Albert Andrada will highlight pineapple, jusi at Paris Haute Couture Week

Andrada draws on his desk.  Partially seen to the left is the national costume he designed for Wurtzbach inspired by the queens of Manila's carnival.
Andrada draws on his desk. Partially seen to the left is the national costume he designed for Wurtzbach inspired by the queens of Manila’s carnival.

Filipino talent will be showcased in France next month when Albert Andrada presents 35 of his designs at the Paris Haute Couture Week fall/winter 2023 shows.

The designer might have gotten widespread recognition for designing the dresses Pia Wurtzbach wore when she brought home the crown at the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, but he’s been designing for decades.

The elegant royal blue dress Wurtzbach wore can now be called iconic, but Andrada also designed her national costume, a suit inspired by those worn by Manila carnival queens in the early 20th century. Embellished with pearls, capiz shells, and crystals, the dress was paired with a matching fan and headpiece and was a sight to behold.

The designer honed his talent and eye for opulence in the Middle East, where he worked for two decades.

“For the first 10 years, I worked in a workshop with an Emirati business partner designing for various clients,” he told Lifestyle. “In 2002, I won Designer of the Year at the Swarovski Bridal Designer Competition Award in Dubai, leading me into a new chapter of my life in the Middle East.”

designer for the royal family

Albert Andrada and his enormous
Albert Andrada and his huge “business card”: the royal blue dress that Pia Wurtzbach wore when she was crowned Miss Universe 2015

He was appointed designer for the ruling family in Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates, where he stayed for 10 years, designing gowns and party dresses for the family.

“I traveled extensively and had access to a large number of fabrics and a wide range of materials, but as the years passed, I began to feel that I had less freedom to explore. I wasn’t growing as a designer and I was starting to feel boxed in.”

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When the opportunity to return to the Philippines presented itself, Andrada jumped at it. “I wanted to try designing for Filipino women.” She noticed almost immediately how different Emirati women are from Filipinas when it comes to dressing.

“They are really extreme. Emiratis spend a lot on their dresses because they attend many events like weddings, birthdays, and balls. They want to show off and stand out every time they go out.

“However, many of my Filipino clients prefer to be low-key and refuse to upstage the bride at a wedding or the guest of honor at a party. I’m often told, ‘Albert, not too much’ or ‘I’m just a guest/sister/friend’. Still, when they come to me, they know what to expect: elegance with a touch of opulence.”

However, designing for a contest is another story, he noted. In a way, it’s similar to designing sensationals like the ones he did for his Arab clients.

A replica of the blue dress he made for Wurtzbach continues to take pride of place in the window of his boutique at Greenbelt 5. It draws pageant fans who get a chance to get a closer look and pose in front of or next to him.

“I have not removed it from the showcase because it has become a kind of landmark.” You could also describe it as your oversized business card.

Andrada has gone on to design for other notable projects since the Miss Universe pageant, including the barong Tagalog worn by the male world leaders at the 2017 ASEAN Summit held in the Philippines, as well as some of the gowns worn by some of the leaders. ‘ husbands. Even the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, commented on how comfortable his barong was and requested a meeting with Andrada where the two took a photo.

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fashion collaboration

For Paris Haute Couture Week, Andrada was selected by Baroqco, a Netherlands-based jewelry manufacturer known for making the crowns for Miss Universe Holland, Germany, and Singapore. “Baroqco was the key for me to be part of the Paris Fashion Week (PFW). To be an official part of PFW, you must exhibit your collection for five consecutive years,” Andrada said. “Baroqco is already in its fifth year, so they contacted me and said, ‘Albert, we’ll attract you,’ because they wanted to showcase Filipino designs. The models will wear my clothes with accessories from the jewelry brand.”


Andrada's fabric manipulation includes shirred layers
Andrada’s fabric manipulation includes shirred layers

He described his designs as made with pineapple, jusi and other woven materials, but will have a more “international” appeal. The Filipino connection will be in the fabrics used, but the highlights will be the construction, structure and silhouette, he said. The event will also be a reunion of sorts, as his compatriots — fellow Filipino designers who made a name for themselves in the Middle East — will fly to Paris for shows scheduled for January 25 and 26. Michael Cinco, Ezra Santos and a few other designers will attend, he said. “We support each other a lot. Of course, when we were all based in Dubai, there was some friendly competition, but then again, we had our own clients and I worked for the royal family. Now, we can all just laugh about it.”

With less than a month to go until the PFW, Andrada is still fine-tuning the collection. “Until the last minute, that’s what I’ll do,” he said.

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He and his team, including some Pinoy models, will fly to Paris in mid-January to scout for additional models. “I’m told there will be plenty of runway models to choose from, so our goal is to be there by then.”

When all the hoopla has died down and he returns to the Philippines, Andrada will go back to designing for his Filipino clientele, which he said has grown exponentially compared to before the pandemic.

“My business has tripled, which I attribute to more people going out and getting dressed again,” he said.

PFW, also known as Semaine de la mode de Paris, takes place biannually in the French capital as a regular designer presentation presenting designs for spring/summer and fall/winter. The dates are determined by the French Fashion Federation. It is part of the “Big 4” global fashion events that include London, Milan and New York.