1. Josie Natori, Naga, Camarines Sur
Born Josefina Almeda Cruz, Josie’s Bicol roots were undeniable: we have a highway after her middle name. Josie’s scholarly move to the US in the mid-sixties paved her way to Wall Street. After pursuing several business ventures and eventually marrying Ken Natori (to which she owes the orient flare of her eponymous line), her fashion epiphany came in the form of Bloomingdale’s buyer asking her to lengthen some of the peasant blouses she got from the Philippines. The rest, as they say is history: she’s now into lingerie, sleepwear, ready-to-wear, home furnishings, perfume and eyewear with a global foothold.
2. Salvacion Lim-Higgins, Legazpi, Albay
If Paris had Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy and Christian Dior in the forties and fifties, we had our very own Salvacion Lim-Higgins. Travelling in 1940 from Legazpi to Manila to pursue Architecture at the University of Sto Tomas, she never knew she would be able to ride the winds of time and dress the country’s finest to becoming the first Asian couturier to appear in the American press, from setting up shop in Malate with her sister Purificacion to establishing one of the country’s best fashion schools, Slim’s Fashion and Arts School.
3. Ezra Santos, Bato, Camarines Sur
Ezra Santos flourished in the same Arab mecca where Michael Cinco and Furne One did in the recent decades: Dubai. Where the rest of the world went for minimalist takes in design, Ezra took the same route as that of designers Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab’s: such modern extravagance. He has dressed celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez and on several occasions, has been the toast of Fashion Weeks all over the world. Hailing from the town of Bato in Camarines Sur, Ezra left for greener pastures only to end up being at the pinnacle of his career in a truly global platform.
4. Jerome Lorico, Daraga, Albay
Along comes Jerome Lorico, a guy whose fateful trip from Legazpi to Manila years ago has fuelled his energy to succeed: he just finished an internship at Alexander McQueen and is now set to conquer the world via London Fashion Week. An amazing journey, he would often look back and grin at the im-possibilities of that feat. It took him around ten years after winning several local design competitions, getting work at local retail brands to eventually making it big in the global scene.
5. Avel Bacudio, Buhi, Camarines Sur
Avel Bacudio is one of the most recognizable names in the industry: he’s a PR hit. Coming from Buhi, Camarines Sur, he left for Manila at a young age, began as a janitor and served coffee eventually as a designer’s assistant. New York, Tokyo, Paris and Milan all waited for his arrival. A few years later, he did. Several hit collections and amicable relationships/connections later, he did. The boy from Buhi made the world his own.
6. Jean Goulbourn, Legazpi Albay
Jeannie Goulbourn began as one of Pitoy Moreno’s models in her younger years, and after studying fashion, she landed a spot as an assistant for the American fashion magazine McCall’s Magazine and eventually a buyer for Joseph Magnin in San Francisco, she went back to the Philippines and launched her own label Silk Cocoon. Her brand was known for using exquisite indigenous materials and barongs for distinguished clients, a brand now passed on to her daughter Katrina Goulbourn