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Hollywood fashion designer Oliver Tolentino, the mesmerizer

Oliver Tolentino El Paseo show with model Tutay Maristela opening gown (pic by Hydee Abrahan)

Oliver Tolentino’s El Paseo show opening gown with model Tutay Maristela. PHOTO BY HYDEE ABRAHAN

SAN FRANCISCO – High up on the 31st-floor Windsor Suite of the Westin Saint Francis Hotel one sunny spring afternoon, we found ourselves at the exclusive trunk show of Hollywood fashion designer Oliver Tolentino, dapper in his own bespoke black and cream jacket.

We looked at the gowns on display and we were impressed. It is well worth the wait for an anxious bride, debutante, or celebrity. He proudly explained the details of the beaded gowns and how it is all well worth the big bucks since it take the beaders six months to finish the intricate designs. Just on the fragile jusi fabric alone, the labor intensive weaving, he said, takes one day to produce a yard.

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The ever smiling Oliver has made himself at home in the glitzy red carpets and runways of America, showing off his gowns and cocktail dresses with intricate, hand-made embroidery on gossamer fabrics such as Philippine-made pina (made from pineapple fiber) and silk. And he has built quite a following among would-be brides and celebrities such as Sophia Bush, Mayim Bialik and Anna Paquin.

A week prior to his San Francisco visit, Tolentino’s press agent reported that his collection “mesmerized” Palm Springs when he brought his talents – and Philippine fabrics – to the jet-set vacation town when he showed a limited collection as part of Fashion Week El Paseo’s 10th Anniversary show.  Eight past “Designers of the Week” were invited back for one big show to kick off Southern California’s most prestigious fashion week, sponsored by Palm Springs Life magazine and the Saxony Group.

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WATCH: Oliver Tolentino’s trunk show in San Francisco/Video By Vic Valbuena Bareng
Andrew Caruthers, president of the Oliver Tolentino brand, enthused that the designer’s gowns were shown alongside designs by the likes of Gilbert Chagoury, Anthony Franco, Kevan Hall, Candace Held, Lloyd Klein, Eduardo Lucero and Trina Turk.  Each designer showed ten to twelve creations. Tolentino’s collection of 12 gowns closed the show in before an audience of 1,000 along El Paseo Drive, known as the “Rodeo Drive of Palm Springs.”

In addition to his dramatic couture, Tolentino brought pieces of his native Philippines to the proceedings. The runway music featured songs by Sylvia La Torre (Golpe de Gulat and Katuwaan), his Filipina supermodel muse Tutay Maristela opened and closed his collection, and two looks were intricate piña gowns made of calado from Lumban that took many months to create.

Four years ago, Tolentino introduced piña to the Palm Springs crowd when he included many native fabric outfits in his 60+ piece collection.  Tolentino is the only Filipino designer to show at El Paseo. His anniversary collection featured bold colors and dramatic silhouettes with hand-beaded embellishments and delicate hand-made finishes.

Raved Palm Springs Life: “Tolentino won over fans with a series of spectacular ball gowns worthy of the finest royal ball, debutante gala, or tasteful state dinner. The spirited showstopper charmed spectators with his exquisite craftsmanship and detail. His frills, fringe, color, and fabric flair mesmerized.”

Oliver Tolentino El Paseo show with model Tutay Maristela final gown (pic by Hydee Abrahan)

Tolentino’s final gown at El Paseo show. PHOTO BY HYDEE ABRAHAN

And the fashion columnist for the Palm Springs area newspaper The Desert Sun wrote: “Tolentino’s elegant couture gowns were appropriately the last to sashay down the runway since all were showstoppers, especially the first look – a red, ruffled hoop skirted gown which caused an audible gasp from many in the audience.”

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Tolentino happily explained, “Fashion Week El Paseo is one of the finest fashion weeks in the States, similar to New York.  It was such an honor when they asked me to be ‘Designer of the Week’ four years ago, so I was proud to return as part of their 10th anniversary show.  Anyone in fashion in Los Angeles knows and respects these designers, so I am honored to be among them after being in L.A. for only six years.”

He added, “And of course, I love bringing who I am wherever I go.  I am a Filipino and my collections and presentation always reflect that.”

Tolentino has a boutique in Hollywood, which is located at 9003 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood. For the rest of spring he will be working out of his Manila shop at #1 Colonnade Residences at 132 Legaspi St., Legaspi Village, Makati.  For more information, visit www.OliverTolentino.com.

(Correction: Tolentino clarified that as much as possible he works with natural fabrics like pina, silk or cotton. The fabric jusi is a synthetic cloth from China, which is largely used by off the rack retailers.)

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TAGS: El Paseo Fashion week, Hollywood Fililpino fashion designer, Oliver Tolentino, San Francisco Trunk Show
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