fashion fair pop up

Project Pop Up: In The Renaissance Of Filipino Fashion Fairs, Young Creatives Are Front And Center

To the market we go.

Shining a fierce and focused light on the emerging and independent, Filipino fashion fairs are encouraging the future of what is proudly made in the Philippines.

Revenge. Sinister and aggressive in nature, we’ve seen this word get attached to just about anything and everything in the midst of the relentless pandemic. From being relegated as non-essential for quite a while, especially taking into account what was and still is pressing in the world today, there has been a rabid vengeance for things like traveling and shopping. While these didn’t necessarily cease to exist over the past few volatile years, an increase in physical movement and a pervading YOLO mindset just made the desire to acquire and experience more of what was limited greater. Manifested in the generous peppering of commercial efforts outside the traditional confines of capitalism, endeavors like pop-ups, weekend markets, and trade fairs have been standard as of late. It makes the most perfect sense, especially coming from a purely digital context, there really is a visceral joy to peddling the artistic and artisanal in real life. 

Notoriously known for skewing the more mature market, these communal affairs have since been re-engineered to be more accessible, with a persistent resolve to reach out to the younger, more exuberant youth segment. No longer just a by the way in the entire business plan, the focus has shifted to giving a greater platform to pursuits of passion and purpose from independent brands and emerging creatives. The result is an experience that is especially energetic as of late. Gone are the purely silent affairs of mostly distilled nods and transactions without batting an eyelash. In place is a vibrant and thriving exchange of culture and ideas that in the grand scheme of things contribute to the resuscitation of the waylaid industries. Where other Filipino fashion fairs have had an assimilation of generations, such as the longstanding coming togethers of MaArte Fair, ArteFino, and Katutubo Pop-up Market, or the thriving undercurrents in the form of Hub Make Lab, Good Old Days, and Purveyr Fair, a lot more avenues where the new, now, and next are in the spotlight.

Fresh, Fun Filipino Fairs

A progression from the massive upheaval and pivot that fashion has had to go through in the pandemic, the integration of the digital and the physical, as well as the incorporation of expansive intentions such as sustainability in particular, these Filipino fashion fairs and pop ups have become more than just a convergence of commerce. When ArteFino opened its doors to the public again last year, one of its founders, Marimel Francisco echoed the shifts of the movement saying, “Almost 40% of our vendors this year are new. It speaks of the emergence of social enterprises and a deeper understanding of what sustainable living is all about. This year’s roster will show the many layers of responsible retailing that include going hyperlocal and employing fair trade practices.” 

Just like their contemporaries, as well as those that have emerged after, there is a frenzied search for the authentic, irreverent, and unique in Filipino creativity and culture, all of which are in full display in these spaces. “We wanted to capture the youthful energy that comes to life when you connect again with like-minded individuals,” asserts ArteFino on its website. This mood was alive and well with the MaArte Fair at the Manila Peninsula in August of last year where the rooms of the storied hotel played host to around 23 contemporary brands as curated by the PhX Fashion Group. Consistently pushing for the best of what the emerging market has to offer in the lexicon of Filipino fashion, the assemblage of Esme Palaganas and Joseph Bagasao, with the support of art advocate Trickie Lopa, has further amplified the message that there is a great swell of creativity that deserves to be appreciated by the country and the world. Here, the typically traditional has been shocked with a current of excitement for the artist and consumer. In the symbiosis of economics and creativity, there now exists a cultivated culture of mutual inspiration, thoughtful evolution, and sustained livelihood. 

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As is ingrained in the considerations of the pervading youth culture, these Filipino fashion fairs go beyond just the buy and sell. To make things more engaging, pocket events are hosted such as workshops, talks, and even dance parties to really encourage the spirit of artistry in all aspects possible. “The focal point of the event is the creative marketplace where a mix of fashion brands, artists, retail concepts, and creative groups will set-up temporary shops and spaces to sell goods, share their advocacies, and connect with the community,” explains Purveyr in a statement. “The goal is for guests to learn how they can further their creative and cultural careers and pursuits.”

Similarly, designers benefit a great deal with the proliferation of Filipino fashion fairs. “As a designer even if you are already an established brand it’s always great to be amongst your peers in the community. More than being accessible to collectors of your brand it’s also about seeing your friends in the industry under one roof. It’s the camaraderie. And you always learn new things from your peers,” says Rik Rasos of PROUDRACE, a brand that is a familiar sight in these pop ups. On the flip side, participating in these economic exhibitions is a litmus test for your products and point-of-view. “It is really about connecting to real people, the market. You will get to know your brand more, what it represents, how your brand and product will respond to reactions of real people,” shares Vin Orias of Orias Studios. “In our case, our main intention for joining pop-ups is for our brand and our products to be visible. We already know that we have a strong design aesthetic but connecting it to the market is a different ball game, and I may say the hardest part. Speaking from experience, as local creatives, our default mode to jumpstarting our careers is KKB. Joining pop-ups strategically will give you a good picture if you are on the right track. It’s more than about having thousands of hearts and followers on social media, but being available, especially our Filipino customers enjoys touching our products before deciding whether to buy or not.”

Made In The Philippines

While this is certainly nothing new in concept, the renewed interest and energy directed to these celebrations of community is encouraging. Not only is it convenient to see and experience what Filipino fashion fairs have to offer, but as a platform, it is both compelling and challenging for young creatives to thrive in a dynamic and competitive market. In fact, the framework has seen many iterations over the last decade. From weekend designer markets, community pop-ups, and swap meets, the cultural imprint of the alternative shopping option cannot be ignored. 

As with any renaissance, the introduction of ideas and innovations in identity are indicative of what impact the future wants to make permanent. “Buying patterns have changed. Sustainability, transparency, and traceability are increasingly central to consumer expectations, just are local manufacturing and the «Made in» phenomena,” details Gilles Lasbordes, Managing Director of Première Vision. With a more discerning generation and its accompanying informed perspective that buys into the whole enriching experience, creativity and commerce are now slowly and surely committing to not only be better, but actually do better. 

With accessibility and inclusivity paramount to the emergence and evolution of Filipino fashion fairs, the future for the creative is looking to be very bright. Smashing through the constructs of old world traditions, everyone from the designer, the artisans, and the consumer are all active and accountable stakeholders in this Filipino first and focused movement. There is a quite the way to go still, for sure, but as it is, the renewed love for local and focus of attention on the best that Filipino fashion has to offer is exciting.

Now, off to the market we go.