LOS ANGELES—We were so excited to see the Filipino talent shine on the red carpet during the 63rd Academy Awards show held recently at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

Cebuana fashion designer Monique Lhuillier dressed Tangled star Mandy Moore in a lovely flowing and oh-so-feminine top-beaded blush-colored gown. And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Filipina designer’s style on this singer-actress—Mandy also wore a Monique Lhuillier blue creation when she attended the recently held Golden Globe Awards.


Oliver Tolentino with Gigi Dement (left); Oliver with Matthew Libatique (right). click through the gallery to see larger versions of this picture

Fashion designer Oliver Tolentino, who has shops in Melrose and in the Philippines, designed the tux of Oscar nominee Matthew Libatique, the cinematographer for Black Swan, as well as his abaca vest and tie.

Oliver also designed the beaded teal-and-purple mermaid gown worn by Fil-Am producer Gigi Dement, whose Luke Matheny-directed short film that won the Best Live Action Short category, God of Love.

Gigi’s colleague and fellow Fil-Am God of Love producer Stefanie Walmsely, chose Martin Bautista’s green one-shoulder flowing gown for her walk down the red carpet. Martin, who is based in the Philippines, had to ship the gown to Stefanie. Stefanie told us in an interview that she had three gowns to choose from, and she decided to wear Martin’s gown. “I love it! It is so gorgeous!” Stefanie revealed.

LA-based fashion designer Carlyn Nuyda Calloway of Bespoke by Thumbelina, on the other hand, designed a flowing black and nude-colored gown for Cean Chaffin, the producer of The Social Network, which won Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing and garnered nominations in five other categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Mixing. Cean is also the wife of the film’s director, David Fincher. She is currently working to produce the upcoming movie, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which is based on the book by Stieg Larsson.

We interviewed Oliver Tolentino and Carlyn Nuyda Calloway to share their experiences of dressing up the stars and Hollywood VIPs for the red carpet, and you can read on for their replies or click through the gallery below to see their designs.

Janet R. Nepales (JRN): This is your first time to dress up somebody for the Oscars. How exciting and challenging was that? Did you make any last minute changes?

Oliver Tolentino (OT): Actually, last year's Oscars, I dressed the producer of Crazy Heart, and she was so pleased that she invited me to the Fox studio party for the said movie and Avatar. I got to congratulate Jeff Bridges in person and even get to hold an Oscar statue.

Of course, this year, I'm excited again to have people choose to wear my creations. I'm proud [of] how well Filipinos are represented this year. As usual, Oscar gowns and suits are more of a last-minute thing so I was very busy that week.

Carlyn Nuyda Calloway (CNC): Yes, this is the first time I am dressing anyone up for the Oscars, though Julia Roberts did wear some custom flower hairpins I made for her one year. Working with Ms. Chaffin was most inspiring because she has made some of my favorite films, including Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Ms. Chaffin is a minimalist, and this translates in her fashion style. In keeping with this sensibility, I pretty much listened to her specifications and requests and incorporated that into the gown design. She is a very understated and elegant lady, and make no mistake about it, she is extremely detail-oriented and has a very keen eye. This is probably one of the reasons why she is one of the best producers in the film industry.

JRN: Can you please share with us what your inspiration for each of the outfits or gowns you did was?

OT: For Gigi's gown, I was inspired by old Hollywood glamor with the fully beaded mermaid gown. Since Gigi has lovely olive complexion, I chose teal green and purple beads. However, the colors are very subtle, and you might not even see them in a photo. I added purple silk as an accent to soften the beaded look.

For Matthew's tux, I created an Italian wool tuxedo with narrow peak labels in duchess satin. I created a grey vest and traditional tie out of abaca so he could take a little piece of the Philippines with him [to] the Oscars.

CNC: I was inspired by Ms. Chaffin's down-to-earth personality and streamlined preferences. With this, I drew from those who came before me, the silhouettes of Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, and a hint of Mary Quant. Ms. Chaffin loves the empire silhouette, so I immediately sought inspiration from the novelist Jane Austen, and the writings and illustrations of Kate Greenaway. I also included in this mood, Barbra Streisand's wardrobe from the film On a Clear Day [You Can See Forever].

I decided to use nude as the second note of the gown--black being its top note--to highlight Ms. Chaffin's beautiful long straight blonde hair and flawless skin. She also has a fantastic figure, so we played up the bodice with a see-through silk chiffon overlay. We cut the fabric on a bias for a supple and buttery feel, which also gives the gown a very soft, flowy movement at the skirt.

JRN: What is the most important thing for you as a designer? Oliver, I know you love to showcase the Filipino fabrics in your designs.

OT: I try to showcase our native fabrics out of pride for what we Filipinos can produce and in order to rejuvenate these industries before the skills are lost to future generations. For the Bahamas, I worked with FIDA [Fiber Industry Development Authority] and learned all the new fabrics and techniques our talented kababayans are creating in Lumban and Aklan. I was proud we won the award there. I recently met with the bag makers in Paete and shoe makers in Liliw on my last trip to the Philippines.

I'm always proud to see piña and abaca fibers worn. TV actress Sophia Bush wore a piña cocktail dress to a Golden Globes party this year, and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle wore a piña and raw silk cocoon dress to perform at the Ronald Reagan 100th Birthday Gala a few weeks ago. This was the first time Nancy Reagan, former VP Dick Cheney, and hundreds of congressmen saw piña. And just this week, the wife of the owner of Paul Mitchell modeled my Bahamas-winning gown for an upcoming cover of an eco magazine.

As far as someone wearing abaca to the Oscars, I am thrilled that Matthew, as a proud Filipino-American, was confident enough to wear abaca on the red carpet as a nominee. It's a proud moment for Filipinos everywhere!

CNC: For me, the most important thing is making the client happy, listening to her desires, and articulating that into the design. Every woman wants to feel beautiful, and if, for one night in a woman's life, I can be a part of that magic, then I can say, “Job well done.” To me, every client is a woman of importance whose desires deserve each stitch to be appointed with the highest level of care, quality, and expert craftsmanship. Working for Ms. Chaffin at this level is humbling, very humbling.

E-mail the writer at jrnepales_624@yahoo.com for your comments or questions.

(Photos by Sthanlee B. Mirador, courtesy of Janet Nepales)
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