August 2, 2021
Game Changer – Bong Guerrero
Bong Guerrero came to the UAE in 1990 with promising potential and an appetite to develop great projects and brands. He founded his first events company in 1999, initially producing and managing corporate events, product launches, as well as projects that helped catalyze the now booming fashion scene in Dubai. Today, Bong is the Managing Partner of BRAG – a prominent events agency in the region that also provides creative services – and CEO of Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD) – the region’s seasonal landmark fashion event showcasing the industry’s best designers and creatives.
Having worked alongside an impressive roster of high-profile clients like Kenzo, Jimmy Choo, Mercedes Benz, Netflix, as well as the best fashion houses in the region and beyond, Bong has developed an impressive body of work that will undeniably continue to grow and diversify. Some of the recent standout events organized by BRAG include Enrique Iglesias @ The Pointe, Dua Lipa @ The Pointe, and WASLA Music Festival 2019. Bong has also steered FFWD into the direction of managing turnkey events for the fashion, beauty, and luxury industries, as well as e-commerce – allowing fashion enthusiasts to buy clothes straight off the runway.
Turning every challenging circumstance into a fruitful opportunity, Bong, like most entrepreneurs, has experienced the paralyzing fear of projects not succeeding – but has not let this fear inhibit him in any of his undertakings. He expresses that, despite the roadblocks along the way, when you have a great team, good ethics, and a focused vision that inspires you to work hard, then one can do anything.
Nobody has probably done anything as impactful for the fashion industry in the UAE, and perhaps even the entire region, as much as society icon Bong Guerrero. Widely acknowledged as ‘the’ country’s fashion catalyst – Bong’s work as CEO & Co-founder of FFWD (Fashion Forward) has catapulted Dubai into global consciousness as the region’s fashion capital. FFWD has provided a platform to bolster homegrown brands and has brought international industry leaders, talents, and media into the City of Gold to what has become the region’s definitive seasonal fashion event. As Managing Partner of BRAG, he has also been at the forefront of significant events for luxury brands around the country.
Recognized as one of Esquire Magazine Middle East’s 100 in 2018, Bong shares of 2018, “The year has been very exciting on many levels. BRAG has continued its focus on large-scale community events as well as other corporate events, while FFWD has uniquely positioned itself to focus on providing streamlined turnkey event solutions for the fashion, beauty, and luxury industries in Dubai and the Middle East. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, Jimmy Choo, YSL Beauty, Kenzo, Farfetch, NARS, Dolce & Gabbana among others are some of the clients that we have created experiences for in the last year. Moving ahead, we plan to continue to expand this portfolio as well as come back with some exciting plans for Fashion Forward.”
Beyond the glamour of Dubai’s style and luxe world, Bong believes in optimist and goodness as critical traits that allow one to get ahead. He remarks, “Positivity begets positivity. I have always believed in turning any challenging situation into an opportunity, by focusing on the good that may come out of it. All is well, that ends well. This in addition to being a fundamentally good person, and most importantly doing your work with authenticity, love, and passion.”
“I would like to remind people to focus on doing the work that they enjoy – when you love what you do, you will succeed at it – and when you succeed at it, you will love it even more. Challenges are inevitable, but it’s how you react to them that will determine the end result. It’s a virtuous circle of positivity.”
Special thanks to our sponsors: Emirates Airline, Stars n Bars La Mer, Liali, Instax – Grandstores UAE, Dusit Thani Dubai, Gver – Your Friendly Marketplace for Sharing, Meeting Dancewear , MPQ, CMG, Filbrit, and our partners Rozen Antonio Photography, Alex Callueng Photography, Jef Anog Photography, and Ethereal Photography.
A true Dubai society icon, entrepreneur, and fashion industry catalyst Bong Guerrero underlines happiness as a state of mind that is central to his success. “For me, it’s always important to be happy. To live simply. I’m quite simple in my way of living. I don’t need much. As long as I’m happy with what I’m doing, who I’m with, the people I interact with, and I get a lot of joy in my work, that’s what’s important.”
And ‘simple’ could easily be the uber understatement of the year when speaking about the man’s accomplishments which have made an indelible mark and steered the trajectory of the local fashion industry to international heights. As Co-Founder of FFWD and Brag Events, Bong has been at the helm not only of the definitive seasonal style event in the UAE which has put the Middle East in the global fashion map. He was also part of the beginnings of the careers of several elite designers including Furne One, Ezra Santos, and Rami Al Ali, among others. The fact that his projects are well known in the fields of luxury and corporate events is mere icing on the cake.
Still, despite being the leading man in the glamorous world he moves in, Bongs shares that his true vocation lies in being a creative force behind the events that brought out the finest in people. He says that his upbringing in Ateneo de Manila has deeply ingrained in him the value of living for others. He shares, “Be a man for others. Because when you do good things for others, it always comes back to you.”
Illustrado 100 was made possible by sponsors: Giordano, Liali Jewellery, Mitsubishi UAE- Al Habtoor Motors, Michael Cinco Couture, Mapúa Institute of Technology, Centro – Amwaj Rotana Hotel , Max’s Restaurant Middle East and GVER – Your Friendly MarketPlace for Sharing
Co-Sponsors: Herschel Supply Co., Rove Hotels, The Medical City – Dubai , Filipino Institute UAE, MPQ Tourism, JAMES Travel and Tours Dubai, Off the Hook Seafood Restaurant, The Original Barrio Fiesta Restaurant – Dubai and Tapa King UAE.
Founder and CEO – Fashion Forward (FFWD); Managing Partner at Brag Events
As Founder and CEO of Fashion Forward (FFWD) – Dubai’s most prestigious fashion industry event, and Managing Partner at Brag Events, the Alpha male of the Dubai style scene, Bong Guerrero has not only carved a name for himself as an entrepreneur: he has transformed himself into a true society icon. With over 25 years of experience in the Gulf, Bong’s expertise in the field of events management, concert production, and fashion is difficult to match. And in 2016, he helped orchestrate a major evolution in the Fashion Forward brand – moving the venue of the shows from Madinat, Jumeirah to d3. More than just a change of space, the move signifies an enhanced focus on marrying the concept of sustainability with the fashion industry.
In an earlier interview with Illustrado, this notable Filipino sums up his simple philosophy, “I enjoy the work that I do. I truly love what I do, and I’m very passionate about what I do. I’d like to think that [passion] brings out some kind of creativity.”
Special thanks to Illustrado 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf 2016 sponsors – Giordano, Nikon, Liali Jewellery, Lulu, Mitsubishi and Western Union.
Bong Guerrero – Photo by Eros Goze
Bong Guerrero has succeeded in an area where so many have tried and failed in previous years.
As Founder and CEO of Brag Events – creators of Fashion Forward, he has successfully facilitated Dubai’s aspiration to build a credible fashion industry event that is not only supported by local and regional businesses, but is also respected by its other stakeholders – from the media to buyers, to the discerning and voracious fashion crowd in the country.
Having spent 25 years in the country, his local history can and will always be connected to the growth of fashion and the fashionable crowd in the emirates. From heading one of the first prestigious couture houses in Dubai – Ghanati – the birthplace of quite a few of the leading haute couture designers, to being an event organizer par excellence managing glamorous projects for international brands and practically starting up the city’s clubbing culture, Bong has always been surrounded by the movers and shakers, socialites, business magnates and royalty.
His engagement with fashion seem to have escalated when he organized the first game-changing runway show of high street brand Splash in 2007 – something totally unheard of back in the day. From then on, there was no turning back. After 15 fashion shows for Splash, numerous commercial events for an enviable roster of international luxury brands, and the birth of Fashion Forward now on its 6th season back in 2013, Bong’s reputation as Dubai’s veritable fashion catalyst has been cemented.
Indeed, Bong Guerrero’s shift from legendary party ‘machinator’ to the brains and brawn behind the definitive fashion platform for Dubai and the entire Middle East was not only a much needed shot in the arm to the previously flailing niche, but also a spectacular feat of professional success. In an earlier interview with Illustrado, this notable Filipino sums up his simple philosophy, “I enjoy the work that I do. I truly love what I do, and I’m very passionate about what I do. I’d like to think that [passion] brings out some kind of creativity.”
Profile published Illustrado Magazine 2010, Story by Sherry Tenorio
His name probably doesn’t ring a bell. That is, if you’re just a regular Joe or a plain Jane – an “anonymous” in the city of gold’s glitzy party scene. He’s made quite a reputation in privileged circles by being at the heart of the emirates’ glamorous events – creator, instigator and life of the party all at once, constantly surrounded by Dubai’s beautiful and influential A-listers. As a matter of fact, sans exaggeration, you’ve got to be somebody special if you are part of the life of a certain Bong Guerrero.
Bong Guerrero cuts an image of quiet self-assurance in the midst of the “bling” and bacchanalian euphoria that usually characterizes his legendary events. The man has quite a presence, one that is relaxed and confidently devoid of pretense – particularly refreshing especially in a world where the well-heeled and powerful coexist with poseurs, social climbers, aspiring models, the fickle fashion crowd, et al. You would know it when Bong is running the show, because there would always be that perceptible slight shift of gravity when he appears. Though there is a price to be paid for being a significant player in such rarefied field. It is entirely conceivable why people have a number of things to say about who he is – without really knowing what he’s all about.
Bong Guerrero lives a covetable life – a life that is one huge party. As an events guru, he personifies a glamorous existence where five star hotels, champagne and fancy cars are just plain accessories. He is surrounded and loved by shakers and movers, beautiful models and socialites, movie stars and celebrities, business icons and royalty. Because of his exposure in Dubai’s social scene and his closeness to a number of influential and A-list personalities, Bong’s life has become very public to many eyes.
“I was very exposed, especially when I was doing the ‘Bong!’ parties,” he admits. “I was Mr. Party for almost three years,” he explains how people have come to know him through his exclusive guest-list entry parties – an elite concept he introduced to Dubai in 2004. His branded parties – named after how people would exaggeratedly call out his name – heated up the city’s social landscape, making him one of, if not THE, pioneer of Dubai’s clubbing scene.
If New York refers to Studio 54 as the golden days of partying, Dubai feels the same towards ‘Bong! Parties.’ “They always remember me with lots of fun and nostalgia. For a lot of people, those were the greatest parties Dubai ever had,” Bong says. ”I was a night owl then. I had an office that I never visited because I slept during the day and worked at night. I was out five times a week. I would bring DJs from Paris, London, Ibiza and we’d have fabulous parties,” he recounts.
Bong knew, however, that he cannot live on parties forever. After three years of late night gimmicks, Bong decided to move from that chapter in his life. “I woke up one day and realized I could not be doing this forever. Besides, the dynamics had changed. All of a sudden, having over 3,000 people in the event became a trend, which was not my kind of thing at all. Don’t get me wrong, I still know how to party, but I just thought it was quite too much. I can do that again but probably on limited editions only.”
The man took a few steps back from the social scene, although he never fully left. He shifted to corporate events, leveraging on the amazing roster of clients and contacts he always had. In fact, long before the legendary shindigs, Bong Guerrero was already respected in the events business particularly in terms of the live concerts, fashion shows and corporate affairs that he conceptualized and produced.
Bong’s epiphany on venturing into events management actually resulted from attending a poorly organized concert staged in Dubai sometime in ‘99. Bong admits that during that period, he was at the crossroads. From owning a perfumery-slash-fashion house for almost six years and stumbling into a momentary career on marketing building materials, Bong always knew that something was missing. He says with a smile, “While scratching my head thinking about what to do in with my career, I thought to myself, after watching the concert, that I can do this, I can do better than this.”
He then found himself flying to Manila and ended up bringing Side A and Gary Valenciano to Dubai. Concerts, one after the other, filled Bong’s busy calendar then. But it was an invitation to organize the Dianoor Charity Fashion Show, the very first fashion show to be staged at the iconic Burj Al Arab in 2000, that marked his career as a definitive events manager. From then on, his strong portfolio grew to include prestigious clients like Motorola, Virgin Radio, Mini Cooper, Christie’s (auction), Dubai Properties, Pepsi, Puma, Chivas Regal, Rami Al Ali Couture, Aigner Munich, Diesel, Emaar, as well as Splash with their much-anticipated bi-annual fashion shows, to name a few. Bong attributes his success to – “Enjoying the work that I do. I truly love what I do, and I’m very passionate in what I do. I’d like to think that [passion] brings out some kind of creativity.”
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