Gretchen Pichay

A Bride’s Fairy

Born Designer – Triggered by Miss Piggy

(NOTE:  This is an article I wrote for the Ica Alumni paper on how I became a designer)

 

“Miuccia Prada said, “I thought fashion was stupid because I thought there were more intelligent and noble professions, like politics, medicine, or science.’ And I think every woman has this hesitation at one time or the another…But I always come back to it (fashion) because I was in love with style, and finally recognized it as something important and influential”

—— Nina Garcia, The Little Black Book of Style.

 

“Work is love made visible”

—– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

 

 

My love affair with style started at a young age.  I remember when I was about 7 years old, an aunt of mine came home from the States and bought us all pasalubong.  She gave my cousin a humongous pair of pink Miss Piggy rubber shoes, telling her “Look at this, it’s sooo cute”—- unfortunately, I thought it was the ugliest thing ever made.  That’s when I knew that, if an ugly pair of Miss Piggy rubber shoes is considered cute by everyone else, no one will ever be able to dictate to me what to wear.

Ever since then, I’ve always been definitive on what I would and would not wear.  When I was in high school, I refused to wear sneakers even in P.E. class (Must be due to the trauma from Miss Piggy).  I had a pair of pointed white Keds shoes with an X pattern in front made out of garter that reminded me of ballet shoes.  I was repeatedly chastised by our teacher for not wearing the “right” shoes (in fairness to me, my shoes had rubber soles!!!).  Finally, I had to tell her that my mom thought it was a waste of money to buy a new pair of rubber shoes when my Keds are still in good condition.

Although I was in love with fashion, I never thought of entering it as a profession.  I’ve always felt that it has no real important function in society.   Whether it was idealism or naivety, I wanted to go into something that would “make a difference”.  As such, I took up Development Studies (study of third world countries) in college, in the hopes that I would eventually work for an International Organization like the U.N. 

My first job after graduation was with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).  Here, I was assigned with the Sub-commission on Cultural Communities (Agta/ Aetas, Muslims, etc.)  Although I enjoyed working for NCCA, I never really felt that what I was doing there had any true relevance to anyone’s happiness.  After that, I entered the corporate world where I learned that a desk job is not for me, prompting me to return to my Developmental Studies background by pursuing an MA in Urban Planning.  Concurrently, I started taking up sewing classes in the Fashion Institute of the Philippines (FIP).  Well, what can is say?  Style had always been important to me and it just felt right.  What started out as a single class soon progressed into a full course in Fashion Design.  Upon graduation from FIP, I soon found myself participating in fashion shows such as Philippine Fashion Week and running my very own atelier.

Today, I do evening gowns, day dresses, and even casual wear.  But what I truly find most fulfilling are weddings.  Creating a bridal gown is actually a long and exciting process of actualizing the bride’s most perfect version of herself.  Her wedding gown should be an expression of her personality— physically actualized to enhance her attributes under the guidance of a designers’ aesthetic.  As such, creating a bridal gown starts in a getting to know process ending in a physical manifestation of the inner and outer beauty of the bride.            

Initially, all this may seem like it is too much effort for a dress.  However, all the hard work is worth it when you see how happy you’re making the couple (yes, I’m including the groom) on the very 1st day of their lives together.  After almost 3 years in the business, I can confidently say that I have never been appreciated as a social worker as much as I have as a fashion designer.  From the groom going out of his way just to tell me how beautiful the gown is, to the bride thanking me in her speech,  to the groom telling me that they consider me their friend,  to the bride calling after the wedding to let me know how special she felt in the wedding and how many complements she received, to the couple going out of their way to give me a token of appreciation because they felt that the gown is worth more than what they paid for— it is definitely the happiness of my clients that makes it all worthwhile. 

At 28 years old, I was plagued with doubts on starting a new career in an “impractical” field.  With my “over- analyzing” and “over-thinking” tendencies, I would question the significance of what I am doing.   However, I continued to pursue it.  Now, I realized that it is not what you do but what you are meant to do that matters.  It is the field that brings out the best in you where you will be able to positively affect other people.  Ironically, even after doing social work, it is in the “superficial” world of fashion design that I’ve felt that I have actually “made a difference” by making people look and feel beautiful on their special day.  It is only in this profession that I’ve felt that I have created something (a dress) that is treasured and appreciated.  And that, for me, is love made visible. 

To think that it all started with Ms. Piggy…

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