The standouts  at Fashion Forte XVIII

After more than two decades in the United States, the enterprising fashion designer Nardie Presa came back to the Philippines. Though he had a lucrative practice in California, home is where his heart is. But then Presa saw that budding designers were relegated to showcasing their creations at malls or clubs. He thought that a hotel was a more proper venue for rising talents to present their collections. The idea not only became a clever business venture; it also became the irrepressible Presa’s advocacy.

Together with his longtime friend Audie Espino as director and the Crowne Plaza Galleria as the host, more and more design upstarts are getting their breaks at Presa’s Fashion Forte series held at least four times a year.

The lineup is usually composed of neophyte talents but established designers such as Presa also participate to show the newbies how it’s done. At the 17th staging, it was barong Tagalog designer Barge Ramos who gave a master class.


At Fashion Forte XVIII, Albert Andrada displayed his universally loved designs of romantic and dreamy confections. Mikaela Rose Fowler, Miss Grand Australia 2023, gushed on her Instagram: “What an honor to not only walk for Sir Albert Andrada during the latest Fashion Forte runway show. I had the privilege of closing the show as the grand finale.”

Here are some of the standouts and their thoughts:


TONI Kimpo recommends using local fabrics to promote the country to the fashion world. | photograph courtesy of Bert Briones


“The title of my collection is Rise of the Phoenix. My inspirations are the mystical bird phoenix while the emotion behind my creations is the power to rise again like a phoenix.

“My materials are sourced locally. I used some indigenous material like pearls and shells. I recommend using local fabrics to promote the country to the fashion world.

“I said yes to Nardie and Audie because of their integrity, and the high fashion production that only Fashion Forte can make.

Albert Andrada displayed his universally loved designs of romantic and dreamy confections. | photograph courtesy of Mike Zuniga

“When I was a child, I grew up being influenced by the works of Tito Albert Andrada. His first shop was in my grandmother’s building. I studied fashion at Slim’s Fashion School and worked at the  Carolina’s fabric store.”

CARL Acusa’s latest collection speaks of political movement through fashion. | photograph courtesy of Bert Briones



Luncheon At The Palace is a political movement through fashion. A collection that is intended to raise awareness to the historical past and to not forget the mistreatment, injustices, killings and power abuse during the… regime.

“The materials I used are silk, organdy, piña cloth, tulle, red Swarovski crystals, beads and metal religious emblems. [The challenge of procuring the materials] is their availability to suppliers because some are sourced out abroad and the piña cloth’s availability to the market. ‘My recommended remedy] is fast supplier-to-market transport and communications.

“[I said yes to Nardie and Audie] because they are both professional and friendly. Their taste and professionalism established a good foundation of trust to us designers.

“I’m a self-taught. I was mentored by Rocky Gathercole and Olé Morabe. My inspirations are Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Joey Samson, Ivarluski Aseron and various Filipino veteran designers. My celebrity clients include Andrea Brillantes, Kim Chiu, Vice Ganda, Sanya Lopez, Lea Salonga and Miss Glenda.”



“My collection is entitled Imprint. As a fashion designer, one of my primary roles is to create pieces for clients that reflect their identity and persona. It is very seldom that I get to create something that would reflect who I am as an artist. Thus, the ‘Imprint’ collection was born.

“For this collection. I wanted to do away with traditional floral and lace details. Instead I focused on the idea of how I can imprint my own DNA as a designer into each piece. The hand-beaded details of each piece were carefully crafted to show my personal way of sketching, yarn and beadwork to mimic my fingerprints and the waves in various colors were created to represent my sound waves when speaking. The Jezelle Hautea Amorado signature book folded details can also be seen in the collection as a representation of my unfolding fashion design story.

“The emotions that I wanted the collection to evoke is a sense of identity and self-love for who I am as an artist. I wanted the audience to see who I truly was as an artist and experience the same level of love and admiration I felt when I was allowed to be myself and create what my heart wanted.

“I wanted to present a collection that would let people realize and feel that it is OK to be themselves, to love who they are and to not let society dictate who they should be. Imprint is a collection that focuses on the idea of ‘self’ and that no person could ever alter who you are as a person.

“I wanted people, women in particular, to have that profound sense of acceptance despite what society would expect of us in terms of how we dress, talk and present ourselves. Hopefully, ‘Imprint’ was able to do that.

“The materials that were used were a mixture of silk gazaar, fine crepe, organza and tulle. The finer details were crafted using multicolored yarns, crystals and multi-cut beads. All of my materials were sourced from both local and international vendors that I have worked with in the course of my career.

“The main challenge that I face when procuring fabrics was the fear that another designer would be using the same thing as me. My solution for this is that I stay away from already pre-beaded or pre-printed textiles.

“Instead of purchasing such textiles I have my team of skilled beaders craft custom prints or details that would guarantee me a unique piece every single time. At times, it is an unavoidable circumstance that I would have to use pre-detailed fabrics such as lace, so to address this situation I would deconstruct the said fabric and have my team rework it by creating new textures, or beading details to give my clients that unique look.

“I have a Bachelor’s degree in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs from De La Salle College of Saint Benilde and an Associate’s degree in Fashion Design at Raffles Design Institute Singapore. I apprenticed under Albert Andrada, who is also my mentor and design influence along with Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Iris Van Herpen.”

‘Fashion Forte’ expresses Nardie Presa’s specialty and strength in conceptualizing clothes and designs. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MIKE ZUNIGA

“To be invited back by Nardie Presa and Audie Espino was a wonderful experience and great honor. I had my first show with them back in 2020 before the pandemic and this would have given me another opportunity to work alongside two of the most-sought after personalities in the fashion industry.

“Another reason for me to say yes was that Tita Nardie had informed me that this would be a wonderful opportunity for me to continue the Mentor-Protegee story that was unfolding between me and my beloved mentor and fashion father, Albert Andrada.

“The period that I got the invite for Fashion Forte was when Sir Albert and I were preparing for our ‘Marry Me at Marriott’ show and it just felt like the perfect fit. Any chance I would get to work alongside Sir Albert and share the runway with him is an opportunity that I would never want to miss.”