A scholarship fund for fashion’s most talented students

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The Slim’s Fashion and Arts School opens up the world of fashion for its less privileged students, through the Salvacion Lim Higgins Education Fund. Creations by (from left): Noel Martin, Madeleine Barlao, and Leo Cadete. Photo by JO ANN BITAGCOL

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Vangie Cruz is a 54-year-old real estate broker who enrolled at Slim’s Fashion and Arts School in 2016. Her dad was a master cutter and her aunt was a sewer, and with mountains of fabrics, rolls of threads, and boxes of straight pins around her, it was just natural that she would be draping textiles on dress forms and tracing patterns on cloths.

But it wasn’t until after a career in sales and financial advising that she felt the yearning to have a formal fashion education. “Sabi ko, ‘Bakit ngayon lang ako cinall at my age?’” she says, referring to her Slim’s education as a ‘calling,’ a sort of mission that needs to be accomplished.

After a year of dressmaking training, Cruz boasts of her red, three-tier draped dress — with very few seams and with decorative black loop and buttons that line the hems — displayed at the SM Megamall Fashion Hall for “Slim Inspires,” the 2017 best of student work exhibit that features 32 pieces, inspired by the body of work of the school’s founder, the revered couture designer Salvacion “Slim” Lim Higgins.

The exhibit, in collaboration with watch brand Swatch, is peppered with notes that embody Slim’s sophisticated construction techniques — the geometric silhouettes, the hand-sewn surfaces, the minimal use of seams. “Those are actually more of the archetypes that my mother was known for,” says Sandy Higgins, Slim’s daughter, who has been running the school together with her brother, Mark, for eight years now.

VANGIE CRUZ & MARVIEN for SLIMS_JB_1362 copy.jpg After a year of dressmaking training, Cruz boasts of her red, three-tier draped dress (pictured above) — with very few seams and with a decorative black loop and buttons that line the hems — displayed at the SM Megamall Fashion Hall for “Slim Inspires." Creations by (from left): Vangie Cruz and Marvien. Photo by JO ANN BITAGCOL

DSCF5506.jpg “Slim Inspires” is the 2017 best of student work exhibit that features 32 pieces — styled with Swatch watches — inspired by the body of work of the school’s founder, couture designer Salvacion “Slim” Lim Higgins. Creations by (from left): Lulu Abuan, Kay Areño, Noel Martin, and Marikov Regalado. Photo by JC INOCIAN

“There were some people who did very literal things. Like one in the tailoring class created a barong with my mother's face embroidered on it and someone else in the tailoring class did a barong that looks like athletic wear but it actually was my mom's color palette,” Mark says.

Mark highlights the precision and hard work that went behind the creation of the students’ garments. This, he says, is also a nod to the arduous labor behind his mother’s embellishments and appliqués that were drawn by hand. “There was no Photoshop, no CADs [computer-aided design], nothing, it was done the hard way, by hand, with pencil, and paper and tracing paper,” he says of his mother’s time.

While they didn’t restrict the students from using digital innovations for their designs, he says that it’s crucial that designers have an appreciation for high, artisanal work. He also says that the designers’ ability to discern the quality and value of artisanal work from a mass-produced creation is important, especially now that the Philippines does not stand a chance competing with mass production when there are countries like China, Vietnam, and Pakistan that churn out pieces faster than we can.

“I discuss with my sister all the time that [what] I see for the school is really higher, and back to the artisanal-level, what people are now calling ‘slow fashion,’ because the Filipinos have a gift for that, it's in our DNA. And I think that’s what will make us different from other ASEAN neighbors,” he says.

The exhibition also serves as a launch for the Salvacion Lim Higgins Education Fund, a scholarship scheme for students of the school. “We've had scholars in the past supported by the school's directors or even my mother in the past, friends, patrons, [and] even industry professionals, but it was never formalized, so we decided it was time to formalize it,” Sandy explains.

DSCF5487.jpg The fund also aims to help students module by module, but as of yet, Sandy, the president of Slim's, says it’s difficult to say how many could benefit from this, as it will depend on the resources of the fund and also on the caliber of the applicants. Creations by (from left): Hannah Adrias, Rusanne Casela, and Genesis Alcantara. Photo by JC INOCIAN

LEE REYES for SLIMS_JB_1738 med copy.jpg “There were some people who did very literal things. Like one in the tailoring class created a barong with my mother's face embroidered on it and someone else in the tailoring class did a barong that looks like athletic wear but it actually was my mom's color palette,” Mark says of the students' works. Creation by: Lee Reyes. Photo by JO ANN BITAGCOL

In Slim’s Fashion and Arts School, there have been young, talented students who struggle to continue or pursue their fashion training because of financial concerns. “A lot of our students … they're not from privileged families, so they don't have the means to start their own brands and their own businesses,” she says. She adds that it’s also crucial for students to not leave the school half-baked so they can be better armed for the competitive world of fashion.

“The reason we call it a fund is because we'd like to build the fund so that it can sustain,” she says. “I think a lot of times, things begin and then they can't be sustained, and we'd like to build the funds so that we're sure that we can help students over the next couple of years.”

The fund also aims to help students module by module, but as of yet, Sandy says it’s difficult to say how many could benefit from this, as it will depend on the resources of the fund and also on the caliber of the applicants. At the moment, they are focusing on existing students because they have seen far too many of them dropping out because of financial constraints.

“It's heartbreaking because you know that they don't know everything yet or they haven't learned all that they can but they're very gifted,” she says. “Also because they're existing students, they already have a track record, we know how good they are. We know how serious they are, we know how deserving they are in that sense.”

DSCF5530.jpg “Most of our students, if not all of them, take fashion very seriously. It's not a game, and it's actually very difficult. The coursework is not easy,” Sandy says. Creations by (from left): Nela Fornier and Irma Raquedan. Photo by JC INOCIAN

Serious is not a word often used to describe fashion. She shares that there have been people who take fashion because it’s ‘fun’ or because they can’t think of anything else they want to do, but in Slim’s, lessons are challenging, attention to detail is vital, and commitment to the craft is necessary. “Most of our students, if not all of them, take fashion very seriously. It's not a game, and it's actually very difficult. The coursework is not easy,” she says.

For Sandy, it is this seriousness that has kept the quality of their school’s graduates — Michael Cinco, Joey Samson, Ezra Santos, Martin Bautista, among many others — intact. “Slim’s is a very serious school, and it's the reason why we've had, I guess, so many successful alumni.”

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“Slim’s Inspires” runs from Oct. 16 to Oct. 22 at the SM Megamall Fashion Hall. For more information about the scholarship, visit Slim’s website or call 887-3390 or 843-2109.