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By John Legaspi

International fashion designer Lesley Mobo aired his frustration over social media about a missing dress he's been looking for for years.

In a Facebook post, the London-based designer wrote, "What would you do if you... find your missing archive dress suddenly worn by a beauty queen and you're not even aware of it...And not even credited. I think she looks good in it, but I could use a little help... Been looking for it since 2015 (how it landed there?). How can I get it back? Should I buy it back? Can I even buy it back?"

The missing red sequined paillette "Dolly Gown" dress resurfaced after an Instagram post was seen by the designer. A part of his Red Charity Gala collection, the dress has been worn by Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 and actress Kim Chiu for a fashion magazine in 2016.

The designer tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, "I understand how hard it is to make a living doing fashion. And stylists are supposed to lift the industry up. I just want them to stop abusing designers, especially the young ones."

Mobo received a lot of sympathetic messages from young designers after releasing the call-out post sharing the same sentiments. "Can you imagine? These young designers have to create a secret forum to talk about all the abuse they get from stylists? The most talented young designers are from the provinces. Most of them want to make it to the fashion industry to help their poor parents, and send money back to the province. But they are being taken advantage of at the beginning. They're scared daw na magreklamo kasi baka hindi sila sumikat (They are scared to file a complaint for fear of being deprived of opportunities)."

Push and Pull

Collaboration is the key to success in fashion. In order to build red carpet-worthy looks, compelling visual images, and editorial or commercial characters that tell stories, editors, designers, stylists, costumers, hair and makeup artists, and photographers work together very closely, each playing a crucial role.

For designers and stylists, the pull-out form is the binding contract in this collaboration. It's an agreement signed by the stylist and the designer enumerating the items borrowed, the date they are borrowed and the date they will be returned, the purpose of borrowing, and other points salient to the safekeeping of the borrowed items.

Mobo also runs the same protocols when lending his pieces to stylists and fashion editors, although he has made it a policy to work only with stylists he trusts. "Stylists are last-minute people when organizing pull-outs for a shoot. Minsan wala nang time for paperwork," says the designer. "But usually kasi, the bigger the stylist, the [more] trust is there. But we have to professionalize it siguro, kasi napaka-informal magkipag-deal ng iba (it's become so casual, the way some of these stylists operate). A professional stylist from magazines like Vogue would do precise story boards, with what clothes to have, plan out everything carefully, and on schedule. In Vogue, even when I was a young fashion student, they would treat the young designers exactly the same way as the big names."

Influence and responsibility

"Stylists are very important, but they have to set a good standard," says Mobo. "They have the power to make a designer a superstar overnight. And the great fashion editors and stylists use their influence to support, nurture, and discover new young talents. They don't take advantage of them."

Mobo plans to continue spreading the word to help put an end to the "use and abuse" culture in the fashion industry by mentoring young designers with the help of Ternocon. Ternocon is an initiative headed by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Suyen Corporation. "We teach young designers to reinvent the terno, but also give them industry advice on how to do and approach things as a designer." Leading the initiative with Mobo are Inno Sotto as chief mentor and Gino Gonzalez as its artistic director. Mobo is also an industry advisor of the Fashion Program of MINT College here in the Philippines.

"I hope we can send a message to stylists in general not to do this again to young and any designers," says Mobo. "I don't really care about the dress. I am accepting her apology because we all make mistakes. But I am not going to tell everyone it's a misunderstanding. They shouldn't do this to designers."

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Title Annotation:Fashion and Beauty
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Aug 8, 2019
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