With a design philosophy called “fusion artwear,” Anthony Cruz Legarda—whose fashion house is based in San Francisco, California—uses local fabrics like piña and Philippine silk, which are woven, embellished, and dyed with natural pigments by the hands of local craftspeople from Aklan, Laguna, Abra, and Iloilo.
Fusion artwear, according to Legarda, turns Filipino hand-crafted fabrics into American art-to-wear infused with different design elements, like classical American jackets contrasted with Chinese neckline closures.
“The hope really is to present something that’s very international-looking and take it to the world,” the designer said in a video interview with writer Mila D. Aguilar in 2010.
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Anthony Cruz Legarda with his fabrics
‘High-end’ Filipino fashion
Legarda classified his creations as “high-end” which are more pricey (ranging from $1,000 to $10,000) primarily because of the “level of artistry” put into the textiles he uses.
“I think that’s the way to approach this. China and India already have the low-end markets, so you have to compete in the high-end [and really show] quality,” he said.
The “high-end,” he shared, comes from getting the “masters”—in weaving, dying, and embroidery, adding that he has worked with only a select few in indigenous cooperatives because the work is “specialized.”
Legarda—who stumbled upon this idea when he came to the Philippines in the early 1990s to “rediscover” his roots—also works with the Philippine Textile Research Industry (PTRI), a unit under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that focuses on the local textile industry.
Aside from his shows in San Francisco, Legarda’s creations have also been featured at the World Expo in Shanghai, China and at the New York Fasion Week for Spring-Summer 2011.
He was also chosen to dress the top eight finalists of the Miss Earth beauty pageant in 2007, as well as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other Asian ministers for the eighth Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) Science and Technology week in 2008.
The designer and the PTRI are putting together a fashion show for next month, where feature fashion pieces made out of Philippine fabrics will be modeled in front of a select 300 guests, including Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
The February 8 show at the Manila Intercon is part of the Philippine government’s Save Act campaign, which aims to protect the Philippine textile industry.