Three decades ago, there was a small, discreet little dress shop along Kamias Street in Quezon City. Actually, it was more of an apartment which had been converted into a shop. A small salon on the ground floor was where then budding men’s designer Randy Ortiz met with clients. It had a desk and small sitting area where the latest fashion magazines were laid out. Behind it was the workshop. From the client’s chair, the door joining these two areas revealed behind-the-scenes on-goings that would later revolutionize men’s fashion.
This was in the early 90s. Back then, men followed a very contrived style philosophy and color palette. Black was almost the only color they would ever choose for a suit. When it came to designs for shirts, prints and bright colors were elements seen only on the runway shows abroad. Where men’s fashion was concerned in Manila circa 1990, men only wore neutrals and solids. Even women’s fashion lacked the sense of individuality and spirit of adventure it now possesses. I remember this to be a time when the only color for shoes were either brown or black.
When I first sat down with Randy to have my junior prom dress made he said, “Wear it with a pair of strappy silver stilettos.” He held up a pink crepe A-line mini dress fresh off the backroom and gave it one last inspection before sending me off. I thought he had lost his mind. I insisted on a pair of black chunky heels. Photos from prom and those horrific pair of shoes have ceased to exist. This extremely safe and uninteresting style philosophy that dominated throughout Manila changed when Randy decided he would introduce color, print and texture to a man’s—and later women’s—otherwise bland wardrobes. And it has since been an exciting journey since then.