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Jun Escario: Chapter XX

On the 20th year of his career, Jun Escario shares thoughts on his personal and professional evolution, and an outlook that has made him a staying force in the fashion industry. As he presses forward, he takes a more minimal design aesthetic and now subscribes to a lifestyle that he declares monastic.

On the 20th year of his career, Jun Escario shares thoughts on his personal and professional evolution, and an outlook that has made him a staying force in the fashion industry. As he presses forward, he takes a more minimal design aesthetic and now subscribes to a lifestyle that he declares monastic.

Much has been said and written about Jun Escario, which isn’t at all surprising considering his impressive tenure, which includes many high fashion editorials, awards like the Best Philippine Designer from the French Concourse International in 2002, and a loyal roster of clientele that boasts names often seen on the best-dressed list. But he sees no point in talking about the past here.

Twenty years in the fashion industry has turned the once enfant terrible poster boy into today’s heir to the throne of luxe. After partying hard and taking in the intoxicating highs of the fashion world, Jun has admittedly turned monastic—and by monastic, he means staying home more often or walking his cuddly Chihuahuas Flick and Georgie on Sundays. It seems life has taken on a more leisurely pace, his spot on the dance floor has turned over to others too young to remember his gyrating days. Now, Jun’s version of luxury has turned into something simpler: solitude in the midst of the chaotic world of fashion, silence against the voices of trends and caprices, and permanence versus the ever-shifting plates of personal taste and preference.

That’s not to say he’s completely disappeared off the radar. When in Manila, his time is divided between shuffling between his shop in Greenbelt 5 and his atelier at the LPL Towers, and attending social engagements. After all, visibility is key to being a top player in the glam world of the Philippine capital. “So much of my late afternoons and evenings are spent hopping from one event to another, a rather taxing social life that I enjoy no matter how limited my time is,” Jun explains.

It’s a busy schedule that makes Jun pray for a saint’s gift of bilocation. “I shuttle between Manila and Cebu every week,” he says. “I spend three days in Manila and four days in Cebu, and add to that Panglao Island in Bohol during the coming months. Can I divide myself into three equal parts?” he deadpans.

His shop in Cebu has since moved to the family residence, devoted to RTW production while catering to a reasonably healthy clientele that has stuck it out with him through the years. “These are clients who have seen me evolve as an artist through the years. In turn, I too have been a witness to their career changes, lifestyle choices and personal growth. They have become friends, almost family even.”

Jun takes pride in being part of his client’s personal moments, but weddings are extra special. “To me, wedding gowns are a joy to work on. To capture and fulfill a bride’s ardent wish to be most beautiful on her wedding day is a privilege that only fashion artists get to have,” he shares. “After 20 years, I am now in a stage where I am doing the wedding gowns of second-generation clients! So I’ve seen their rites of passage, and my diminishing hairline is proof of that. But my body hasn’t aged a bit,” Jun laughs, tickled by his own narcissism.

Jun’s take on glamour and sophistication is unaffected, as if it’s a concept that comes all too naturally with him. “There are many who equate sophistication and glamour with being cold, distant and unreachable. That is so untrue,” he negates. “Real sophistication is warm, approachable and very personal. One does not wear glamour, one lives it.”

Such is the philosophy of Jun Escario that he finds it imperative to know his clients on a more personal level. “An artist needs inspiration,” he explains. “Each person has that innate sense of sophistication and glamour. My job is to let that out, until it exists confidently on its own in a very casual and natural manner.”

His ability to create dresses that fit to his clients’ lifestyles might ultimately be the reason why many have been patronizing his designs for years. “I make dresses that my clients will feel good and be comfortable in,” he says. “I start by looking at my client’s shape and personality before even making a sketch.”

Mirroring his newfound appreciation for the laidback life, his clothes now show a crisper side to his design philosophy. “I used to do body-hugging shapes with stretchy fabrics,” he shares. His former collections that highlighted feminine curves was never gauche though; in fact, a telling sign of Jun’s degree of tastefulness is his ability to create plunging necklines and thigh-high slits that are more charmingly alluring than completely risqué. “It’s something I can still do, but it would depend on the situation. I want to do more mature and cleaner cuts, but of course, it will still be sexy.”

His years of experience have given him the tools to keep up with the changing industry. “It’s about loving your craft and finding happiness in what you do,” he shares. “There are certain things that are important in being a designer, like making sure to communicate with your client, and staying current without being dictated by trends. But in the end, it’s about being comfortable with change.”

But perhaps the reason why Jun Escario remains such an influential force in Philippine fashion is creative integrity, which he insists is his staying power. “Take the Fashion Council, for example. There is true respect among its members who have individually made their marks on the industry, like Philip Rodriguez, Arcy Gayatin and Oj Hofer, among many others. These artists have worked hard to establish their individual styles and approaches to fashion. They have honestly paid their dues.”

Of course, there are some things about the local fashion industry that could stand a change. “There are quite handful of designers who make business out of being copycats. Their work is but cheap versions of another designer’s work. And what’s worse is that these already cheap versions have even cheaper mutations. Where is the integrity there?”

“The thing with the business of glamour is that there only two choices to make: either you copy or you make your own; either you follow trends or you set them; either you set your own individuality or settle for mediocre similarities,” he advises. “These designers should learn. It is okay to take inspiration from other artists, but to copy almost completely? That’s another story.” Jun, though, is the first to admit he’s had some missteps. “I also made mistakes along the way. And I guess the best lesson I learned in my 20 years is that nothing beats being your own man, being true and honest to your artistry. That’s a good way to make the news.”

It’s a philosophy that’s clearly working, with Jun being a relevant fixture in local design and showing no signs of stopping. His wilder days may be tempered, but there’s still a hint of feistiness that comes through, which makes his followers look forward to what’s to come. After all, if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed after 20 years, it’s that Jun can still do something completely unpredictable.

Monastic Marrakech “Solitude has become my friend. Silence is now a constant companion, and reverence is my state of mind. After 20 years in the fashion industry, I felt it was time to come up with a more quiet collection. I wanted the freedom to explore nothingness, to work with very little details and rely more in a fabric’s natural fall—how it relates to gravity and how it responds to movement. It is, to some extent, a form of fashion asceticism yet created for a cosmopolitan market. How do you become monastic in a place like Marrakech? How does an artist create in silence in order to inspire the noise of awe? This is what my 20th year collection is all about.”

Jun Escario celebrates his anniversary this month by partnering with Zee Lifestyle for a runway show that showcases a collection symbolizing his evolution as a designer. With the theme Monastic Marrakech, the show promises to present his clothes in a dramatic fashion and, really, his clothes deserve no less.

  • by Shari Quimbo
  • photography Dan Douglas Ong
  • modelAR Dueñas (M.A.C. models)
  • fashion assistant Rei Escario
  • hair and make up Gari Son
  • creative direction Doro Barandino

Design

Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

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Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

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Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

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