Tuesday, 29 January 2013

FEATURE: From Bicol to London, a young designer finds himself interning at McQueen

Jerome Lorico came to Manila with P750 and a box that doubled as a suitcase. Now, he's assisting at McQueen and working it in London. Photo by Tammy David, Grooming by Apple Fara-on      

MANILA, Philippines - Eleven o’clock in Quezon City: the clock is ticking for designer Jerome Lorico, who is flying out of Manila on a busy Thursday, his phone ringing off the hook with calls for interviews and last-minute despedidas for clients and friends he won’t be seeing until summer.

Just as quietly as he came back last year for Christmas, he goes off again to resume his dream post - an internship with the house of Alexander McQueen for menswear.

He fidgets at the makeup chair, obviously reluctant to be the focus of attention instead of the man behind the scenes he always was.

He warms up after getting his sugar and nicotine fix by way of pancakes, and proceeds to tell the nicotine and sugar story of his journey.

While very few knew of his internship, it was actually set in place as early as his presentation in London Fashion Week last year (both in the fall/winter ’12 presentation in February and the spring/summer ’13 show the following September) through the invitation of the British Fashion Council.

The S/S ’13 offering was for Estetica, a showcase of 15 cutting-edge designers to champion ethical fashion and sustainability, and it was there where Lorico met that gracious individual who expressed her interest in his work.

“She particularly said that I may be perfect for this particular brand but never said which one it was,” he says. “So she gave me an e-mail address and directed me to drop them a message,” he adds.

Following their instructions to the letter, before he knew it, he had proceeded to send the rest of his credentials — his CV, cover letter and portfolio.

At this point, Lorico felt as if he was just shooting at the moon, knowing well that he was up against heavyweights who had the advantage of having work visas in the United Kingdom to begin with.

“I had the impression that they were already eliminating applicants as early as when you send your CV and portfolio,” he reveals, waiting almost three weeks just to get confirmation from the McQueen group.

Yet, the agonizing wait proved to be rewarding, for he was soon invited for an interview.

“The supervisor for the menswear department interviewed me. He was most impressed by my knitwear designs,” he beams.

“For the interview, you are supposed to present not only your portfolio but your actual garments. They check on how you make them, your process, and the idea behind it.”

At this point, Lorico seems to have piqued the interest of his interviewer who asked him which part of the design process was his favorite, and, like the conceptual designer that he is, Lorico chose product development and research, as these are, for him, the foundation of good design.

His work then began almost immediately, and last December he started working in London, much to his excitement.

While the environment is unlike the easy-going atmosphere in Manila, he has since learned to adjust.

“Although we have a very productive design process (here in Manila), (in London) they have a very different approach to it. They have techniques and also innovative ways in planning and applying things,” he says.

That, and the people value excellence over anything, spiced with a dose of healthy competition.

He has indeed come a long way from his first trip to Manila, from his hometown in Legaspi, Bicol, where he brought with him P750 and a cigarette box that doubled as his suitcase.

From his early forays joining events like the Philippine Fashion Competition in 2005, to winning the Animax Fashionability Competition, and to eventually bannering his participation in Philippine Fashion Week - his seven-year fashion journey must seem like an exercise in resiliency and struggle.

Alongside his work for Folded & Hung and Swatch (Lorico won the STAR and Swatch design competition in 2010), and winning the top prize for the 48th Japan Fashion Design Contest in 2010 (shortlisted among 50 finalists from over 2,500 entries worldwide) with his sculptural knitted pieces in hybrid cotton and piƱa, his outlook has always been global, seeking to go beyond what is offered to him in his hometown, and even in his country.

Once he got back to London, he wrestled a few hours of rest and was off to another major project - a campaign shoot for McQueen. Last week, when snows and subzero temperatures ravaged the streets of London, Lorico found himself amazed by all that has come to pass.

“Although it is my dream to work for a fashion house like McQueen, I never expected that I could make it there. It was a total surprise and until now I still can’t believe it,” he says.

“I am grateful for this opportunity and I believe that I have to protect this privilege.” - PhilStar

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