A Debut for SM’s Pat Santos

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By Mina Paras

Spectrum

Monday, December 2, 2013


A DEBUT traditionally refers to a young lady coming out, being introduced to society at 18 in a big to-do complete with 18 roses and a cotillion. In olden days, a debut was an occasion that served to signal the availability of the young lady for marriage. In what is referred to as a "London season," the scions of the rich and titled aristocracy got to mingle with ladies of equal stature and they were expected to meet their match in the many parties that marked the season, usually in summer. Both the debut and the London season served as a marriage market. (Jane Austen dealt with this practice in many of her novels, as in "Pride and Prejudice", "Sense and Sensibility"). Though it no longer is the case, the marking of an 18th birthday is still a milestone that many parents give to their daughters, the pomp and pageantry of which is dependent on the family’s fortune.

Debut is also the word used to refer to an author’s first novel, as in Ateneo-schooled Sam Sotto’s debut “Before Ever After”, a fantasy-historical-travelogue novel that is tied together by an immortal romance. (If you haven’t read this, grab a copy. It’s a really riveting read, which my daughter Katen said kept her up all night. Sam’s second book is finished, though she’s still giving it a thorough once-over, according to her mother, my UST Artlets schoolmate Mary Locke Sardalla-Sotto.)

Pat Santos who? You haven’t heard of him before this but you most probably have bought dresses from his best selling lines Blanc et Noir (French for black and white), and the durable “Woman Philosophy”.

After 17 years of successfully manufacturing his clothing lines together with his sister who is also a designer, Pat Santos now wants to branch out into couture, which he initially studied for at the Madonna School of Fashion and the Golden Hands sewing school, both of which have served several generations of aspiring designers. He went into supplying SM because at the time that he wanted to put up his own salon, “the business of gowns was down”, he says. It was the time after “terno-queen” Imelda Marcos, when the business of gowns was at its frenzy (what with all those Blue Ladies and the like, the Sparklers — for the aged dancing queens who dressed to the hilt — and the society at large. With Corazon Aquino eschewing such excesses, and her shunning of all vestiges of Imelda including the use of the Terno, came the downfall of couture fashion.

In a well-orchestrated salon opening, Pat Santos met a select group of lifestyle writers in his new, well-appointed salon which was done in — what else? — black and white. Between nibbles of dainty sandwiches, we listened to Pat Santos, still shy at his first face-to-face meeting of the press, recall how he dropped Accountancy for designing, his days as a supplier of SM, where from 70 the suppliers dropped to merely 10, and where SM’s Harly Sy drove them to evolve. “He was very interested in designers,” Pat says.

Pat has proven his designing acumen for what women want, his mastery of fit for the Filipina figure. He’s the best selling line with Blanc et Noir, which he says was the name given by Harley Sy. Blanc et Noir is “sexy and edgy”, with accents on the back, for the modern woman who wants to look sexy without being sluttish. His ‘there but not there’ sheer backs are a hit, along with back detailing that are present also in his upcoming couture line, which is what the coming out really is about.
Pat Santos is coming out with his eponymous line of off-the-rack wedding gowns and other special occasion gowns (which can be made to measure) to make the event less nerve-racking for the bride and less of a financial strain for the groom or whoever is footing the bill.

Normally, a couture gown would cost at least the price of an original Prada bag, but Pat’s gowns cost a fraction of that without looking less rich. SM has given him his own space for this, in the upscale SM Aura and several other upscale SM addresses. It’s a testament to how much SM believes in him.

At the coming out salon event, the press was treated to a special show of his wedding line, which for this season are gold and shimmery. But since we were mostly married or singled, what wowed us most were the clothes from the Blanc et Noir line that were undraped for preview after the sumptuous lunch. I got a beautiful halter black top with dainty white flower print, ringed with lime green around the armholes.

But what really makes this top special was the unusual riveting at the back. I paired this with slim black pants — perfect fit! — and this has been my fave outfit so far.

I plan to visit SM Aura to get my next Pat Santos outfit. Wait, did I already say they cost a lot less than you’d expect?

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on December 03, 2013.

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