Screenshot from Instagram/@adorfeliciano
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino textiles and fabrics continue to be in the fashion spotlight as more designers tap products by different indigenous groups. Feliciano "Jun" Ador is one of the fashion designers who has been utilizing indigenous fabric from the people of Mindanao.
Last October, Jun held Arise Mindanao, a fashion show and dinner benefit for the Datu Igwas Integrated School in Kidapawan and Save the Children Foundation. Models, led by Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados and the kids of Senator Manny Pacquiao, walked the runway.
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Rappler got a chance to talk with Jun via e-mail, where he talked about dressing up beauty queens, using Filipino fabric, and his humble beginnings.
Rappler: A number of designers have been dressing up beauty queens, which has opened them to bashing and negative comments. How do you hand this type of toxic fandom since you have been dressing up the likes of Gazini Ganados and Sharifa Akeel for some events?
Feliciano "Jun" Ador: As a designer, my primary duty is to make sure that my clients, including celebrities and beauty queens like Gazini Ganados and Sharifa Akeel, could wear my creations comfortably. People with negative thoughts will always do things to derail you by bashing and putting you in a compromising situation. Personally, I just take criticism constructively and make it as an inspiration to soar even higher. I’m a very optimistic person, so I don’t mind detractors to destroy my dreams.
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Rappler: How would you describe the evolution of Philippine fashion in recent years?
Jun Ador: Philippine Fashion came from a vast influence of both Western and Eastern cultures. Our fashion industry is unique because of our geographical setting. In Mindanao alone, we have very colorful and distinctive patterns of fabrics. Every region has its own textile, patterned from their cultural practices. Although other forms of native dress exist in the Philippines, most would be indigenous or tribal in origin.
Fast forward, with the advent of modernization, our fashion statements evolved into western classical outfits to intricate couture. Along that line, Filipinos are fond of social gatherings that allure them to wear fashionable attires. Pageantry also plays a vital role why fashion designers are in demand nowadays. Our fashion statement is indeed very dynamic!
Rappler: What inspired you to enter the fashion industry? Can you tell us about your background before becoming a designer?
Jun Ador: Being in the fashion industry was never even an option. I lived a gloomy life back then in the mountains of Mindanao. My humble beginning taught me to persevere in life and to take challenges as stepping stones to be where I am today. As a member of an Indigenous Tribe called Mandaya, our lives were just confined to farming and hunting wild animals deep in the jungle. Education was not a priority, so as a little kid, I learned life the hard way. My father Feliciano Ador Sr. was a local chieftain and the strict rules of the tribe must be given utmost respect and regard.
When my father passed away, I felt the need to come out of my comfort zone and to dream farther than the mountains. With a heavy heart, I decided to leave my family because they could no longer support me and all I want was to go to school. At a very young age, I hopped from one relative to another just to survive in my daily needs. I became a house boy and a nanny to my younger cousins and my aunt helped me by providing a modest allowance. Life has taught me a very tough battle that I can’t even imagine. I even took an acceleration examination just to move to a grade level that corresponds to my age.
Fast forward, my classmate and close friend in Calinan, Davao City encouraged me to go with her family as they planned to permanently settle in General Santos City. That was a turning point in my life, that I felt inside that there’s something that awaits me there. I just don’t know exactly what it was. Arriving in Gensan gave me a glimpse of hope but I didn't know where to start my journey. Struggles after struggles were a daily experience for a stranger like me. I worked as a pump boy in a gasoline station amidst the scorching heat of the sun. Then I decided to take a scholarship examination in TESDA for skills competency. Fate has brought me to the field of flower arrangement, where I’m good at. Amidst scarcity of resources, I was able to send myself to a higher institution and took up Bachelor of Science in Computer Science but unfortunately, I was not able to finish because of a need to go abroad to look for a greener pasture.
With no assurance of a good salary, I worked as a florist in Kuwait sometime in 2005. Working in the Middle East has never been easy for Filipinos in a foreign land. Many believe that working abroad is an instant and direct road to fame and fortune and that people won’t amount to anything if they continue to work in the country. Although there is some truth in the fact that it is easier to gain riches overseas, it isn’t always the case.
Right behind our flower shop was a group of fashion houses where I usually visit and observe. That delighted me every time I saw nice designs. I took it as an inspiration and that started my wild imagination by designing simple dresses to elaborate ones. That time, I felt more equipped as an artist to venture into something greater, so I decided to quit my job and went back to Gensan. In a turn of events, I was introduced by a friend to the famous couple – World boxing champ Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Madam Jinkee Pacquiao, where I applied as their resident florist and stylist and the rest is history.
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Rappler: Who among the fashion designers do you look up to? Who are your favorite models and muses?
Jun Ador: My passion for fashion draws me closer to my dream by people who inspired me to work harder. Paul Cabral, Inno Sotto, Pepsi Herrera and Francis Libiran are the designers whom I looked up and admired. Their stories are compelling and their humble beginnings are worthy of emulation.
I still feel ecstatic and enthralled by the classic beauties of beauty queens Venus Raj and Shamcey Supsup. Venus was my model in a fashion show in New York in 2018 and Shamcey was my first celebrity model in Arise Mindanao – Year 1 in General Santos City.
Rappler: You have dressed politicians, celebrities, and beauty queens. Is there anyone that you have in mind that you would like to see wear your creation?
Jun Ador: As a Mindanaoan designer, it would be a great honor if I could dress up our very own President Rodrigo Roa Duterte wearing a Landap-inspired fabric in honor of his Muslim roots (Maranao).
I’m also looking forward to the next year’s batch of Binibining Pilipinas Queens who will wear my creations. I’m humbled by the trust given by the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc.
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Rappler: You recently brought your Arise Mindanao Fashion Show to the Marriott Hotel. How did Arise Mindanao come about? How different was the Marriott show from your past shows?
Jun Ador: Way back when I was just a budding designer, I aspired not just to showcase my skill but I felt the responsibility of bringing my Mindanaoan roots to a higher platform and advocacy in the fashion industry to uplift the spirit of the indigenous tribes and help them redeem their true identity as artistically-inclined and peace-loving people. Patronizing their fabrics is one way of boosting their honor and pride and ensure the continuity of tradition for the future generations.
Arise Mindanao came into existence when we had our 1st Fashion Show in General Santos City in 2017. The idea was brought about by discussion with some client-friends who are culturally inclined. We came up with a concept to highlight Mindanao’s finest fabrics like Inaul, Landap, and T'nalak. There was an overwhelming support from the different sectors including the local Government of Gensan.
Arise Mindanao-Year 3 in Marriot was a totally different taste of glam. It was actually a blessing in disguise to move it from Gensan to Marriott with a very slim time of preparation. The recent earthquakes that struck Mindanao was the main consideration and the safety of the models and the Binibining Pilipinas queens are our utmost priority. I was totally desperate and hopeless because everything was already set. In my verge of giving up, a friend called and made a follow up for the whereabouts of the fashion show. I told him the situation and thankfully he was able to recommend that Marriott would be a good place to hold the event. With the support of the stakeholders and sponsors, the two-week preparation was a huge success especially in the online platform.
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Rappler: A lot of the pieces you've shown in the collection used Filipino textiles. Will we see more designers now using Filipino fabrics?
Jun Ador: I believe that Filipino designers are very talented and resourceful. It’s okay to draw inspiration from foreign designers but they must not forget their roots. The Philippines has a lot more to offer to the international arena. They just need to go to the grassroots and discover their rich cultural heritage and the unique fabrics with intricate patterns are just there waiting to be discovered. One must find his true identity and to be an inspiration to his community and the country in general.
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