Salvacion Lim Higgins: National Fashion Design Artist
“While Salvacion Lim-Higgins masterfully innovated and transformed the national costume into a world-class silhouette, inspiring generations of Filipino designers.”
Sixteen years after Ramón Valera was declared a National Artist, another fashion designer posthumously received “the highest national recognition bestowed upon Filipinos who have made a distinct contribution to the development of Filipino arts and culture.”
In an announcement that pleasantly surprised the arts and culture circle, Malacañang Palace, on the joint recommendation of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), officially released the names of eight new national artists on June 10, 2022.
Salvacion Lim Higgins was born on January 28, 1920 in Legazpi, Albay. She died on September 15, 1990, a few days after designing her last collection. Known as Slim, she was a feisty, feisty woman who “blurred the divide between the conventional and the contemporary, rejecting literal interpretations of Filipino and Western fashion” is one way to describe her immense impact that reverberates to this day.
According www.slimslegacy.comHiggins’ work has helped define modern Filipino couture with three defining elements:
“The first was an inventive, often daring construction. Her characteristic drape accentuated the female form, but she also often modified it, through whimsical or geometric shapes.
Her second signature was a surprising palette that was completely out of the ordinary, whether used as a dramatic single shade or in previously unimaginable combinations.
Finally, there was Slim’s ability to think in three dimensions, whether she was drawing the silhouette or the lines of a dress, or dealing with the smallest detail of ornamentation.
The “Slim’s Method” was taught at Slim’s Fashion & Arts School, founded in 1960 by Slim and his older sister, Purificacion Lim Zurhorst. He taught in-depth technical courses in fashion design and sewing/patterning to equip students with the fundamental skills needed to start a career in fashion or set up their own boutiques.
Jackie C. Aquino, fashion show director and co-founder of the Philippine Fashion Coalition, was one of many fashion professionals who endorsed Slim as a National Artist.
And when the pioneering Filipina finally received the accolade, Aquino said, “It means a lot to the industry that we love so much because this recognition validates our belief that fashion is the best visual representation of any culture and civilization.”
As an avant-garde couture designer, Slim was heavily influenced by Cristóbal Balenciaga and Christian Dior. By being an avant-garde Girl Boss, she in turn opened doors for creative women. It is his school, however, that is his greatest legacy. It produced stellar talents who went on to carve out remarkable careers in fashion.
Distinguished alumni include Zenaida Tecson, Eddie Ocampo and Oskar Peralta (1961), Joe Salazar (1960s), Cesar Gaupo (1965), Dom Martin “Gang” Gomez, OSB (1968), Loretto Popioco (1974), Ezra Santos (1980), Oliver Tolentino (1988), Michael Cinco (1991), Alex Pigao (1991), Joey Samson (1992), James Reyes (2004) and Aries Lagat (2005).
Here are some thoughts from an extremely proud alumnus.
- CHITO VIJANDRE (1977): It’s well deserved. Salvacion Lim Higgins was a pioneer in the world of fashion, a very innovative seamstress who pushed the limits but always with good taste and with the best know-how – values and skills that she passed on to us and that made us inspired so far.
- ALBERT ANDRADA (1990s): Salvacion Lim Higgins deserves to be a national artist. She has educated many designers on what “couture” really is. One of the most important values I learned from Slim’s is discipline, dedication and commitment to being a designer. I learned to be very meticulous in every detail from the construction of a dress down to its smallest. This, to this day, helps me create perfect pieces that I’m so proud of.
- PABLO MENDEZ III (1993): She deserves it 101%. She has contributed immensely to the fashion industry of this country and not only that, she has also educated, mentored and shaped thousands of aspiring and successful fashion designers including myself. I feel a huge sense of pride to have been his mentor. She is a big part of everything I have done and will do. The values and lessons I learned are diligence, patience, striving to be innovative and creative, never stop learning, and always finding something that will make you inspired and productive.
- JAZ CEREZO (2006): I think it’s great that the late Salvacion Lim Higgins is now being honored and recognized as a National Artist. Her talent, contribution and legacy to the fashion industry in the Philippines is unparalleled. At Slim’s, I learned how to create my designs from scratch, from fashion illustration to clothing construction. During my time as a student, they had a different teaching method that allowed students to learn at their own pace. They taught us that it’s not how quickly you complete a project that counts, but how well you build it.