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Lawmaker wants Pinoy designers to dress Filipina pageant contestants

Months after Miss Philippines Mary Jean Lastimosa’s foreign-made gowns at the Miss Universe pageant became the subject of ridicule on social media, a lawmaker wants to require Filipino beauty queens competing in international pageants to wear gowns that are made or created by local fashion designers.

Under House Bill 5691 filed by Parañaque City Rep. Eric Olivarez, Filipino fashion designers must at all times be involved in the designing of garments, dresses and costumes for Filipino beauty pageant contestants.

The bill, otherwise known as the proposed Filipino Fashion Designers for Filipino Beauty Pageant Contestants Act of 2015, allows foreign fashion designers to assist Filipino fashion designers in the creation of garments, dresses or costumes of Filipino beauty contestants in an international beauty pageant contests, provided that the fashion designers creating the costumes or dresses are working as a team and that the team is headed by a Filipino fashion designer.

“The foreign fashion designer may also assist the Filipino fashion designer in the selection of materials to be used for the finished products to conform to factors such as age, gender and physical status of the Filipino contestants,” Olivarez said.

In the bill’s explanatory note. the lawmaker said that nationality and design should always reflect the country’s expression of excellence and ingenuity, in any international contest, most especially international beauty pageants.

“It is for this reason that our Filipino fashion designers, who are experts in their fields, should be the entrusted designers for our Filipino contestants in international beauty pageants,” Olivarez said.

Birthday cake-like gown

Last January, Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI) founding director Stella Marquez Araneta incurred the ire of netizens over her decision to tap Colombian fashion designer Alfredo Barraza to create Lastimosa’s gown and national costume for the Miss Universe pageant.

Social media users were unhappy with the quality of gowns designed by Barraza for the Filipino pageant bet, with some netizens remarking her national costume looked like a birthday cake.

MJ Lastimosa at the Miss Universe pageant in the much-maligned 'birthday cake' national costume created by Colombian designer Alfredo Barraza
Lastimosa failed to make it to the Top 5 of the Miss Universe pageant, while the title was won, coincidentally, by Miss Colombia Paulina Vega.

In her defense, Araneta—who as Miss Colombia became the first Miss International in 1960—said in a television report that she has been commissioning Barraza to design the gowns worn by Filipina beauty queens in international pageants since 1999 because the designs given by Filipino couturiers “were no good for our candidates.”

Following the backlash over Lastimosa’s gown, however, Marquez encouraged Filipino designers to collaborate with BPCI in clothing Binibining Pilipinas winners for overseas competitions.

P100,000 fine

HB 5691 mandates the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) as the primary commission to regulate fashion designers for beauty pageants and other fashion design competitions in which the Philippines is participating.

It also all local franchise holders, sponsors, handlers, organizers and other institutions of beauty pageants to recruit or have a pool of Filipino fashion designers who could immediately be engaged, hired or tapped in any international beauty pageant competitions.

Any franchise holder, handler, organizer and sponsor whether a corporate institution or individual who or which grossly violates any of the provisions as provided under the measure shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of six months or a fine of P100,000 or both at the discretion of the court. — Xianne Arcangel/BM, GMA News