Prodigy and Provenance

📍Albay

“Genius has no country. It blossoms everywhere.” – Jose Rizal

Polymaths are intriguing and complex creatures – intelligent, gifted, restless, passionate, filled with extraordinary visions. Their genesis makes for fascinating stories if one has the patience to spool back to its roots.

One such polymath is Jerome Lorico. He oscillates between fashion design, art, writing, mentoring, teaching, and social media-based punditry. Jerome’s creative fluency cross-pollinates between his writing and designs. Any of his garments is a careful weaving of longing, imagination, and cultural references that make them into wearable poetry.

LORICO, Jerome’s namesake brand, is the go-to fix for the confident, stylish, and sharp folks who are loyal to his craft. Fellow designers are openly vocal about their admiration for his talent, techniques, and authenticity. Yet it was a challenging, circuitous path before he reached this point of esteem.

We hark back to a young boy in a handicraft factory in a small town in Albay. “My earliest memory was sleeping on top of the boxes of handicrafts in Bicol,” he candidly reveals about his humble beginnings. “That’s when I started getting really fascinated with anything that’s created and tactile because, at a very young age, I was exposed to different materials.” His initial brush with the world of fashion was through his mother’s Avon catalogs.

Jojie Lloren’s victory in the Philippine Fashion Design Competition sparked Jerome’s fashion interest. Jojie went to the international competition in Paris where he won the grand prize. “That single news inspired me because Jojie used wood beads as one of his materials. The corset was made of molded abaca, and abaca was very familiar to me.”

Jerome’s flourishing creative inclination led him to win local drawing and design competitions. He set his sights on enrolling at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts; however, due to resource constraints, he settled for Bicol University where he majored in Communications Literature.

After graduation, Jerome found himself in Manila. There he handed his CVs to notable designers’ ateliers, but he never heard from them again. He then decided to join a national design competition with his sketch reaching the semi-finals, an incredible feat since he was the only contestant who did not have a fashion design background. While he ultimately did not win the prize, he persisted with his dream.

A series of triumphs in several international competitions soon followed. The most notable of these were the ones in Japan ( judged by no less than the legendary couturier Hanae Mori ). He used the prize money to finance his designs and collections.

Eventually, his work caught the eye of design impresarios, leading to grand international opportunities. He was invited to Singapore Fashion Week where he was then approached to join London Fashion Week. His application was accepted, and he represented the Philippines in the prestigious showcase.

Jerome’s innovative knits and sculptural dresses got noticed in London, and a fashion week attendee encouraged him to send his CV to an unspecified brand. The anonymous brand turned out to be the revered Alexander McQueen.

If his competition triumphs in Japan ushered him into a different level of craft, creativity, and design, the McQueen experience gave him a window into a global brand’s inner workings. It refined his techniques, polished his point of view, and elevated his creative aspirations.

Returning to Manila, Jerome established his brand. He had a critical and commercial collaboration with directional denim brand VIKTOR, successful fashion week presentations, and a hit solo show. He later accepted fashion design advisory positions in the country’s top academic institutions like Mint College and DLSU-College of St. Benilde.

“Even though I’ve yearned to be in the city for the longest time, deep inside my heart, I’ve always wanted to stay in a place like my province,” he wistfully recalls. “Whenever I’m sad, back when I was young, I would go to our rooftop to stargaze. If I was not a big dreamer, I wouldn’t be drawn to the city. But at the same time, that dream was shaped by my environment when I was young.”

“I believe that your origin – the place and your circumstances then – is very important,” he adds. “It not only affects who you are right now, but it can also determine where you’re heading. You cannot erase your past experiences. You must appreciate who you are at present because that’s part of your personal evolution. It’s vital for everyone to find who you are. You can only answer that question if you acknowledge and appreciate your origin.”

Jerome is well aware that life continues to unfold for him. With such prodigious talent and unflinching approach to challenges, there is no doubt that he will reach grander feats. Yet clearly, his future will continue to be inextricably woven with his formative years in Albay.

WEB : JEROME LORICO

Words by Ric Gindap

Photographs in order of appearance by Regine David, Doc Marlon, Krzystof Wyzynski, Japan International Fashion Competition and Jerick Sanchez