THERE were oddities that only made sense with Lord Maturan. He emerged victorious at the 2007 Cebu Young Designers’ Competition with a collection of all-black rock-and-roll Filipiniana blouses with men’s collars assembled into butterfly sleeves.
Since then, his succeeding body of work was strictly a contemporary examination of how his future would resonate—multiculturalism, gender play, the assimilation of the transgressive into things of real beauty.
Minutes after I heard of his death on June 25, Thursday afternoon, fashion designer Jul Oliva phoned me to express her grief. She retrieved her conversations with Lord that went from his vision for the local fashion community to his inconsistent sleeping patterns. Lord often referred to Jul as “idol” or someone he looks up to. But unknown to him, in one of the many chats I have had with Jul, he was our true inspiration.
He was fashion’s living soul: Forward-thinking, fearless and attentive to our changing society. It’s doubly painful to have lost him because he never fell out of love with his craft and his love for our country.
The design contest was one of the first assignments I covered when I started writing for the lifestyle section of SunStar Cebu. It led to several photo shoots. For a solo feature, he created an exclusive collection. It was nothing short of spectacular: Full of incontestable elegance and near-couture androgyny, still in the spirit of rock-and-roll. For SunStar Cebu’s Plus and Special’s first business process outsourcing issue in 2010, he customized an electric blue dress with gold chains and sequined cut-outs as shoulder pads he matched with a pair of gauntlet.
Everybody knew he had the virtue of showmanship. But nobody expected he had star quality after participating in the first season of “Project Runway Philippines,” a reality-based contest on TV for fashion designers in 2008. Although he was eliminated, it led to the rise of his eponymous label. He opened his first shop in Sambag 1 before he relocated in Zapatera, Cebu City.
I would like to think that I was at the forefront of his evolution. He was my contemporary. He was most articulate in fashion jargon, oftentimes tutoring me on their definition. I could not count how many times I sat front row at his shows and noticed how his old aesthetics slowly faded away.
“What people don’t know is that I started my career as a niche market, edgy street wear and menswear designer. My inclinations have always been in tailoring. But when I opened my shop, I found out that it had a really limited market. I needed projects to pay the rent. Bridal design was a welcomed ‘accident.’ I learned to soften my style,” he told me once. “Our brand is blessed to have become a household name in the bridal industry.”
Necessity is really the mother of invention. In his case, it was inventiveness that moved beyond functionality and descended to what Lord believed garments should be worn today. True enough, he created his own palettes from the juxtaposing jet embroideries and bright ornamental lace trimmings for balloon gowns festooned with silk flowers.
I will remember him for his genius because his impertinent and intriguing talent does tell something about his legacy. A sweeping overnight shift in silhouette is such a rare phenomenon in fashion design. It’s almost like a force of nature—nearly as mysterious as watching a flock of birds change direction in the sky.