Updated 17:17 PM PHT Thu, March 23, 2017
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Martin Bautista is no longer an up-and-coming designer. Maybe he never really was one. The designer, for better or worse, was practically robbed of the chance to bask in the raw nonchalance sometimes seen in young fashion talent, because the first collection he ever sent down the runway was already granted critical acclaim and pushed him to hit the ground running. The then-20 year old's first fashion week collection was instantly handpicked by fashion magazine Preview to be in its anticipated Top 10 Best Collections list, which featured the season's best in local fashion design.
As recognition by fashion magazines were the sole form of professional validation for designers pre-social media, it was a shocking moment for Bautista, but he only had enough time to recover as from then on, his star catapulted to a rushing projectile that has made Martin Bautista — name and label, the same — a fashion and celebrity favorite.
Now, his is a household name known even outside of those with inner links to the industry.
Bautista's body of work makes it hard to remember that he is only 29. He remembers the maiden collection that fast-tracked him to fame: metallic and neon done up in sports luxe, way before athleisure was a thing. Magazine covers include Rogue's memorable 2012 production: a bloodied, butcher knife-yielding Isabelle Daza in a severely cut-out skintight frock.
One of his favorite creations, a "shapeless" anti-gown maxi dress in pink he made for actress Anne Curtis is a piece that continues to spawn a thousand derivatives.
Bautista is known for swathing clients in ultra feminine drapes, a technique that is most attributed to him, but he is careful to note that his signature aesthetic represents a vibe rather than a technical aspect of dress creation: "I feel like my style is not just about draping. It's about the vibe and the attitude [that my pieces represent]: easy, never restricted, fun and feminine," he asserts.
It's this sense of playfulness that Bautista renders onto his collection for Manila Fashion Fest, his first runway show in four years, and it's out to surprise the lot who have come to be familiar with his work. This 15-piece collection is a tactile fantasy come true, with his signature gazar fabric sharing space with pleated mesh and tulle, gumball detailing, thin plexiglass tubes as fringes, and delicate feathering. His color palette is quite the selection of pastels, fighting for equal airtime as his staple jewel chromes.
Dubbed “Saturn,” the collection has Bautista caught in between the use of classic fabrics such as couture silk, mesh and tulle, bases that frame his modern acrylic embellishments. Each piece is a seamless tug between traditional versus contemporary, old-meets-new.
True to its name, Saturn's overarching theme brings to mind the horoscopic concept Saturn's Return, which Bautista discovered by accident just after signing off on his final collection title. In astrology, a moment occurs when the planet Saturn returns to occupy the exact same spot it was situated during a person's time of birth, and is psychologically attributed to fully embracing adulthood. Saturn's Return is said to be completed when a person hits the age of 30. Bautista turns 30 this year.
It's only as an afterthought that Martin remembers 2017 as the year that marks his first decade in the business. And as he revels in his runway comeback — his own version of Saturn's Return — he draws a blank line when asked where he's headed next. "I don't know, honestly,” he says. “Since it's my tenth year in the industry, I'm thinking of doing a gala show. But right now, my head is into this collection."
Perhaps this in-the-now attitude with which the designer approaches his work proves why even years before, at a mere 20 years old, Martin Bautista never really was up-and-coming: He had already arrived as soon as he began.