Getting the breaks in Dubai

07:22 PM December 31, 2011

DUBAI—In this modern Middle Eastern city, fashion designer Furne One is living his dream and is proudly carrying the Philippine flag.

This Cebuano has surely made every Filipino proud with his creations being worn by A-list international stars—Heidi Klum, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, and soon, Lady Gaga.


It was Klum who first discovered him.  His catalogues had fallen into the hands of her stylist. Her team flew Furne One (pronounced as Fern Oh-nay) to Germany to dress the finalists for Germany’s Top Model, a popular reality TV show.

Furne met celebrity judges Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue, who were so impressed with Furne’s work that he was commissioned to dress Katy for her “California Dream world tour” this year.


He made several unique gowns that also caught the eye eye of other international performers such as Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Minaj and Nicole Scherzinger. One of his creations was also worn by the dancer in Enrique Iglesia’s “Dirty Dancer” video. Lady Gaga will appear in one of his creations soon.

So who is Furne One?

Cebu’s fashionistas

He was born in Cebu, where he says every social event is like a fashion show. He credits his mother and grandmother as his role models. He grew up seeing them wear nice dresses at every social occasion almost weekly.

As a young boy, the third of four children, he made the clothes of his sister’s dolls.  He spent summers in Barile, South of Cebu and took an interest in his grandma’s hobbies—sewing and embroidery.

Traveling to the United States with the family at age 10, influenced him tremendously. He observed different traditions and ways of dressing.  At age 14, he started designing gowns for his sister and cousins for their proms and debutante balls. Their compliments gave him a lot of encouragement.

There was no fashion school in Cebu at that time so he took up Fine Arts, majoring in advertising, at the University of San Carlos.


First mentor

A school fashion event put him in touch with an upper classman, Protacio Empaces, who would become his first mentor.

Protacio, being the leader of the flock of about 15 student designers in San Carlos, would share his copies of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and other international fashion magazines.

Furne One started his formal fashion career as Protacio’s apprentice. For three years, he learned the rudiments of fashion, the most important of which was creating polished work and getting the fitting right.

In 1994, he was the first to win the Mega Young Designer of the Philippines award. Being judged by a prestigious jury led by Josie Natori, Details magazine founder Annie Flanders, French Vogue’s Colombe Pringle and Anna Bayle, jumpstarted his fashion career.  How prophetic that he won on the theme: Putting the Philippines on the Fashion Map.

He won a trip to Paris. “Josie Natori and her team flew in from New York to attend the Paris Fashion Week. They went to the shows of Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior and Christian Lacroix and the best part was they took me with them.”

He describes how exciting it was to see the creations of his idols plus a perk to see the supermodels of that time. Memorable for him was being present at the fitting of Natori at Christian Lacroix.  “I learned a lot about the importance of the final fitting.”

Natori hired him as an intern for one year in her shop in New York.  He  learned the business side of fashion.

Setting up his own shop in Dubai, he says “the biggest challenge for me was to prove myself ten times more being a Filipino in the UAE.”

“Everyday is a learning process,” Furne explains. Discipline is very important. “Don’t make excuses, at the end of the day, it is your responsibility.”

“Create your portfolio through catalogues or online. Heidi’s team learned about me from a stylist who gave them my catalogue.”

“Travel, travel, travel.  Travelling always broaden one’s horizons,” he adds.

Furne is an active participant in international fashion shows. He joined Dubai Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, Miami Fashion Week and recently the Philippine Fashion Week.

Dubai turned out to be his launching pad to the world stage.

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TAGS: Dubai, fashion, Fashion design, Furne One, Migration, Overseas Filipino
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