Gavin Ruffy’s tips for aspiring Fashion Designers

Gavin Ruffy has been designing since 2014. He took Fashion Design and Merchandising at De La Salle College of St. Benilde. Gavin started designing fulltime in 2018 after working for five years in fashion retail. He was one of the 12 finalists of Ternocon 2020, a fashion design competition sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Bench.

When asked who inspired him to become a fashion designer, Gavin replied, “I’ve always been inclined toward the arts ever since I was young. When I was a kid, I would always read books about arts. I enjoyed watching shows about how to do crafts and then I try them myself. My favorite pastime was coloring books. I liked using my hands and doing anything creative, so being in a creative industry came naturally to me. When I was in high school, I used to watch Project Runway religiously and I’d be inspired by the show. Secretly, I would use my sister’s dolls and make mini dresses for them using my handkerchiefs. I would always sketch at the back of my notebook and my peers started noticing my talent for it. Then, maybe in third or fourth year in high school, my mother gifted me a portable sewing machine out of nowhere. I started experimenting with it and doing mini DIY projects. I enjoyed making clothes and that’s when I realized I wanted to have a career in fashion.”

In 2020, together with his business partner John Loang, he cofounded casual ready to wear (RTW) brand Studio Philippo, where he takes charge of designing and creative direction for the brand. He also expanded and started his RTW line for women named Gavin Ruffy Studio, which was launched at the Katutubo x Bench pop-up market.  Gavin shares that although he is happy with RTW businesswise since it’s faster and reaches a bigger market with a single design, between RTW and made-to-order (MTO), he is more inclined to do more of the latter, because he gets the satisfaction of further exploring his creativity. Through MTO, Gavin loves hearing from his clients their likes and dislikes and then proceeds to design for them. He finds it inspiring and fulfilling seeing them happy, feeling good and looking good while wearing his clothes.

“With MTO, I’m able to tell a story with the pieces I make since they’re tailored to a certain person’s needs so they’re very special. It’s really a different feeling when I’m able to make someone feel happy through my work.”

He tells us that his design process is not always the same; it is usually inspired by his mood at the moment. There are times he is inspired by a material or certain detail then he makes a collection out of it. Gavin’s style is geared more to “silent chic,” which is not meant to make a statement but to flatter the woman’s figure. His style is clean, sexy and no-frills.

He admires international fashion designer Tom Ford for his clean and sexy aesthetic. Among our local designers, Gavin’s role models are Inno Sotto, Ivar Aseron and Joey Samson. He admires how these designers can make beautiful pieces without having to be loud. Another designer he looks up to is Rhett Eala for his success in the RTW business.

Gavin dreams of one day seeing his RTW brand grow and become a go-to place for beautiful and well-crafted pieces in malls.

Gavin at the Ternocon 3 press launch with Daphne Osena-Paez, who is wearing one of his creations.

Read on as Gavin shares with us his experiences as a young designer and his tips for making it:

1. Our generation is lucky to have the Internet as a platform for our businesses. Aside from it being cost-efficient, it’s easier for our business to be seen and reached by our customers.

2. Courier apps are the best. Five to seven years ago, when Grab/Lalamove wasn’t a thing yet, we would allot a whole day just to go to a supplier or go to production. Now it’s easier and faster, we can get materials in just a matter of minutes. We can send out orders to our clients without any hassle and we can do business from our homes.

3. Deadlines can sometimes be crazy.  Before starting my own brand, I was always going out with friends. I used to work out five days a week. It’s so easy to invite me to meet up, but when I started designing professionally and putting up my brand, I had less time for leisure because I had to focus on work and my business.

4.  It’s nice to have pop-ups and exhibits that support young, local brands. We get the feel of having our own store. By engaging with our customers face-to-face, we’re able to learn about our consumers and that’s how we improve our products. What’s great about these pop-ups is that they are short-term, so there’s always time in between to take breaks and improve.

5. There are a lot of old and new brands available in the market. As a new designer, it can be quite a challenge to come up with something that’s different and fresh all the time because almost everything has already been done, so it’s just a matter of how you reinvent something and most importantly the quality of your pieces.

6. Customers are very supportive of young designers. Whenever I meet clients during pop-ups or in my studio, they are usually surprised when they see how young I am. People now are more open to trying young talent and they support you, especially when you’re young with fresh ideas.

7. Wearability is important, especially now that people consider comfort when they shop. This can sometimes limit the design especially when you’re a young designer who likes to experiment, but this is something I learned when I started doing RTW. It’s better to have a classic piece that can be worn by customers, than a one-of-a-kind piece that is un-comfy and only looks good on the mannequin.

8. I am thankful for people who I’ve met along the way. When I joined Ternocon, I got the advantage of learning from esteemed people from the industry and meeting co-designers. With the pop-ups, too, I met people who are generous with their knowledge. As a young designer, I take every opportunity as much as I can because that’s also where I learn so much.

9. Filipiniana is now more popular than ever! Customers nowadays patronize and believe in locally made products. As a young designer, it feels more encouraging that there’s a bigger market now for Filipino design. They trust the quality of work and design of local designers.

10. As a young designer, I’m grateful that what I do for work is something I love. It can get stressful at times but at the end of the day, it feels very rewarding that I can do my passion for a living. As a young designer, being able to do something that does not feel like work is an advantage I am very thankful for.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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