Summer lovin’

JO Ann Bitagcol

Bench Fashion Week Summer 2024 is up!  The heat is on and the local fashion scene to be seen is sizzling with a fresh lineup of fashion designers. A new energy arises as design takes a refreshing spin to what we have to wear now, more so taking everyday wear and our wardrobes future-forward.

BFW Summer 2024 presents collections celebrating visionary points of view that feature local craftsmanship, distinct design aesthetic and visual storytelling as seen in their outstanding collectives.

It is a notable platform that consistently showcases important local designers (both seasoned and new) and retail brands to the market. NEW, NOW, NEXT spotlights three designers, namely, Jo Ann Bitagcol, Gabbie Sarenas and nicolò as part of its BFW coverage. The other designers included are Rhett Eala for Kashieca, LE NGOK and Joey Samson.

Bench Fashion Series: Jo Ann Bitagcol

Iconic multi-hyphenated artist Jo Ann Bitagcol is one of the most anticipated names in the year opener edition of Bench Fashion Week.

Bitagcol’s design fusion of ready-to-wear and photography has elevated garments into contemporary wearable art. The artist’s refreshing perspective presents a narrative reflective of her beliefs and understanding of ancestry, culture, heritage and patriotism.

From a couple of silk scarves launched in May 2019 at Katutubo Pop-Up, Jo Ann has expanded her collection into a variety of pieces that include robes, dresses, tees, aprons, shirts, kimonos, trousers, shorts and even art.

NEW, NOW, NEXT talks to the fashion icon on her thoughts about her first show wearing a new hat — this time as a designer.

What’s your Bench Fashion Week collection all about? How many pieces?

JB: (It is) a 17-piece collection and a step up from my brand bitagcol, my photographs of Philippine costumes, heritage adapting to time.

What’s your inspiration for the collection and why?

JB: This is my first fashion show and I chose to highlight my brand DNA which is to honor self, ancestors, roots and culture.

What’s something new in your show that fashion people can expect?

JB: My interpretation of the barong, baro and Maria Clara.

What materials did you use and why?

JB: I mixed piña materials with my usual linen and silk satin prints to fully support Filipino heritage.

In design, what’s your signature style?

JB: Contemporary, genderless, timeless.

What makes this collection different from the other designers/brands?

JB: My photography element.

How long did it take you to finish the collection? Any challenges?

JB: We started shooting first week January. Layouts and printing took time so almost two months.

How long have you been making clothes? Do you have any mentors or did you apprentice with anyone?

JB: I started making scarves in 2019 then slowly translated them to robes, (then) dresses a year after. My creative friends inspired me so I took basic dressmaking courses at Slims Fashion School and fab creatives.

What is your design aesthetic and philosophy?

JB: If it’s contemporary, timeless and comfortable then it’s a go.

Is this your first BFW? What makes this one special?

JB: This is my first one and very special because I will be walking on a fashion show not as a model.