I am a big fan of Freeway’s National Artist Collector’s Series. It started out as an experiment in 2009 when the brand released apparel and other products inspired by and using the works of national artists Nick Joaquin (literature) and Ang Kiukok (visual arts). It proved to be successful that it became a biannual tradition honouring other legends such as F. Sionil Jose (literature), Levi Celerio (music), and Juan Luna (visual arts).

Last year was pretty special. Living National Artist Ben Cab’s works were immortalized through a gorgeous fashion collection, and the launch took place in CCP. It was so huge he was the only artist featured that year.

This year is pretty special, too. The featured National Artist is Abdulmari Imao, who is from Mindanao (just like our next president – mukhang siya na eh, noh?). He is the first and only Moro honoured as National Artist of the Philippines to date; apart from being a sculptor, he was also a painter, ceramist, photographer, filmmaker, and writer. Imao was a patron of Philippine Muslim art and culture so he’s best known for his use of and take on traditional Muslim motifs like the sarimanok.

At the Freeway x IMAO launch and tribute event in Glorietta 1 last night, May 18, 2016, Freeway presented a fashion show featuring models wearing a variety of clothes – dressy tops, graphic tees, jumpsuits, and dresses – with the images of Imao’s sculptures and paintings. I love the use of bright colors in most of the pieces, but it’s good to know they have ones in neutrals, as well.

Those look-at-me headpieces/wigs also looked cool, noh? According to Sheree, they were borrowed from a play/musical, but they looked as if they were made specifically for the collection!

After the fashion show, host Lexi Schulze interviewed Duffie Hufana Osental, who is the editor in chief of Art+ magazine, and Toym Imao, the son of Abdulmari Imao. The chitchat session proved to be very informative and entertaining, with Toym sharing how it was to grow up in a house full of artists and where art is part of everyday life.

Before the program, Sheree introduced me to Toym and he showed me the six three-dimensional structures he made, each one representing a different stage of his father’s life. He was nice enough to share the back story of each one. He also shared that there are plans to show the exhibit around in Mindanao to inspire students and young artists with the success story of his father, who didn’t let poverty stop him from learning about art and having it as a career.

And since we’re on the subject of young artists, Freeway also presented the winners of their annual Art Bag Design Contest: Dondon Cerbito’s “Bugan” and Leah Liza Advincula’s “La Filipiniana Terno.” I told Sheree I still plan to join the contest. Can’t wait to go onstage for that one of these years! ;) Actually, the best thing about winning in that contest is how your bags become available at Freeway and The Row stores nationwide.

Do check the bags and the #FreewayxIMAO collection by visiting Freeway and The Row stores, you can also find them in Zalora.

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