Davao designer makes waves in Dubai fashion scene
by Jenny Molbog-Mendoza
It is not often that we hear of fashion designers from the Philippines who make it big in the international scene. But once in a while, a local of sheer talent and creativity comes along, breaks the mold, and surpasses everyone’s expectations. One such individual is Garimon Escandor Roferos, a proud son of Davao City in Mindanao, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.
What makes Garimon stand out from the rest is his avant-garde attitude towards his craft. Although he is known in the fashion community as very modest with regards to his achievements, his portfolio reflects his other side: innovative, exciting, and edgy. His designs strike a delicate balance between classicism and fantasy, with some of them reflecting a hint of the artist’s religiosity.
According to the 46-year old designer who has been based in Dubai since 2010, he has remained true to the tradition of haute couture, with most of his works being entirely hand-sewn. He describes his clothing line as elegant, ultra-feminine silhouettes, which are lavishly opulent.
“Most of my foreign clients are from the UAE and other gulf countries, as well as from the US. They are actually big names in high society,” he relates, although he declined to name these well-known personalities due to a confidentiality clause in his contracts with them.
Contrary to what most people think, Garimon reveals that the fashion scene in the Middle East is alive and adventurous. In fact, there is so much room for Dubai-based designers like him to unleash their creativity and enhance their designs. This is the reason why he has tried to continuously improve on his craft and break away from the more traditional styles of his competitors.
Although the Davao native remains grounded to his humble beginnings as a designer, he says that there is a marked difference in taste among his clients in Dubai and in the Philippines. And this has worked to his advantage, as his clothing line is focused on haute couture.
“In Dubai, the people there are more into high fashion (haute couture) and clients pay sky high. On the other hand, Filipinos are more into minimal fashion,” Garimon explains.
He credits a major part of his success to Cebu-based designer and creative director Michael Cinco who hired him to be his assistant in Dubai. It wasn’t his first time though to work abroad, as he kicked off his young fashion career in Riyahd after graduating from the Slimms Fashion School in Manila.
“I was hired by my long time friend Michael Cinco to join his couture team. He saw that my work fit the high couture taste of Arab women.That’s why I decided to close my couture shop in Davao and try my luck in Dubai,” Garimon recounts.
In 2012, the duo returned to the Philippines to take part in the “Fearless” Bench show. Garimon, who was tasked by Michael to translate his raw concepts into design ideas, no longer found the job too difficult as the two had already worked closely during their stint in the Middle East.
The Davao native’s rise to fame started when he won the coveted Concours Internationale des Jeunes Creatures de Mode’s D’Incitation held in Paris, France, in 2004. What caught the eyes of the judges, particularly of fashion icon Pierre Cardin, was Garimon’s ingeniously designed entry – an architecturally structured Philippine terno that was made purely from aquatic plant lilies and bago-bago vines.
It was a good thing that he had already developed an eco-friendly mindset while working closely with Cotabato-based entrepreneur Ameera Rose Sira of Paglas Corporation in the production of organic weaves, which were made from the fibers of Cavendish banana plants. The decorticated fibers, produced by former rebels, were exported to Japan and were used as the primary material to make sweaters and denims.
Garimon makes no qualms over his concern for the environment, particularly in choosing the materials he uses for his designs. During the course of his career as a designer, he has always been mindful of the impact of waste products on the planet’s ecology. This is the reason why he has made a renewed call among his colleagues to use traditional materials like organically grown linen, silk and cotton.
Having gained a reputation as a conceptual artist, Garimon never runs out of original ideas that will promote his advocacy. A couple of years ago, he raised eyesbrows when he rolled out his sartorial “Bag Ladies” collection, which were fashioned from deconstructed materials and patch-worked together with smooth over-stitching and careful seaming. Industry critics lauded his collection, calling them a visual spectacle.
Since he was a young boy, Garimon knew that he was different from the rest of his contemporaries. However, it was this sense of uniqueness that enabled him to think out of the box and explore new ways of doing things. This has now become his philosophy in life, as he uses this artistic freedom to produce designs that are not only visually appealing but more importantly, will define his work as a world-class designer.
Garimon has now set his sights on Hollywood after he received accolades for dressing up the famous Latin actress and singer, Araceli Arambula during the Latin Billboard Awards 2017. He intimates that he now has a PR person who will try to link him up with A-list stars. His dream of bagging a Hollywood contract may just be around the corner.
Asked on what piece of advice he could give to budding designers who would also like to make a name for themselves and penetrate international markets, he says: “I had so many ups and downs in working on this field of fashion here in Dubai. But hard work and determination helped me to reach my goals.”
“Focus on your career, create and explore new things, deliver on time, and keep your self loved by your clients,” concludes the 2010 Global Pinoy awardee and 2017 Fashion Times Awards-Most Promising Designer of the Year.”
(Photos courtesy of Garimon Roferos)