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Feature: Q&A With Jeff Rustia Founder of Canada Philippine Fashion Week

As we celebrate the 2nd annual Canada Philippine Fashion Week, which held its swanky opening night festivities at the gorgeous Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto, last night, we wanted to repost our extensive Q&A with Jeff Rustia, Executive Director and founder of Canada Philippine Fashion Week. Stay tuned for coverage of this year’s week long festivities.

In the meantime, enjoy! 

Executive Director and Founder of PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week, Jeff Rustia

Executive Director and Founder of PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week, Jeff Rustia



Man Of The World.  


By: Hina P. Ansari



An international person in the truest since, Executive Director and Founder of PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week (CPFW), Jeff Rustia sits down and chats with us about his global upbringing, the Filipino fashion sense and how dreams can come true if you write it on a napkin.



Jeff Rustia and Miss Universe Canada 2013, Riza Santos

Jeff Rustia and Miss Universe Canada 2013, Riza Santos



Where did you grow up?


I was born in The Philippines and my mom put me in kindergarten in an international school in Manila so that just began my global outlook in life. By the time I was 7, I lived in Jakarta then for few years my father was an expat and I then lived in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia and then in Bangkok, Thailand.  After that, my father had this incredible vision that we as a family should grow up in Canada so I’ve been here since I was 11 years old.



How did you get into the entertainment industry?


I come from the MTV generation and I’m what they call a ‘media baby’. When I graduated from University of Toronto, I went to Asia where I got my break in television. Television, fashion, image, branding — all of that served hand-in-hand and I got my first job with Channel V (formerly MTV Asia). I started my rock and roll music television career and it has been a whirlwind adventure since.  After, I worked for HBO and Cinemax in Asia and then I came back to Toronto and became the creative director for two programs on CBC and CBC Newsworld. For the last fourteen years, I have my own  broadcast & design agency, TV animation & production house called FRONT TV.  I have program on fashion called Club Fashion on BPM:TV, which is a huge culture and music culture channel here in Canada.



Was there a specific person, moment or event that inspired you to get into this business?


I think that being a media baby and having worked at a music channel, rock and roll and fashion have always served hand-in-hand. Music videos are driven by the world of fashion, image and branding. When you’re passionate about something, you become very seasoned as your eyes becomes very sharp and you then manage to search for your own fashion style, your eyes for style.



How did PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week come about?


I had gone back to The Philippines [over] a year ago. My son Kol had just passed away and I wanted to go back to the mother country — to The Philippines. My family was even saying ‘everyone you know and all your friends and relatives here in Canada, why go back to The Philippines?’ and I just wanted to properly heal and mourn for Kol. He was a miracle child and  I’m just very lucky and privileged that I am his father. He was diagnosed to only live in 3 months; I just can’t imagine the joy and the privilege of having him for fourteen years. It was supposed to be a two-week vacation and it turned into 4 months. My last week in Manila, Philippine TV actually asked me to shoot a Filipino fashion TV special and I was just absolutely reenergized when I saw the incredible wealth of talent from couture to ready-to-wear.



Filipino supermodel Ria Bolivar graces the stage at Roy Thomson Hall during PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week

Filipino supermodel Ria Bolivar graces the stage at Roy Thomson Hall during PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week



Philippine fashion is truly global; it has as has most Asian countries in the last few years, really sky-rocketed in the world of fashion. Everyone from [designer] Francis Libiran, who is one of Tyra Banks‘ favorite Filipino designers. He himself has appeared on America’s Next Top Model. We are noticing the artistry and the design that’s coming out of The Philippines.  My father taught me that when you have a dream, write it down on a piece of paper so I was in the restaurant [in Toronto] and I wrote on a table napkin ‘Canada Philippine Fashion Week’, and I cant believe a year, exactly a year from today, right now, I’m speaking to you. It’s more than just a dream on a napkin and it has actually become true and it’s incredible.



When you started spreading the word about this new venture, PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week, what was the reaction?


