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Monday, June 24, 2024

Hollywood fashion trailblazer Alexis Monsanto speaking words of wisdom

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For young Filipinos who want to become established fashion designers, it’s a privilege to get some pointers from someone who’s been excelling right in Hollywood, Los Angeles – of all places.

Alexis Monsanto, a born-Filipino couturier who after moving to the United States became the first American designer to present his work in a 3D fashion show, certainly personifies that someone.

Monsanto dreamed of Hollywood, conquered it, and in his own right, developed himself into a trailblazer who eventually landed on the list of the top 25 newsmakers in fashion more than a decade ago. He’s been a major figure in the field since.

Monsanto has been described on paper as a “creative genius” and a “runway visionaire.” The director of his recent showcase at Los Angeles Fashion Week (powered by Art Hearts Fashion) labeled his work as “very theatrical with a high caliber entertainment value.”

His track record is long and hailed, his words are taken as a kind of holy grail.

Filipino couturier Alexis Monsanto (left) with Golden Globe winner Jennifer Coolidge

So, when asked for some message for start-ups, especially those with Filipino blood, he said, “If they are fresh out of design school, they need to find a job as soon as possible. They need to get all the experience and find their niche market. They need to be able to experience the rank and file route so that when it’s time for them to open and start their company, or be a leader of the company they work for, at least they know how every department operates.”

Some of the Hollywood stars whom Monsanto had dressed up on special occasions include Charlize Theron, Kate Beckinsale, Felicity Huffman, Jordin Sparks, Kara DioGuardi, Stacey Dash, and Jennifer Coolidge.

Last March, the fashion guru who studied at L.A.’s Otis College of Art and Design and who opened his own studio Alexis Monsanto Atelier on Melrose Avenue fashion strip, presented his collection “Jewels of the Nile” in la-la land’s The New Mart. He collaborated with a strong pool of Filipino craftsmen and creatives parading emerging Filipino brands like Noble Creations (Filipiniana wear) and Viktorya Minaudieri (luxury clutches).

The fall-winter 2024 collection showcased Monsanto’s signature combination of feminine and timeless appeal using fine fabrics. Seeing L.A. models radiantly wear and confidently carry his designs – appropriately described as a classy mix of sensuality and sophistication, along with touches of Filipino inventiveness – is a full-on display of glamour and finesse that blow sweet kisses to the pride of Pinoys.

The highly touted designer expressed, “I refer to the collection as jewels because they are like precious gemstones. They are classic and timeless as juxtaposed with the Nile River. It’s explained in my show visuals with sand dunes, Sahara Desert, falling amber leaves, and the colors of sunset as backgrounds for Fall.”

For his partnership with other Filipino-born fashion specialists like Lumban, Laguna’s Amiel Noble, and luxury bagmaker Victoria Mejia, Monsanto takes pride in championing ingenuity, featuring their high potential products. He has now embraced his role as a mentor, extending a hand to worthy recipients who listen to his evaluations and suggestions. Those who have already worked with him acknowledge the value of welcoming his ideas.

Stressing his belief in the work of Filipinos, he related, “Filipino fashion designers are world-class. We are talented and hardworking people. We thrive from challenges despite the lack of technology and resources in the homeland. We are innovative and creative.”

With roots in the Southern Philippines province of Misamis Occidental, the celebrated fashion figure went to schools in the cities of Dumaguete and Manila, and Cebu. He served as an assistant to designers Leonardo Igloria and Philip Rodriguez before studying higher education in L.A.

The vocally expressive industry leader described by one L.A.-based magazine as “incomparable” does acknowledge his fortune of getting trained in the US as well. He pointed out, “Here in the United States, I’m backed with technology, like mills and factories that can easily produce fabrics and develop products.”

A key part of Monsanto’s core beliefs is for one to first determine which kind of design and market they fit well, and that knowledge gained goes hand in hand with expanding the right connections.

“Focus on honing your craft and don’t rush. Stay in the course of the competing market,” he noted, “Enjoy the journey along with the sacrifices that come with it. Your time will come to be in the limelight and you will get your rewards through respect from the media, the fashion industry, and your peers.”

There are many reasons why Alexis Monsanto has long been shining in a place made iconic and fashionable by achievers and movers like him. He’s one generous soul to share how he did it.

With a sparkle in his eyes that implies he’s practicing what he preaches, he reminded me, “I’ve been working in the industry for decades. I stay relevant by doing market research, attending trade shows, and getting attuned to forecasting and trends. I separate my emotions and the brand I work for. I listen to the sales manager, buyers, and store merchandisers. I make sacrifices. And even when I get victories, I never stop.”


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