At a Japanese restaurant of his choice, fashion designer Avel Bacudio quickly flips through the menu. “I want vegetables, sushi and fresh lemonade please,” he says matter-of-factly. The waiter leaves and he starts his friendly banter. “I’m leaving for San Francisco to do a show for the TFC (The Filipino Channel) tomorrow and then I fly to Paris. Grabe and schedule ng bakla! Pero I’ll make sure that I do a sidetrip to Napa Valley para mag enjoy naman ako!” I nodded my head in agreement. It was going to be an interesting interview , I could tell.
The ninth of ten children, Avel was born in the sleepy town of Buhi, Camarines Sur. His father was a surveyor and his mother was the local seamstress. When his mother died, he decided to try his luck in Manila. “Yung sister ko, she got me as yaya to my pamangkins. I thought then how lucky I was to be eating more then three times a day! Pag galing ka sa probinsya malaking bagay ang makapanood ka sa colored tv habang umiinon ng softdrinks.” A cousin offered to send him to the Cora Doloroso Fashion School . Barely a year into his course, the seventeen year old Avel was hired as assistant fashion designer by Plaza Fair after being discovered in an inter-school fashion competition where he won two major awards. “I involved myself in everything. Purchasing, marketing, putting up window displays. Even if I was a drop-out, I never stopped learning… Pero teka, I say this in all my interviews – naging janitor pa ako sa food chain. Kayang-kaya ko yung trabaho.”
Fated For Fashion
Avel met Jojie Lloren while both of them were employed as in-house designers of different malls. Along with other fashion stalwarts they formed the Young Designers Guild of the Philippines. Soon after, he was invited to participate in Inno Sotto’s Fashion Watch (a bi-annual fashion show mounted to promote the works of select local designers). “Tapos pinadala na nila ako sa international competitions. That’s when I realized ang galing pala talaga ng Pinoy. We have what it takes to be considered world class designers.”
With his roster of A-list clients which included the crème dela crème of Manila’s social elite, it seemed that Avel’s steady stream of luck wouldn’t run out. “Yumabang ako. I’ll admit that. I had money, fame and a million friends!” Then as fast as everything came to him, he lost it all. He had a falling out with his business partner which led to a nasty lawsuit. “Nawala lahat—as in zero talaga . Then not long after that, I suffered from retinal detachment. Akala ko mabubulag ako. Why were all these things happening? I was left devastated.”
Avel settled his case, dusted his shoulders and started to rebuild. “The people who brought me down, who left me — some are still my friends today. Forgiving is an important part of moving on” he says quietly.
2015 is Avel’s 20th year in the fashion business. He has a strictly-by-appointment atelier in Kamias Road, Quezon City for his couture creations, an online clothing site (www.aveldesigns.com) and will soon open a showroom in Tektite Towers for his RTW line. Not too shabby for a boy who came from the barrio.
What’s next for the designer? “I want to take my brand internationally. A shop in New York, London or Paris –yan ang dream ko! Wala ng makakapigil!” He pauses as if to reflect on what he just said. “Alam mo, db they say trials come in three’s? Tapos na ko sa dalawa. Whatever comes next , I’m ready. I’m ready to conquer the world!”
With a pocketful of glitter,