia,” he said.
A man of few words, Edwin spends his leisure time devouring art books and dropping by exhibits, or eating out with his friends. Sometimes he lounges in his studio, where clients are all too familiar of his five Siamese cats. A self-confessed cat person, he said, “They do something surprising almost everyday and that really relieves my stress.”
Though, there’s seemingly not much stress he ought to let go of — a thriving fashion designer whose works have been applauded locally and abroad, Edwin is living the life he fashioned himself to be in years ago.
Apart from seeing his ideas sew its way to fabric, he simply said, “It’s seeing my customers happy as they wear my clothes that I enjoy the most.”
Photography: Hafid Caballes | Locale: Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu