FURNE ONE: A One-on-One with ‘THE’ ONE

By Lalaine Chu-Benitez, Photo By Eros Goze

We have fondly given him the title “The ONE and only” – and quite rightly so. Virtually everybody that matters in the regional haute couture industry knows what makes this Dubai-based Filipino artist a stand-out in the world of elite style. However, unbeknownst to many, there is so much more that makes him unique, and that truly establishes “The One” (pronounced ‘oh-nay’) as somebody even larger, than “merely” a true fashion maverick well-ahead of the pack.

If there is anything that truly defines Furne One’s creations it is the word ‘grandiose.’  When you say Furne Amato, it has to be something huge.  Nothing is ever small; everything is maximal, dramatic, and larger than life.  We have seen his head turning creations on the catwalk and in the pages of reputable glossies around the region. We know of his “shock and awe” attitude to color that is uniquely his, the strong style statements he creates, as well as his “take it all the way” bravado when it comes to design elements which are truly distinctive – whether it is in his irreverent mixing of crystals, patterns and embellishments, or his exaggerated hips or any other latest style fixation of his.  A tough act to follow, but the one thing that perhaps matches Furne’s grandiosity in aesthetics is how he attacks work and the design process itself.

Unlike others in the same creative field who look at the small things like elements, colors, or the details and inspirations du jour, Furne thinks and creates in 4D, High Definition, full fashion production drama. “I love films and I am fascinated by big productions especially movies of a gothic nature, or those that revolve around fairytales, vampires and wolves,” the artist shares enthusiastically, his eyes shining. “I think about all the details of the fashion process, from the tinniest embellishments of the clothes, to the fashion show, complete with the music, lighting, ambience, choreography, as well as the models’ styling, make up – the works.”  No wonder, Furne’s fashion shows are touted as some of the best and most-awaited in the country.

A fashion designer whose penchant for the unexpected is well known, Furne professes, “When it comes to fashion, of course, I don’t like to be just like everybody else. Having my own identity is very important to me.”  He continues, “I design for my own pleasure and it is important for me to get the whole look right.  So more than just the dress, I also like to play with the styling.  Trying stuff and changing them around, until I achieve just the right and complete look.”

And the process just doesn’t stop there. Seeing the artists creations on the ramp, is one thing, but having a front row peek at how he operates is quite another. Witnessing Furne One in action, one gets a grip of his true gravitas when it comes to his art and discipline. He is never big enough to get his hands dirty, and yet by showing what a consummate professional he is, one who is thoroughly concerned about his craft, who will move just about everything necessary to make sure that he gets what he needs and the richness it deserves, One is head and shoulder above the rest, not only by virtue of creativity, but also with his strong work ethics.

For this month’s Illustrado fashion editorial, the designer, handpicked, set-planned and personally oversaw the casting, styling and phasing of what can only be described as an over-the-top shoot-cum-fashion show which featured 25 lavish haute couture gowns and six models captured in fading daylight.  It was elaborate, fussy and huge, but fabulously worth all the trouble – just like any Furne One concoction.  Alas, nothing is ever small when it comes to ‘The One and only.’

“I work with my entire team.  I am open to suggestions and like to hear comments from my assistants.  I do not stop until I get it just right.  And of course, in the end, I follow my vision and what I think works best,” the designer remarks.

From an entrepreneurial angle, this Cebu-born design visionary seems to have been blessed with a business acumen that is quite a rarity in the creative field.  While most designers are merely purveyors of style, One also displays the astuteness and savvy of a seasoned businessman – one who knows the difference between merely creating fashion, to one who is building a veritable couture business, which has attracted serious investment proposals, and one that is to be reckoned with in the future, not only in the Gulf.  Since the emergence of his fashion house in the last five years, Furne has built his brand, Amato, into a strong and reputed haute couture name patronized by an elite roster of clients, including royals.  Furne, together with his team of professional consultants, has also managed other aspects of his business including publicity, promotions, and launches of his new collections, with the measured shrewdness of someone who understands exactly how to market his brand.  His outward orientation towards the global runway and forays into style hubs like Los Angeles, Miami, and Germany via Germany’s Next Top Model by Heidi Klum, has bode him well and has added another level of prestige to his conquests on the ramps of Dubai, a feat still unequalled by his peers.

In September, Furne is stormed London Fashion Week, to rave reviews, with “Love and War” an Elizabethan inspired collection featuring startling combinations of materials, textures and embellishments, presented to the sound of galloping horses in a dramatic production that is distinctly One’s.  The same collection has been showcased in Furne’s homecoming gala show in the Philippines under the auspices of the international charity organization at the Red Cross Ball, held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati with Philippine high society in glittering attendance.

Still, with his undisputed success and his providential combination of creativity, hard work and innate business savvy, Furne, looks at his oeuvre with a distinct sense of pragmatism and gratitude. “I’ve been very lucky,” he says as a matter of fact. “There are a lot of good Filipino designers, a lot of hardworking ones too. But you also need luck to be successful.  And I have been very fortunate.”