Filipino Designer: Royal Jewel – Albert Andrada
At the easternmost part of the United Arab Emirates, along the Gulf of Oman is the emirate of Fujairah. Here, the Royal Family has, under their wing, a unique kind of jewel – that is, haute couture Filipino designer Albert Andrada.
By Lalaine Chu-Benitez – Photos by Eros Goze
In the last two years, Albert Andrada has made his brand of couture sparkle, not only in the emirate, but also as a homecoming fashion hero in the Philippines.
A contemporary of Frederick Peralta and Eddie Badeo and a former member of the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines, Albert left the Philippines for the Middle East in 1986, against his parent’s wishes, to venture out on his own and explore how far he can stretch his talent away from his comfort zone. Growing up pampered in an affluent Manileño family, his father predicted that he wouldn’t survive without the usual support system he had home. Thankfully, that prediction didn’t come true; Albert said that despite all the challenges he had to face in establishing a career from scratch as a designer in the region, he always believed that his move was probably the best thing he had done for himself and his designing career.
A charmed life in the Royal Household
Albert Andrada has been living a charmed life for the last nine years. As head fashion designer for the Royal Family of Fujairah and a trusted member of the Royal Household, the designer’s life is cloaked in grandiosity like nobody else can imagine.
Leading a design and production team of 29, Albert whom the Royal family hired after winning the Designer of the Year Award at the Swarovski Bridal Show in Dubai in 2002, manages the royal atelier which creates some 50 couture pieces on a monthly basis – just for the Sheikha and her three daughters. The job, which sounds more like the output of a commercial haute couture house serving many clients during peak season in the emirates, is no small feat. “It’s like creating a full collection for a gala fashion show every quarter,” Albert shares.
Then there are those trips all over the world – privileged class all the way and official escorts at every stop; luxury and the good life at every turn; summers spent in London where a stretch limo with a British chauffeur is at his disposal even for the proverbial “small trip” to the corner store. When Albert and Assistant Designer Rene Santos shop for the Royal family anywhere in the world, in luxury shops like Harrods (which is regarded by the Royal family like a favorite “sari-sari” store), they receive treatment that is only reserved for a chosen few. Albert fondly remembers one specific incident where a cashier’s till had to be closed because they exceeded the maximum allowable purchase for that day. Albert, who did not want to disclose the amount of that shopping trip, said, “Harrods’ management had to open another till just for us, to accommodate all the stuff we needed to buy.”
Still, with his exposure to all these luxuries, his influence and the liberties he’s been given, Albert, who is known in the local fashion circle for his exceptional generosity and kindness, has kept himself firmly rooted. “We have been very blessed to be treated so well by the Royal family, and I am very thankful. There was never a time when we felt like we were regarded as employees. So on my part, I always make sure that I deliver my best, that I am mindful of my place, and never abuse their trust, no matter how close I have become to them.”
That great attitude has certainly put the designer in good stead, because his number one supporter in pursuing his passion for fashion design is the Sheikha. “Away from my work in the palace, I’ve always missed designing for myself – just creating the pieces that I wanted to do on my own terms. So when the right time came, I asked for the Sheikha’s approval and I’ve been very blessed because she and her daughters have always encouraged me to go for it since then.”
A jewel of extraordinary luster and depth
A year ago, Albert made his presence felt in the fashion industry back home via the Philippine Fashion Week (PFW) 2010 unveiling a mini-collection entitled “Kohinoor.” The set featured elaborate and rich ensembles with crystals and mirror work in nude tulle, silks and satins, synthetic hair, elegant embroidery and draping inspired by the exotic aesthetics of Indian Maharajahs. And what a debut it was. Rave reviews and fashion blogs mentioned words like “jaw-dropping,” “spell-binding,” “dramatic” and “opulent,” referring to the show that would further whet Manila’s curiosity for the brand of haute couture that could only come from the rich canvas and creative playing field available to Filipino designers in the Gulf.
Then this year, Albert returned to PFW, this time with a collection called “The Last Virgins of the Renaissance.” His show, a collection of floaty pieces with exquisite ruffles, chiffons and organzas embellished with lace, gold and silver embroideries and splashes of Swarovski crystals here and there, was such a spectacle, audiences automatically assumed that it was the finale. Rave reviews once again followed, a TV interview with ANC, invitations from the industry key players and the metro’s ‘who’s who,’ as well as recognition from fashion watchers, cementing Albert Andrada’s position as a formidable one to watch out for in the Philippines; something the designer is set to follow through as he eyes the establishment of his own brand boutique at home.
Together with Michael Cinco and Furne One, Albert Andrada’s amazing show of world-class brilliance and bravura, unfettered by conventions and logistical limitations has definitely caught the attention of style pundits in Manila. Their impressive show of talent, including those of their UAE-based peers including Bandoix Flores, Ruben Santos, Angelo Estera, Cherry Samuya Veric, has created a new level of acceptance and recognition for the once “underestimated” so-called “OFW” Filipino designers in the Middle East. Albert also says, “Hopefully, seeing a different, braver and richer fashion perspective from us will also push our young designers to up their game and be more creative and competitive like never before.”
For Albert, designing is not an end in itself. Coming home with his designs has been a dream 25 years in the making.
He shares, “Going back to the Philippines for me is my way of paying back. I have always prayed that I become a blessing to others. I am the kind of person who wants to motivate and inspire people.” He furthers, “By showing my works, I want our young talented designers to be inspired, to dream beyond what is usual for them, to look out into the world, explore their creativity without limits – and take that back to the Philippines.”
And without a doubt, Albert Andrada, who is truly a jewel of extraordinary luster and depth, will get his wish – and that is to shine his gracious light on the international Philippine fashion firmament.
*Albert Andrada is all set to make his mark in Manila once again, at the Philippine Fashion Week this 30th October 2011.