For most of us, encounters with haute couture are rare: A fleeting glimpse of a spectacular dress on our favorite celebrity on a red carpet or on a fashion exhibit mannequin.
And then, there’s prom.
With its promise of impeccable craftsmanship and imaginative designs, it is easy to understand why couture pieces are some of the most sought after garments for this particular epoch in a young lady's life. Superficially, top couture designers somehow seem like some sort of Pied Pipers who future prom princesses consistently fawn and follow.
Kim Chiu in Rosenthal Tee
Apparently, this is not usually the case. After months of creating mood boards for ideas, most young women already have a clear picture of what they want. All they need is someone who can make their dream dress a reality. Celebrity designer Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguez recalls having very strong opinions of what her own prom dress should be like. “I remember arguing vehemently with my mom over the length of my dress,” she laughingly reminisces.
Solenn Heussaff-Bolzico in Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguez
Contrary to popular belief, a designer does not have full control over prom dress decisions. Creating the perfect formal frock is a joint endeavor between a designer and her clients. “I try to collaborate with a girl on what she would like, reveals Rosenthal Tee, Manila’s latest fashion discovery. “At the end of the day, it’s not my prom gown, it’s hers. And, I want her to feel like ‘this is the best outfit I have.’”
Bea Constantino in Rosenthal Tee
As with most relationships, trust, clarity and communication play an integral role in the creating a prom masterpiece. It is important for any girl to know the strengths of their prospective designers. Pinpointing their sartorial fortes would help you determine whether or not their styles complement your own. While Rosanna and Rosenthal share the same unflinching commitment to immaculate fit, they each have their own distinct trademarks that define who they are as a designer.
Marian Rivera-Dantes in Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguez
Vibrant and bold are words often used to describe Rosanna’s creations. Known for her exuberant use of color, print, and texture, her designs evoke a modern woman who courageously marches to her own beat and meaning and is supremely comfortable in her femininity. “For me, the louder the better,” chuckles Rosanna. “I don’t think I’ll ever be called ‘minimalist’. It’s just not my style.”
Gown By Rosenthal Tee
On the other hand, Rosenthal has a style dichotomy that is uniquely her own. From structural gowns with clean, sleek lines to frothy, ethereal numbers, she demonstrates an uncanny ability to veer between extremes. "There's really no one way for me," laughs the designer, “I’m kind of schizophrenic that way.”
Gown By Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguez
Both women agree that having relative free reign in the design simply facilitates a better outcome. “It’s more of a happy, creative spot for me to work in,” says Rosenthal. “Too much parameters can kill the creative vibe.” The clash of wills between moms and daughters is another curveball that designers have come to expect. “I feel like I’m dealing with two people,” laughs Rosanna. “More often than not, 90% of the time, they’re never on the same page: The mother wants a certain thing and the daughter wants another thing. This is always the case.”
Gown By Rosenthal Tee
Further, school regulations also put a damper on the creative process. “Some schools require a detailed sketch of their student’s dress to be submitted one month ahead of the event,” reveals Rosenthal. Rosanna concurs, adding that it can be limiting for any designer to work with strict prescriptions for lengths and widths of dress components. “Basically, everything has to be covered up,” discloses Rosanna. “That dress code is not my aesthetic.”
Gown By Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguez
Even the clients themselves can be part of the problem. There is also a point when trusting the fashion sense of your designer is a wise move. “Sometimes, the girls are putting too many ideas into one dress,” says Rosanna, “Most of the time, I would say ‘look, this what I think would be appropriate’ and we’ll just meet in the middle.”
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Prom dresses, in a way, also serve as a barometer for fashion trends, giving the designers a vantage point to the pulse of the younger crowd. “It’s enjoyable, because in a way, you get to see what’s new out there,” says Rosanna, who notes some big changes in the preferences of silhouettes this year. “Two seasons ago, it was all about serpentine shapes that hug the body, with a lot of cut outs,” recalls Rosanna. “This year, those requests are gone.” Softer silhouettes like full skirts, seem to be the preference, with lines moving away from the body.
Pantone’s Color of the Year seems to set the tone for color and patterns. “I had a few greens requested,” says Rosanna, noting that the preferences were for the bold, jewel toned hues like Emerald and Forest Green. Nature also seemed to dominate the patterns, with an outburst of requests for florals and botanicals. Color juxtapositions also make their appearance. “It’s a contrast between something very, very pale and something really, really dark,” notes Rosanna.
At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the perfect couture prom dress fit for a Cinderella moment. It is crystal clear, however, that unity is integral, where a forged alliance between a girl and her designer begets an exquisite piece of wearable art.
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Photographs from Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguez, Instagram.com/rosenthaltee, and Instagram.com/rosannaocampo_rod. Banner artwork by Jana Jimenez