Jeffrey, Remembered

It was an ordinary Work-From-Home Tuesday morning for me – December 1st, it is my first day of the week, and a usual busy spin of reports, emails, and chat messages. My Messenger app kept on sounding off its notification, particularly from MSW 3 MODELS group chat, the group chat of the Manila Streetwear 3 participants. The usual first line of the messages read “Rest in Peace sir…”, but I didn’t bother checking the messages. Sometime after, I opened my Facebook and at the top of my News Feed is a post by Fadal Manila with a black and white photo of a younger Jeffrey Rogador with words from the caption stated “Thank you”, “dear friend”, “will never forget you”, and “rest in power”. 

The words, somehow became an utter blur and incomprehensible. 

WTF is this? I immediately thought. 

No. But why? 

Was he sick? Why him? 

For few seconds, denial took over me. 

Then I remembered the messages earlier from the MSW 3 MODELS group chat, I quickly checked and opened, and there it was already outpouring with “Rest in peace” messages from the members. So it must be true, I thought. In today’s reality, a news like this can spread fast but it is rare that it will turn out to be a fake one, at least from my experience. I still can’t believe it. It was a shock for me and pretty sure to everyone who knew him. I wasn’t able to focus on my work the entire day.

Every single quiet moment that day made me think and recall of my relationship with Jeff. I would consider him a friend of course, though we’re not close, but we are friendly when we get to see each other. He would always introduce me to someone else, he would enthusiastically point out and say “Blogger ‘to!” (He’s a blogger!). Though I’m not really a big one. Whenever I get to attend his shows during the past few years, I would always go backstage to find him or drop by his clothes rack spot, may it be before or after the show just to greet or say Hi, then express my support, and simply catch-up. Jeffrey was always accommodating, always friendly. I’d always feel his passion whenever he talk about and promote his work. He has a lot of supporters and he knows their names, and that for me is mark of a genuine person. He would always personally invite me to his shows which is a privilege and a great deal to me as I was just starting blogging and reviewing show collections. Even for a time that I’m not able to attend his shows for a number of seasons, he would still send me a personal invite and put me on his guest list afterwards. And I still did blog and write about his show collection, mind you, even if I wasn’t able to attend. 

I guess for me I’d call it as our professional bond – he gets to invite me, I attend or write about his show, he then shares my post, it’s a win-win situation. I don’t charge of course, blogging has ever been a passion of mine, attending fashion shows, getting inspired of the creative arts, and meeting the people behind it, is the payment itself. Jeff was able to tap that in me, I guess he recognized that benefit but nonetheless I’ll always be a fan of his renegade take in streetwear and his advocacies. Does that make me his #1 supporter? Of course not. There were also a lot of unseen or unresponded messages, invites I’m not able to go, requests that I’m unable to accommodate. There was a time that Jeff asked me to blog about his design work for a ballet production that I wasn’t able to write. There was also an instance of a delayed shipment of an order that took five months of follow-ups to be delivered, I was mildly disappointed with that, but he was responsive anyhow and I got the item, so I let that go. Looking back now I realized, he’s the only fashion designer I’ve been campaigning ever since. The grief is taking its time, with the loss of many jobs in the industry, no runway shows, fashion and retail is barely holding on, and now the passing of Jeff. It is such a sad thought. We’ve been robbed. How do you find the courage to go on?

I get to first see Jeffrey Rogador during the JAG Origins Show last Philippine Fashion Week Holiday 2013, he was one of the featured designers who gets to present a mini-collection, from then you can already see his immense talent in transforming everyday denim streetwear. It was also one of the very first runway shows I get to attend. I was also get to attend his collection show the same season, a take on fashion forward sportwear and formal wear. Then there was his Spring/Summer 2014 collection showcased during the PhFW Menswear segment. 

His next collection presented at PhFW Holiday 2014 was entitled JPNY, inspired by destination boards posted on local public utility vehicles (PUVs) around the urban metro, most commonly on jeepneys hence the JPNY. The collection appeal for me personally, put him on the commercial map and catapulted the brand big time on local fashion. The success of the collection resulted to collaborations with Folded N Hung apparels and with Converse Philippines, and was featured at MENSWEEK Style Origins 2014 shows until further evolving to JPNY 360 for Spring/Summer 2015. This was the first time I get to meet him personally, by his clothing racks with his recent and current collection, it was the height of the See Now, Buy Now trend. I remember introducing myself, not just by my real name, but with my blogger name too, and Jeffrey recognized TheStyleRandomGuy instantly.

His next collection for Holiday 2015 entitled Super Pinoy continued to pay homage to Philippine culture, this time to local national heroes. I didn’t get to meet Jeffrey that time, the backstage and audience area were tight as the show was held in a mall. Next was his Fish Market collection for Spring/Summer 2016 by which I wasn’t able to attend.

His collections went on as edgy yet artistic streetwear that has a high potential for mass market such as his Holiday 2016 Prints and Patterns, Holiday 2017 JRXX Philippines, and Spring/Summer 2018 Nipa Hut.

Back in May 2017, Jeff got to invite me on a Buyer’s Show which showcased his Holiday 2017 JRXX collection a week in advance. I ought to buy some pieces of course.

Then comes the Manila Streetwear events which had its first Cycle last June 2018 and the second Cycle last June 2019 which featured his Holiday 2019 JR+BR143 collection. The event catered regular people of all sizes, age, gender orientation, as models on the runway – its a fashion inclusion. I went to castings of course to support the advocacy and have a good time with the opportunity, not everyone gets to sashe on a runway! It also gave an opportunity for me to bond with Jeff that is outside of the regular fashion show. I got to see how he directs, choreographs, or of whatever creative stuff.

Before his untimely demise, we were already doing the Manila Streetwear Cycle 3 individual fashion shoots, clothes were on production, and social media postings. The project of course came to a halt, and it was unfortunate that we can longer finish it as no one else can spearhead, we no longer know where are the rest of the unfinished clothes, nor the payments made, nor the rest of the crew.

He could be one of my fashion heroes with the kind of talent, love for Filipino culture, and perseverance he had. I may know little about his work ethic or his creative process, but his vision and his ability to penetrate the fashion and business, was truly admirable.

I only got to finish writing now with almost five months since he passed away and picking up four months from the last draft of this article, but I still feel the loss. In a way I’m wishing his brand would be there when Philippine fashion reboots after this pandemic. He is a true artist. Jeffrey, you’ll be missed.

***

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