Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

11/30/2010

Filipino fashion designer for the world

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

A profile on Oliver Tolentino
Text by: Carren Jao
Edited by: Judith Torres
Published November 2010, Bluprint Magazine

In the past year, Oliver opened his shop on Los Angeles’ famed fashion row, Melrose Avenue; showed his creations at Downtown LA’s Fashion week; vied for the top spot on the Oscars Designer Challenge and saw his creation sashay down the runway as the grand finale for the United Nations’ EcoChic Fashion show following works from Diane Von Furstenburg and Thakoon.

His creations grace the famed silhouettes of “Clean House” host Niecy Nash, Journey’s lead man Arnel Pineda and Grammy-winner Patti Austin and Phat Fashion CEO Kimora Lee Simmons. In the Philippines, he’s dressed Regine Velasquez, Randy Santiago and Louie Heredia.

Despite his rising star, Oliver still keeps the air of the same boy who grew up in Orani, Bataan learning to sew from his family’s in-house seamstress. “I think the secret to being a fashion designer is to constantly learn.” says Oliver. Fashion tomes like Atlas of Fashion Designers, Versace and Valentino: A Grand Italian Epic are stacked on the shelf behind his desk. He frequently dives into fashion bookstores, leafing through the wealth of information, and continues to take seminars on design. “I don’t want my clients to feel na yun na lang at yun ang binibigay ko sa kanila,” explains Oliver.

His shop brazenly announces “Oliver Tolentino—Manila. Los Angeles.” While he lives and works in Los Angeles, his production remains in the Philippines effectively showcasing true Filipino craftsmanship. “Everything you see in the shop is made in the Philippines.”

Lately, he’s re-introduced the world to little known eco-friendly fabrics—pina , abaca, hemp and banana—through his participation in United Nations’ EcoChic traveling fashion show, which had made stops in Milan, Denmark, Singapore and Hong Kong. Before his entry into the EcoChic show, the UN organizers weren’t even aware that staple eco-friendly Filipino fabrics existed. Needless to say, he wowed the organizers enough for his creation to be used as the grand finale.

Oliver’s story is backed by hard work, discipline and years of preparation. “If [you know what] you want, you have to focus on it. Pagyamanin mo pa yung sarili mo. Di pwedeng mag-stop ka na lang diyan,” advises Oliver.

He’s at the top of his game and someday (probably very soon) he’ll find his dream—to be a household name—coming true. His only caveat. “Gusto ko langing may kakabit na Oliver Tolentino, a Filipino fashion designer.” We wouldn’t have it any other way.

JAO is a fellow new Angeleno and a regular contributor to Bluprint.

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