(STAR) By Ida Anita Q. del Mundo and Czeriza Valencia  - One put the Philippines on the dance map, the other put the Philippines on the fashion map – literally. It is thus inevitable that the two – Collezione-C2, the originators of the popular map shirts, and the country’s leading dance company, Ballet Philippines – would meet and form a partnership that champions the Filipino.

“Our relationship with Ballet Philippines is really anchored upon our belief in the Filipino as we continue to celebrate what is excellent about the Filipino,” says Collezione-C2 CEO Joey Qua.

The now ubiquitous map shirt designed by Rhett Eala featuring an embroidered map of the Philippines has surpassed the short lifespan of most fads to become a uniform of sorts for occasions calling for a display of nationalism.

Designer Eala, who comes from a bridal couture background, surprised the world of retail when he collaborated with Qua to develop a new concept that will appeal to the younger set.

The result was the My Pilipinas line, a collection of casual clothing featuring the Philippine map in various incarnations. It instantly became a hit, first with the youth, and eventually, even with adults, the original target market of Collezione.

For a while, many doubted its lasting power in the retail world, especially because many other brands have been producing casual wear with designs anchored on Philippine pop culture, even before the advent of the map shirts.

A term was invented for it: fasyonalismo, a portmanteau of fashion and nasyonalismo (nationalism), to describe the newfound means of the youth to express their love of the country through apparel.

So sought after were the clothes from the My Pilipinas line that the company expanded rapidly in three years, opening branches in Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, Eastwood, Alabang Town Center, Mall of Asia, and Marquee Mall in Pampanga. The stores carry both classic Collezione designs and the My Pilipinas line.

In an earlier interview with The STAR, Eala said what made the shirt popular was its unifying factor. “It transcends class and gender. You don’t have to be young or old to appreciate it. You don’t even have to be part of the fashion or celebrity scene,” he said.

Seeing the country’s famous personalities sporting Collezione’s map shirt has surely sealed its fashion fame.

Boxing superstar and Sarangani representative Manny Pacquiao proudly wore it on the way to his fight with British boxer Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas in 2009.

In the May 2010 elections, the reporters of a major television network were seen wearing the brand’s “flag” shirt, a design borne out of the fame of the map shirts.

When former President Corazon Aquino passed away in 2009, her children asked Eala to design a special map t-shirt to wear to the wake.

The Cory shirt, as it is now known, is in her trademark yellow, featuring an embroidered Philippine map in black on the left chest and the famed twisted ribbon on one sleeve. After getting permission from the Aquino siblings, Collezione produced the shirts for mass consumption.

Both the map and flag shirts have since then become a favorite gift for loved ones abroad, or as a souvenir for expatriates. Even visiting celebrities, including WWE wrestler Dave Batista in 2009, have been presented with the shirts.

Now, the dancers of Ballet Philippines don Collezione’s designs, especially on their foreign tours. “We see our relationship with Ballet Philippines as another manifestation of our commitment to supporting the arts,” says Qua on their partnership.

“We are a proud supporter of the arts and what better way to show our support than to partner with an excellent organization like Ballet Philippines... We are grateful for their continued belief in Collezione-C2 and in our endeavors. We continue to support their efforts in representing the Philippines the best way we can.”

Beyond the huge success of its map shirts, Qua says “Collezione-C2 will still continue along the lines of fashion, arts and nationalism.”

He adds, “We have been strong and consistent in the area of nationalism and the arts. We are now forging ahead in the area of fashion. Collezione-C2 now takes on a global slant, with our Holiday 2011 collection.”

In the new collection, the spotlight focuses on the global Filipino who, Qua points out, has become a “citizen of the world.” The collection features versatile and stylish pieces that transition seamlessly from day to night.

Inspired by the Himalayas, the Holiday collection also showcases a line of stylish travelware, “providing avid Pinoy globetrotters rack-relevant choices that stand out yet blend in wherever they go.”

“With the new holiday collection, Collezione-C2 furthers the concept of “fashionalism” by allowing the Filipino traveler to showcase the creative Filipino spirit no matter where they are in the world.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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