Filipino fashion designers in the UAE, from Michael Cinco to Furne One

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The UAE is home to a slew of Filipino designers renowned for dressing celebrities in bold, ornate gowns on red carpets around the world.

Names such as Michael Cinco, Furne One and Ezra Santos have an international reputation for their dazzling dresses of fairytale proportions, adorned with pearls and crystals, and suitable for all princesses.

Here, The National reveals the story of this burgeoning group of Emirati trendsetters who are taking the fashion world by storm.

Born in the province of Samar, Philippines, Michael Cinco has been in the United Arab Emirates since 1997 and launched his eponymous label in 2003.

Inspired by the golden age of cinema and its glamorous stars, Cinco has earned a reputation for creating romantic, full-skirted evening dresses and wedding dresses covered in intricate embroidery. In 2012, this extended to men’s tailoring.

Today, her fan list is a who’s who of royal celebrities with Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Sofia Vergara and Rihanna all regulars; Jason Derulo, Nick Jonas and James McAvoy have also worn his pieces.

In 2016, Cinco made history by becoming the first Filipino designer to be invited to Paris Haute Couture Week; in 2017, he was responsible for one of the most memorable Cannes Film Festival red carpet moments when he dressed Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a powder blue Cinderella dress.

The brand is now expanding into ready-to-wear, which was unveiled during Arab Fashion Week this year.

Furne One, Amato Couture

Designer Furne One (born Fernando Barios) was only supposed to pass through Dubai en route to the Philippines, when a chance encounter with a textile buyer, Rashid Ali, changed everything.

With a common vision, the duo launched the couture brand Amato in 2002; the name translates to “beloved” in Italian.

With One at the creative helm, Amato quickly made a name for her richly gothic and unique dresses. Pieces are artfully deconstructed, with corsetry deliberately left in the spotlight, then overlaid with sumptuous handwork.

The coins have attracted high profile attention. When crystal maker Swarovski launched its own limited-edition book, Without a bride Amato was asked to create a look for him.

The designs have been worn by Tara Banks, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez. Amato also dressed Germany’s next top model host Heidi Klum, as well as contestants, since 2010.

In 2012, the brand opened a boutique in Los Angeles, and in 2014 it debuted at New York Fashion Week.

Amato Luxe, a ready-to-wear boutique in the Dubai Design District, opened in 2017; he’s now venturing into the metaverse with all-digital dresses.

Ezra Santos, Ezra Couture

Ezra Santos arrived in Dubai in 1993. Originally from Manila, Santos studied at Central Saint Martins in London and learned his craft designing for Dubai brand House of Arushi for a decade.

He then opened his own brand Ezra Couture in 2004 and presented his first fashion show in 2010.

Her Fashion Forward 2019 event, titled Looking Through the Eyes of Love, was so painstakingly hand-beaded that it took six months to create all 30 looks.

Focusing on feminine wedding dresses and evening wear, Santos has dressed Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Nicole Scherzinger and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

In 2014, he designed Colbie Caillat’s dress for the 2014 Grammy Awards and pieces for Rihanna and Shakira to wear in their I can’t remember to forget you Musical clip.

Garimon Roferos

Originally from Davao City, Garimon Roferos won the coveted prize at the Paris International Young Fashion Designers Incitement Competition in 2004, before moving to Dubai in 2010 to work under Michael Cinco.

In 2016, he set up his own fashion house, specializing in extravagant wedding dresses, with pearls and white-on-white embroidery.

In addition, he makes evening and party dresses, often patterned and always full-skirted and feminine. It also has a range of couture abayas.

Roferos dressed Gwen Stefani in a beaded mini dress.

Harvey Cenit, Al Aroosa Aniqah

As Creative Director at Al Aroosa Aniqah in Dubai, Harvey Cenit has been creating lavish wedding dresses in the United Arab Emirates since 2012.

Blending its own sleek style with the elaborate taste of brides in the region, Cenit is able to switch seamlessly between the two, bringing out the best of both. Think a fitted emerald green dress with a giant bow at the neck, which doubles as a partial sleeve, and a flimsy-looking white embroidered dress with a punk crinoline miniskirt.

Ignacio Loyola, Atelier Ignacio

After studying at Istituto Marangoni in Milan and winning the Dubai Runway Art in 2009, Ignacio Loyola founded his own house, Atelier Ignacio, now located in the Dubai Design District.

Very experimental, Loyola has created collections based on elastic and paper, and today has a showroom filled with daywear adorned with crystals.

During the pandemic, Loyola shifted to making face masks and now offers a range, including a rainbow gem-covered design.

Updated: June 06, 2022, 05:30

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