Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — A handful of Manila’s once-proclaimed “emerging fashion talents” celebrated their 10th year in the industry these last few months. Vania Romoff marked her 10th in November 2018 as last year’s Metrowear Icon, showcasing over 40 looks in the annual runway show. In June, Sassa Jimenez took her turn to fête a decade through “Ten,” her 10th anniversary collection exhibit. Last month, Ziggy Savella gathered his fashion friends, collaborators and clients at ZSX, his own 10th-year offering to the industry.
This is not to say that this known maker of bespoke suits and menswear had an elaborate celebration in mind. “Pressured ako to do this collection … When I was young I’d always say ‘Oh, I really wanna join the [fashion] shows,’ but as I grow older, I’m really more concentrated in doing works for my clients.” See, for someone who is known for his talent at structural garments, Savella finds freedom in doing things at his own pace, not submitting to the precise scheduling of seasonal collections or the regular churn of products.
But this is not to say that ZS Clothiers isn’t a well-oiled machine week per week — Savella is busy precisely because he wants his hands on the fine details of his business, catering to clientele himself or attending to big-number clients. Savella’s not a ghost in his own atelier — he measures, fits and chooses fabrics for his clients with only minimal supervision.
While his contemporaries marked decade-point milestones through fortifying their solo ventures such as ready-to-wear ateliers, Savella chooses to master his craft at structured tailoring, mainly through projects with his trusted collaborators. (In this year's Red Charity Gala, “Just A Stranger” actor Marco Gumabao donned a scoop neck Barong Tagalog crafted by Savella, in collaboration with stylist David Milan.) The interior branding firm Space Encounters — whose major accounts include fast-food giants Jollibee and Chowking — has been one of Savella’s long-time collaborators, famously when he designed the crew, manager and rider uniforms worn by thousands of these restaurants’ staff all over the country.
Space Encounters also collaborated with Savella to design Space Cowboys, one of the firm’s furniture collections. Space Encounters’ Thor Balanon says: “[Ziggy’s] sleek forms and use of earth tones were the perfect attributes that fit our mid-century modern pieces.” Today, he reprises both partnership and theme with the exposition of ZSX. The designer’s 10th anniversary collection was presented in the Space Counters Gallery through an intimate presentation, where models clad in ZSX freely roamed the gallery space and interacted with the guests.
Balanon continues, “Eldzs Mejia [a fashion stylist, as well as one of Ziggy’s closest friends] already envisioned a fashion presentation held in a gallery, and wanted to try something new, something immediate and intimate. We [at Space Encounters] also like doing things for the first time — and we wanted the Gallery to create shows that are ungallery-like — so we immediately said yes [to the ZSX concept]. The Gallery chose which exhibition best matched Ziggy's aesthetics. The August show, Staring into Space, featured works by established contemporary artists Wipo, Wesley Valenzuela, and Buboy Canafranca. Part of Wipo's concept was to create a room absent of love. The set up, a bare bachelor's pad, was perfect for ZSX. We also brought up Space Encounters' new furniture collection so we could create vignettes. It was an evening of fashion, furniture, and art, and how everything, including the audience, interacted with each other.”
Savella set out to craft ZSX with the mentality of a churn-averse creative led by spark rather than schedule — “Let’s do something worthwhile” being his mantra. The 10-look collection was indeed a worthwhile practice for Savella, venturing out into iterations of his structure-biased design that he had not tackled before: for ZSX, he used his own printed fabric, seen in a chevron-patterned collared shirt and matching shorts, as well as a couple of panelled wood-printed trousers. In the collection, he sought inspiration from non-fashion references such as architecture and industrial design, incorporating the nuances of organic materials such as wood and metal into his pieces. While his last two collections in 2017 took cues from periodic references — the ‘30s Great Depression and the glam rock style of the ‘60s — ZSX is peppered with elements of athleisure, while maintaining his signature talent for tailoring.
There’s no saying when Ziggy Savella will re-emerge with another collection — after all, his biggest strength is still in crafting bespoke pieces that impeccably fit their wearer. The designer emphasizes: “If I’m ready, I’m ready. I don’t want to produce something that’s half-hearted. [With ZSX] I decided, ‘Let’s do something that people can talk about — for people to see and realize that I’m still here.’”
His legions of loyal clients, satisfied customers and faithful collaborators through the past 10 years might disagree: his presence has never ceased to be felt.