UST INTERIOR Design alumnus Jerome Salaya Ang crashed into fashion design despite his ignorance of the basics such as pattern-making and sewing.

But much has changed since 1999 as Ang’s patience to learn the fundamentals and hone his fashion sense steadily built for him a reputation for tailoring chic wedding and evening gowns dolling up today’s high-class socialites and well-known celebrities.

Indeed, Ang has come a long way from being the clueless fashion designer wanna-be to the promising young style maker he is now. Thanks to eight years of hard work and four years of studying in UST.

From interior to couture

Ang studied at UST because of its proximity to his home in Tondo. He also acknowledges the University’s commitment in tapping and improving the talents of its students.

“It was in UST where I honed my skills,” he said.

A talented artist, Ang initially thought of taking up Advertising Arts. But since Interior Design was in-demand during his time, he signed up for it instead.

“I decided to try it for one semester and see if I would find it interesting,” he said.

Used to free-hand writing, Ang had difficulty adjusting with the “technical way” of drawing in Interior Design.

“Even if I used a ruler, the line I drew was still crooked,” he mused. Although he had borderline grades at the end of his first year, he learned to love the course and decided to complete the rest of the term.

After graduating and procuring his license in 1996, Ang excitingly ventured into his first fashion stint, despite not having any background in running a clothing store. Unfortunately, his small-scale shirt business had to close down because of management problems.

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Thinking that it would be a waste to let equipment remain unused, he decided to utilize them while heeding another call in the fashion business: making uniforms for companies.

Dropping his plans to go to Singapore for an interior design stint, Ang rented an apartment which served as his office. He patiently peddled his services door-to-door until his uniform business became successful.

Although designing uniforms kept him financially stable, Ang continued to fancy designing couture. In 1999, he finally had his big break after visitors raved about the wedding dress he designed for a friend. His other designs also received the same ecstatic reception and through word-of-mouth and referrals, the young, aspiring fashion designer gained popularity.

“I was happy that my first customer took a risk with me, even if I lacked the experience,” Ang said.

To further improve his craft, he took courses in fashion design at the College of St. Benilde under Inno Sotto, and at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines under Shannon Pamaong. He also took draping courses at Bangkok’s Raffles Design Institute.

Project Runway

Although accustomed to designing apparels for skinny models, Ang values the clothing needs of his clients, whatever their shape and size may be.

“I ask about their flaws and what they would like to hide,” he said. “I ask them what they want and advise them if the clothes would actually fit them.”

Coming a long way from being completely mussed-up about fashion design, Ang, who is currently the sergeant-at-arms of the Fashion Design Association of the Philippines, has widened his horizons by joining local and international competitions.

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In 1999, he became a finalist at the Smirnoff Fashion Awards. In 2004 and 2005, he represented the country in the Asia Young Fashion Designers in Singapore and the Philippine Young Fashion Designers in Paris, France.

While in competition in Paris, the Art Director of Instituto de Moda in Milan saw Ang’s potential and offered him a scholarship.

But he just had to pass. The fact that he missed his friends and the sunny Manila weather during his month-long stay in Paris convinced him that he could not last for several months more, even with a coveted scholarship. Even so, he has no regrets.

“If you’re going to make it, you’re going to make it no matter where you are,” said Ang, who idolizes international designers Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan and local designers Frederick Peralta and Jojie Lloren.

Although he admits his designs are quite “safe,” he tries to do so without compromising his design philosophy. Defining his style as “order in chaos,” Ang, who specializes in avant-garde couture, has his UST Interior Design diploma coming in handy for him. In his 2005 Paris show, Ang dipped his clothes in chemicals used in furniture, giving them a very structural look.

“It helps when you have a background in designing. A lot of what I have learned (in college), I managed to apply to my clothes,” he said.

In 2006, he was a finalist at the Mercedes-Benz International Fashion Awards in Malaysia.

Although fashion design is his first priority, Ang still practices his interior design profession, decorating the home of Nemesio Garcia, owner of Imperial House Furniture, among many others.

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He also designs bags for an up and coming line in Malaysia. Locally, Anthology Rockwell carries his shoe line while Serendra sells his one-of-a-kind collection. Shoemart also carries his unique ready-to-wear designs.

As his models continue to strut his clothes flawlessly on the catwalk, Ang believes that the obstacles he encountered along the runway have made him a better person. “It does not mean that if you fail, you should lose hope. Everything has its own time,” he said.

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