By Mel Fernandez

CHRISTCHURCH – We have never seen the likes of this in New Zealand before. A high voltage fashion show transported directly from the Philippines, complete with all the bells and whistles.

And the creative director responsible for the spectacular ‘Philippine Fashion Show’ in Christchurch was none other than Jontie Martinez – a high profile, Manila-based fashion designer specializing in Philippine traditional costumes.

The New Zealand event was sponsored by a community group in Christchurch – the Philippine F.A.C.E.S.

Guests at the Celebration Centre in Wainoni in Christchurch were able to marvel at a collection of 100 exquisite creations, each showing the craftsmanship in Jontie’s designs and proudly presented on the catwalk by 20 Filipino-Kiwi models – male and female.

“I like promoting Philippine costumes because that is where I come from, that is my home and I love it, of course,” says Jontie.

“For the females it’s the Philippine Terno, one that is popularised by the butterfly sleeves. It comes with a lot of details like beadwork, embroidery, lace applique and it speaks of the beauty of the Filipina. It speaks of being warm and hospitable. The fashion there is very traditional, but we can give it modern touches. Like in the beadwork we can put metalwork, or we can do different silhouettes.

“For the males it’s the Barong Tagalog, again the silhouette is very traditional, closed neck and long sleeves. But again, we can do different treatments like the embroidery or we can use non-traditional materials such as pineapple fabric. But being creative as an artist we are given certain freedoms to tweak it for the modern male.”

FMN: How long have you been in the fashion field?
JONTIE: I’ve been in the fashion business for roughly 30 years. Immediately after school. Ever since I was a child I was already interested in clothes.

FMN: Do you focus solely on traditional wear?
JONTIE: Of course, I also do mainstream. But in all my shows I always have Philippine fashion, especially if the show is in another country. I have shown my fashion in Hawaii, in New York, in New Jersey and in Canada. This is my first time here in New Zealand. And I want not just the people from the Filipino community of Christchurch, but everyone, to see Philippine fashion – to really feel it, to appreciate it, because I am sure that the Filipinos here are hungry for this.

FMN: Do you focus exclusively on the local market in the Philippines or do you export as well?
JONTIE: I only take orders for one-offs and cater mostly to the local market. I do not supply to the outlets because it is more complicated. But if there are orders from other countries, then I am able to accommodate them.
I love doing bridal gowns and pageants. Aside from designing the clothes for pageant contestants I also train beauty queens.

FMN: Can you name some of your famous clients in the Philippines?
JONTIE: Yes, Pauline Luna and I did the debutante gown for Anne Curtis.

FMN: Would you consider coming back to New Zealand?
JONTIE: Well, if I am invited again. It’s really very hard to put on a show like this as it involves months of conceptualisation. And there are expenses as well. This is my first time here and they really rolled out the red carpet for me.