It’s only people within the [fashion] industry that are familiar with the incredible fashion scene coming out of Manila. I think the mainstream Canadian society is not aware. Right now, there are over 800,000 Filipinos in Canada, so [we have] this wonderful opportunity to market and promote the artistry of Filipinos and Philippine fashion designers. Promote the designers from The Philippines as well as Filipino-Canadian designers here in Canada.  I think it’s wonderful to have people sharing our cultures, sharing our stories and also, to open up the fashion economy. Canada still outsources a lot of its fashion with [clothing] being manufactured in China and Turkey, so why not The Philippines, when you have not only the production capabilities but also the talent and the designs? This is why we hosted a cocktail reception where we invited notable buyers from the retail industry to connect [with the designers] and really experience what’s coming out of Manila and The Philippines.



Would you hope that the regular mainstream fashion enthusiast would have taken away from CPFW?


I think first and foremost, we are very lucky, as a [fashion week] like this could happen in a multi-cultural country like Canada. It’s indicative of how globally diverse Canadians are. Alot of the [style elements] whether they are Filipino fabrics or textiles, like pineapple fibres, even just the approach to designs as well, can very much be incorporated into our everyday wear.



Does the Filipino fashion consumer differ from other consumers? 


We feature the national dress in The Philippines, which is the TERNO (the actual butterfly sleeve on the dress), which was popularize by Imelda Marcos in the 70′s. It’s the only thing that she wears whether it’s at a film festival, a diplomatic meeting, or travelling globally. It’s synonymous to Filipino women.  You will see different interpretations of it. We’ve launch Project TERNO where we’ve asked Canadian designers to design one dress with their own interpretation of the TERNO /butterfly sleeve. In terms of the Filipino fashion consumer, Filipino women love to dress up, they love to feel glamorous. In that sense, Filipino fashion consumer particularly the women, love the evening gown because they do love to socialize and go out. I think that’s applicable to all women and to all societies, but that’s definitely something that the Filipino women look for.



Is there a difference between the Canadian-Filipino fashion scene versus the fashion scene from Manila?


With the unveiling of the VINTA Collection, [opening night] you saw an incredible fashion fusion of both Canada and The Philippines. These are very modern ready-to-wear TERNOs. And so, they’re even made to keep you warm! The winter TERNOs for the cold Canadian weather — well that itself is already what they call a perfect fusion because you will never make a TERNO out of wool if you’re living in The Philippines! (Laughs). If you look at Manila’s fashion scene, it is absolutely global. With Filipino artistry, you will find there’s a lot Filipino designers in some way or form who are always incorporating a Filipino textile, ancestry or theme into what they do.



Executive Director and Founder of CPFW Jeff Rustia with VINTA Collection designer Caroline Mangosing with models on the red carpet.

Executive Director and Founder of CPFW Jeff Rustia with VINTA Collection designer Caroline Mangosing with models on the red carpet.


VINTA Collection

VINTA Collection



You mention that Filipino fashion is ‘truly global’ how so?


The Philippines have created global designs because, well,  look at our history. The Spanish has colonized The Philippines for 400 years, originally in indigenous Malay. Malay serve people well because here you will see a great tribal influences in fashion, tribal artistry in weaving.  Then take that all the way to Chinese influence, the Japanese influence and American influence with the American military bases there, so being global is who the Filipinos are.



Your charity, the Kol Hope Foundation for Children, how was that incorporated into CPFW?


We wanted to give proceeds from our event [evening honouring the Kol Hope Foundation For Children) to the Kol Hope Foundation For Children. The Kol Hope Foundation for Children has its own set of beneficiaries. It works closely with Easter Seals Canada, which provided wheelchairs to children with disabilities and who are physically handicapped. We've [also] donated almost 2 million Pesos to Philippine schools, to children with Down Syndrome, and institutions and orphanages. We actually work with various beneficiaries.



Man of the hour, Founder of Kol Hope Foundation For Children and CPFW Founder, Jeff Rustia

Man of the hour, Founder of Kol Hope Foundation For Children and CPFW Founder, Jeff Rustia


Jeff Rustia (right) and Jon De Porter (middle) with CPFW Spokesmodel, Kesiah Papasin wearing a unique necklace from Jon De Porter's collection

Jeff Rustia (right) and Jon De Porter (middle) with CPFW Spokesmodel, Kesiah Papasin wearing a unique necklace from Jon De Porter’s collection



I suggested that we would launch Kol Hope Foundation’s collaboration with World Vision Canada during PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week with an evening where, proceeds from sales of the Ramp Diva: Filipina coffee table book would go to the Kol Hope Foundation for World Vision.  Also the Mother of Pearl necklace designed by noted jewellery designer, John de Porter, was also auctioned off with proceeds going to Kol Hope Foundation for World Vision. A portion of proceeds from the entire week of festivities will go to the Kol Hope Foundation, which will be divided among all the different beneficiaries that we’ve historically given to in the last 12 years.



