Gerry Katigbak: Non-conformist, avant-garde, still daring 28 years after


Gerry Katigbak

Gerry Katigbak

Philippine fashion icon stubbornly makes his works stand out


LIPA CITY—The milieu was post-Edsa 1, and Gerry Katigbak just earned his advertising diploma from the University of Santo Tomas. Rustan’s in the old Makati was then the chic retail outlet of the upper class, and he served three years there helping out a cousin at a men’s store.

Then Katigbak decided to venture on his own in the field he loved: fashion. That time, the early 1990s and heading into the millennial age, Katigbak’s trademark was avant-garde. And his tag?
“Non-conformist” in a conservative-wearing country, a rule-breaker of the fashion trends at that time.

That fashion sense made Katigbak “different” then —and a brand today in Philippine fashion.
“I don’t follow exactly what’s the latest trend,” Katigbak told The Filipino Connection. I follow exactly what is the trend for me… because I want to be different from the rest of the other designers.”

That principle actually came from his advertising classes: “You don’t follow the wave. You go to a 2 (2)different direction so that you will be noticed.”

Everybody in the industry is now having Katigbak, a regular in the annual Philippine Fashion
Week, as a benchmark in local fashion designing. So his prophecy of more than two decades now
continues to trend even in this age of social media. “I want to create as who I am. The only way is you change a little of your ideas based on what is in fashion, and you will be noticed.”

Some 28 years into this business, this Batangueño is now in the comforting years of his craft, thanks to what models and clients find in most of Katigbak’s black-and-white creations: comfort.


And for the clothing, they’re “non-traditional” but a stand out. Clients can then recognize: “That’s  a Gerry Katigbak collection. They can actually feel that this is my collection.”

He was once like his clients. During his youth, he himself knows —or feels— who’s this designer that makes him stop when browsing glossy fashion magazines. One of them was 67-year-old global fashion icon Yohji Yamamoto who, like Katigbak, is avant-garde in spirit, and has made elders think he’s incredible and teenagers say he’s cool, to quote New York fashion expert Julie Gilhart.

“I was so amazed with (Yamamoto’s) collection… so in my designs, I was not really copying but (getting inspirations) from it,” Katigbak said of his idol who, like the Filipino, is a non-conformist.

Add the inspirations that Katigbak gets from the ageless Italian designer Giorgio Armani, the Filipino’s collections then resemble the fusion of two ideas, plus his own, to make his own brand.

3 (2)
Katigbak was then in an industry in which the market players are few. But now that his brand has escalated, the youngsters are catching up and the playing field has broadened. “The competition starts to become very stiff.”

But don’t worry, he says. My clients still come to me, Katigbak says. “Clients actually have their own individual personalities… and we designers are there to help them.”

Besides, he is an “all-around beautician”— design consultant, stylist, teacher (at the School of Fine Arts in Makati City), photographer, and choreographer! “Anything in the fields of art, I dare myself.”

with Jeremaiah Opiniano

Photos taken from Katigbak’s website

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