Alta sociedad events of yore have often served as centerstages for a Kapampangan lady to strut her stuff and display her sense of style. To be seen in her best finery in one of Pampanga’s socio-civic balls like those staged by El Circulo Fernandino is definitely one of the most flattering experiences she could ever have. It was a must then for a modern Kapampangan to be abreast of the latest trends in fashion and beauty, and for these, she turned to the known fashion schools of Pampanga.
R. T. Paras is perhaps the most notable fashion house established by a Kapampangan. It was put up by the enterprising Roberta Tablante Paras, a woman of extraordinary talent and character, very much ahead of her times. Roberta was one of the daughters of Modesto Paras, a former juez de paz (justice of the peace) of Culiat. Her dressmaking skills were recognized early. But a romantic liaison with a married doctor caused her to be disowned; she fled to Manila and open a small dressmaking shop in Binondo in 1902 and in Quiapo in 1912.
Slowly but surely, she built her business while building a list of prominent clients, that would come to include First Lady Aurora Aragon Quezon. Roberta’s daughter by the doctor, Josefina, acquired her mother’s skills and business acumen, establishing R. T. Paras as one of the country’s most popular couture shops in the 40s and 50s. Josefina’s son, Froilan “Roy” Gonzales would later graduate at the top of his class at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and, at age 22, would join the House of Pierre Cardin in Paris as a designer in the early ‘60s. He would eventually also become head designer for Jean Patou and Leocanent-Hemant. He came home to head R.T.Paras Haute Couture which has become a name synonymous with excellence in the domain of high quality wedding gowns, corporate attire, suits and formal wear.
In the 70s and 80s, Gang Hizon Gomez and Efren Ocampo, both of San Fernando, made their own distinctive marks in the Philippine fashion scene. Gomez (now Dom Martin) created haute couture for Manila’s 400, while Ocampo found success in the RTW business, and is still active today. Sisters Peanut and Patis Tesoro, who trace their roots to the Pamintuans of Angeles, are also recognized couturiers noted for weaving in traditional materials into modern creations. Indeed, if there is one thing that never goes out of style, it is the Kapampangan’s passion for fashion.