You call PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week ‘Fashion With A Heart’, tell me more about this tag line.


This is truly a fashion event with a heart because this benefits children with disabilities, not only in Philippines and Canada but now with the World Vision who have always helped and reach out for kids in all four corners of the world.



Who inspires you?


Lately, I would say Kol has been such a driving force. This fashion week was fully inspired by Kol and his legacy of nurturing hope. I would have never written on that napkin and would have never been inspired if I had not gone back to The Philippines. In my life, the biggest inspiration has always been my family —  it’s my late father, my mother, my brother and of course my late son. In terms of creativity, and in terms of everything that I do is [all] inspired by life and inspired by people. Having had the privilege of travelling to almost every part of the world — 39 countries — it really opens you up to be globally-minded and to approach designs and your work that way. So I look at everything. I’m inspired by what they have to say, how they dress and how they think. That’s a driving force for me. [It’s in] everything that I do, and everything in my actions and in my words.



What part of the day best inspires you?


Well, it’s really interesting, because I sleep with a note pad because sometimes the best idea that I have are created at 4am in the morning.  I just wake up and a great idea will pop into my mind. When my mind is absolutely rested and in peace, then ideas will pour into it. I love visuals. I am surrounded by magazines. I love to watch music videos and I’m very much inclined to a visual economy. Everything has to have a picture. I think that’s really inspirational. I see the details.



How do you unwind?


How do I unwind? As I’m always on the move, I really get to unwind when I’m asleep.



So that’s when you’re not waking up and writing down fabulous ideas? (Laughs)


(Laughs) It’s never really unwinding, is it?  If I’m always at 200 percent on I love it. It’s who I am. Just like right now, sitting hear and speaking. I’m very entertained and I’d love to be that way and I’m always thinking and I’m always writing and drawing. I’m writing a book right now, believe it or not, I actually have time to write a book. (Laughs). But it’s not work. When you love what you do, you can’t differentiate winding from unwinding.


PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week's Spokesmodel Kesiah Papasin graces their poster wearing couture gown designed by Canadian-Filipino designer, Brian Maristela

PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week’s Spokesmodel Kesiah Papasin graces their poster wearing couture gown designed by Canadian-Filipino designer, Brian Maristela


How does social media play a part in your overall branding?


Social media is a powerful tool to reach people spontaneously. Social media is a form of a visual economy. A Facebook status update with a picture has always been more powerful than one without. We really need  [social media] because in terms of [this week], I would even say, we’ve managed to sell out truly by social media. The majority of the [media] attention, is all derived from all the Facebook posts and Tweets that we’ve been sending. So I’m actually amazed that I am now, living in a time, where the ‘video killed the radio star’ and now it’s ‘online killed the video star’. So it’s interesting that we’re living in a time where you need [social media] to spread your word and your mission.



What advice would you give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs who are really interested starting their own venture?


It’s about why are you doing the particular venture or project. For me, this project is purely driven with many personal reasons and this specific project [Kol Hope Foundation For Children] is a non-profit venture and its main aim is to raise funds for children. Whether you’re putting up your own fashion week or your putting up a store, or starting your own business, it has to be derived from passion. Your  heart has to be in it, a 100 percent. The process doesn’t become work and you really love and enjoy it. I think then, it will absolutely be successful.



What is the best advice you’ve received and still treasure today?


I really look up to my father so I do listen to him always. If I could be half the man he was, I’d be very privileged and a very lucky person. One thing that my father always taught me was to be proud of who you are and to love yourself.




Event photography courtesy of Candice Kaye /CPFW; Rustia on stage courtesy of Marina Reshetnikova; Rustia with Santos courtesy of CPFW. 


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