“I am really hands-on with my craft, and I maintain a great sense of focus in what I do,” says Santos of a passion that has kept him evolving in a competitive industry. Despite his fashion prominence, Santos maintains a humility, knowing where it all started.
Santos worked for the Arushi fashion house in Dubai before starting his label, Ezra Couture, in 2004. The core of the business is wedding and evening gowns, and the work is nonesuch. Because of the wishes of a very selective list of clients, every project involves intricate beadwork, unique fabric choices and a meticulous design that defines the wearer’s silhouette and body type. “My creations are model classics at best--crisp yet soft in symmetry,” Santos describes. “They bedazzle and stand out, leaving a lasting impression.”
Santos’ work is a juxtaposition of grace and extravagance. He has mastered how a fabric falls within a woman’s form. When asked about his particular fashion style, he replies confidently, “The Ezra Couture style symbolizes femininity but is strong and edgy.”
In recent years, Santos has been a frequent visitor to runways and fashion events. He particularly remembers three notable shows that were of particular significance. His first gala show in 2010, “In the Beginning,” marked his first official foray and exposed him to the highly competitive fashion industry. “Life-firsts are always remarkable,” he tells me. “The show was literally the beginning of new things for me.”
In 2016, he participated for the first time in “Fashion Forward,” a multiday celebration of style held twice a year in Dubai, featuring runway shows, presentations, exhibitions, talks, music and other cultural events. Santos’ show entitled Definiendo de Amor took inspiration from Spanish architect Gaudi’s art, which was extremely baroque and ornamental. “Fashion Forward” was a momentous occasion for the designer, and he was deeply excited for the opportunity. “By being part of ‘Fashion Forward Dubai,’ Ezra Couture got to showcase a unique collection in front of a deeply enthusiastic crowd. It allowed me to truly step into the fashion culture,” he notes.
His most recent show in early 2017 called “Weave of Love” provided Santos with a way of integrating his cultural identity into the fashion aesthetics. “It is a beautiful experience to always display something different but with an enriched cultural angle. This, I believe, is what made the season memorable for me,” he remembers. The craftsmanship shines forth in clothing, such as a handwoven palm leaf banig tikog (mat made of a grassy plant) skirt coupled with a cashmere turtleneck Swarovksi crystallized shirt. That is what Santos does best: marrying traditional Philippine elements with contemporary motifs and trends.
Creativity and diligence are self-evident in his work. But the designer also pays tribute to the individuals and fashion icons who have inspired him through the years. “I adore the celebrated French designer Erte, whose art deco influences from the ‘20s to the ‘60s, can still be seen in fashion pages today. I also profess my admiration for Christian Lacroix for his use of color and unimaginable combinations; John Galliano for his undisputed drama on-and-off the runway; and the original Monsieur Christian Dior who revolutionized women’s fashion after World War II. Their way of fashion has played a significant role in my career,” Santos elaborates.
Santos can never rest on his laurels what with a highly discerning clientele to serve. “Arab women are basically very fashionable women,” he opines. “They always want something unique.” This is what drives Santos to develop exceptional and striking creations, which have allowed him to become one of the leading fashion designers in the Middle East today.
Despite the fame, Santos is clearly not just about himself. He always gives due credit to the many artisans he works with. These relationships are vital to the critically acclaimed label of Ezra Couture. He is also deeply committed to furthering the Filipino culture within a wider global network through the use of traditional materials and techniques.
With fashion being constantly in flux, designer Ezra Santos knows change is inevitable; but an optimistic attitude allows him to take things all in stride. “It is important to continue to grow and learn the craft,” he advises. “Keep the inspiration up high, while remaining humble and happy with what you do. Remember, you are already the masterpiece!”