Jill Lao talks about designing women’s clothing and building a brand – Manila Bulletin
The Filipino fashion designer launches her first pop-up at Powerplant Mall with her Spring/Summer 2022 collection ‘Amelia’
This is the digital leap. That’s what we’ve seen during the pandemic as businesses try to make a virtual exodus as physical stores are pressured to close. While this move brought entrepreneurs closer to their customers safely and conveniently, it didn’t capture much of what people experience when they dine out or shop and see the clothes live. But as we now try to return to what was normal before, brands are welcoming customers back into their spaces. Among those urging Filipinos to relive their pre-pandemic retail moments is fashion designer Jill Lao as she opens her pop-up at the Power Plant Mall.
Embodying Jill’s subtle and understated design sensibilities, the boutique reflects confidence in her minimalist approach. Upon entering the space, people would know what it has to offer. It’s the physical manifestation of what she wants to give her clients that can’t be translated online.
“There’s really nothing like walking into a space, having that experience and seeing the clothes up close,” she told the Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Even if you have good photographs, people still want to feel the fabric, to see how light it is, how transparent it is, how it feels. I think we can also agree that whatever technology can help us, there is always has a limit, there is always a barrier and a distance between us, it cannot reproduce a physical interaction.
Inside the store are Jill’s latest designs. After working on personal protective equipment for medical workers at the start of the pandemic, the designer has moved on from hazmat materials to delicate textiles and tailored garments that will suit the post-pandemic lifestyle in the Philippines. Nicknamed “Amelia”, her spring-summer collection is an ode to the women for whom she designs. Drawing inspiration from notable female personalities, real and fictional, she brings elements of American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and film character Enola Holmes to her contemporary collection.
“They work like rebels just for themselves. They stood up for the others,” Jill muses. “For example, Amelia championed women in aviation and business. She was an example of how a marriage of equals was meant to be. She launched her own fashion line at Macy’s to make women feel very comfortable.Enola, although she is a fictional character, is also very inspiring because she saved those who are weaker than her and she constantly sought the truth.
“More and more women, Filipinas in particular, are speaking out in their careers, making equal decisions at home,” she adds. “I don’t think it’s meant to belittle men. It’s an exciting time as women become more and more comfortable in their own skin.
To help further empower women, through her “Amelia” collection, Jill has created pieces that will match the attitude of women today. Her collections include cut-out trench dresses, tiered dresses, tie-up bustiers, among others, which are designed to celebrate the wearer regardless of size. D-rings, adjustable straps, gathers, waistbands and drawstrings are thoughtful details that support the movement and freedom of today’s heroines. The pieces are flexible and can easily adapt to women’s ever-changing bodies with just a few pulls and knots, making them wardrobe staples.
“To me, ‘it’s ganda‘ is not something I accept,” says Jill. “With the pandemic lifestyle, everyone has gotten used to wearing pajamas, loungewear. It’s really all about comfort and functionality. I love that our pieces are so comfortable it feels like wearing a cloud, but it doesn’t feel like a feather duster. It doesn’t look sloppy like you just rolled out of bed.
“Amelia” also captures Jill’s design journey since founding her brand in 2017. From her days at Parsons School of Design in New York City and her training at renowned fashion houses like Oscar de la Renta and Marissa Webb , she is finally one of the delegates of Filipino design. PHx Fashion in Japan, the designer has taken all the lessons she has learned in the past and applied them to this collection.
“It’s a process. I didn’t realize it when I started, but I really have to listen to my clients,” says Jill. “I have to listen to what women say, what they are looking for. They must have options. I also have to create an environment of trust. If I don’t have that, they also don’t want to tell me what they’re looking for, what they want to see, or how I can improve.
“When it comes to building a brand, in the words of the great Diane Von Furstenberg, ‘Let everything you do be in service of the brand.'” she continues. “There will always be mentors, well-meaning advice, whether creative or business. Ultimately, I have to make the decisions and be at peace with them.
“Amelia” is available at Jill Lao’s pop-up at Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, and online at www.jillao.com.
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