Forward through the Past-The Fifties’ Fine Sophistication, Today

Shot in San Diego as part of her Fall 2020 collection, a draped pleated top and skirt. Photo courtesy Bea Cruz.

The elegantly nonchalant fashion of the 1920s, marked by shorter skirts with pleats and slits to aid movement, was a liberating statement for a world keen to move on from restrictions of the Spanish flu pandemic. Fast forward to 2021, this time troubled by the Covid-19 pandemic, young Negrense fashion designer Bea Cruz looked a century back and found inspiration – the Roaring Twenties roared back. Bea created her “Bright Young Things” collection for the 2021 Fashion Week San Diego (FWSD), and ran away with the Ashley Nell Tipton Top Emerging Designer Award.

Negros Occidental may boast of sugar, seafood, and heritage homes, but the province is also home to outstanding creative designers. Fashion maven Bea Cruz of Victorias City is one such. She first gained recognition at the start of the lockdowns in 2020. Undeterred, she joined the 14th International Virtual Art Renewal Center (ARC) Salon Exhibition, the largest realism art competition hosted by the premier auction house Sotheby's New York, and the 2020 FWSD. Bea thrust the province into the limelight when she took Top Fashion Designer at the latter, and best fashion team in the former.

Natural fibers, like piña and silk, blend seamlessly to capture femininity in the Vivirá collection of Bea Cruz. Photo courtesy Bea Cruz.

Thriving through the challenges

In 2018, right after she finished her course in Fashion Design & Merchandising at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Bea started accepting clients. She eventually opened a small studio in 2019. The space she put up also served as her mini workplace in preparation for FWSD. With just two seamstresses working for her, Bea was hands-on throughout the execution of her designs, including choosing the fabric and embellishments.

Vivirá is Spanish for “will live”. The collection took inspiration from elements of the Philippine Spanish heritage fashion, among them the barong, baro’t saya, and panuelo. The materials used for her creations were blended from silk and pineapple fibers.

She was set to travel to the US in July 2020 to present her Vivirá collection. Due to COVID restrictions, she opted instead to have them shipped from Negros Occidental to Manila, and then on to San Diego, California. Shipping her 10-piece collection and the accessories that went with them was a tough decision. There were potential logistics concerns, and what if the clothes got damaged en route to the show? The runway presentation was in October, but with Bea stuck at home, she had to watch her collection modeled virtually.

Fashion week San Diego, 2021. Photo courtesy Bea Cruz.

Bringing 1920’s fashion into the future

Bea’s comeback to FWSD the following year, 2021, was equally sterling. Her Bright Young Things collection dazzled the audience and roused them from lockdown stupor. She highlighted the versatility of 1920s fashion, which gained much recognition. The 20-piece collection, inspired by the alluring fashion of the classics, featured intricate beadwork, sheer lacy tops, sequined dresses, and pants with rhinestones.

The dress is part of her Bright Young Things collection for FWSD 2021.Photo courtesy Bea Cruz.

The meticulous craftsmanship exhibited by Bea’s works complemented the revolutionary fashion silhouettes of the 1920s. Plus, her choice of inspiration was on-point for the times – freeing, jubilant, and utterly feminine. The judges agreed, among them, Ashley Nell Tipton, a Project Runway champion whose name was carried by the Top Emerging Designer Award given to Bea.

Eager artist that she is, Bea Cruz also made a comeback at the 15th Art Renewal Center (ARC) Salon Exhibit. Her stunning translation of the oil and aluminum artwork "Bound to Hinderance" (2020) by American-Iranian oil and figurative painter and art professor Pegah Semaie, turned heads. Bea used
sequined lace, carefully hand-sewn for 72 hours.

Drawing inspiration from the sophistication of classic pieces, Bea’s fascination with designs of the 1920s to 1950s is nostalgic as it is refreshing.

Text By: Abbie Uychiat
Photo Courtesy: Bea Cruz

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