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Jor-El Espina: Filipino fashion hero

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 09, 2023 5:00 am

The name Jor-El reminds me of a powerful character in Superman comic books, who was out to conquer the Earth. Yes, I used to buy comics on heroes like Superman and Batman with their female counterparts during my youth. 

I first saw the name Jor-El Espina during an ArteFino fair in Rockwell. Looking at his creations. I told myself: This designer can be a super force in Philippine fashion.

Jor-El Espina’s skirt reminds us of the dried leaves in the protective clothing worn by the Ivatan farmers of Batanes during typhoons. His delicate creations with flower petals on the bodice and lacy fabrics are exquisite.

Jor-El is actually one of the creatives in the fashion industry doing the heroic task of highlighting the work of our local weavers, and making Filipinos more appreciative of what we have. This mission calls not only for talent, but also a sense of patriotism in their hearts.

“My inspiration comes from everything Filipino—our music, dance and art,” says this Iloilo-born designer. “Philippine culture is so rich. We have so much to be proud of.”

Wearing his own creation with standing collar, Jor-El Espina envisions a modern version of the tapis, a barong with a mix of textures, a dainty interpretation of the kimona with subtle florals on the skirt, a colorful Mindanao-inspired ensemble, a stylized terno top with cropped pants, and a chic ensemble highlighting embroidery.

I became proud of Jor-El’s work when I saw his creations up close: a simply elegant beige tapis worn by Sen. Loren Legarda during the vin d’honneur in Malacañang; and then a lovely blouse dripping with lace floral cutouts worn by PR maven Ginggay de la Merced during an event hosted by the Italian Ambassador.

“I enjoy working with local materials woven by different artisans from Philippine provinces,” Jor-El says. “I like mixing patterns and textures. I love dressing up women who are elegant and appreciate the value of our culture. Women in power have the power to inspire, and I feel fulfilled when they appreciate creations that aim to raise the bar.”

Jor-El started designing accessories in 2005 before he created clothes. His first clients were his cousins and friends, and when he was swamped with orders from people who saw his works, he opened his own atelier in 2007.

Now that Philippine-made fashion is taking center stage and modern Filipiniana has become mainstream for daily wear, Jor-El was encouraged by his believers to open a pop-up store on the second level of Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, from Aug. 12 till October. He is also featured in the upcoming ArteFino fair in Rockwell from Aug. 24 to 27.

“I don’t really care about global fashion trends. I think we Filipino designers should create the trends and make more people love what is Filipino.”

Jor-El Espina is my kind of fashion superhero.