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Manila meets Melrose Avenue

August 24, 2009 |  6:00 am
Designer Oliver Tolentino’s new store and atelier on a stretch of Melrose Avenue just west of Robertson Boulevard is a far cry from his family home in the provinces of the Philippines, where he learned to sew as a Copy of IMG_3195 child. 

Tolentino has made a name for himself over the past two decades as one of the Philippines' most sought-after wedding dress and evening gown designers. His clientele includes Asia’s biggest pop stars as well as Imelda Marcos, for whom he recently created an 80th birthday dress. 

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The new space on Melrose (he also has a boutique in Manila) houses his ready-to-wear and couture collections, many made from native Filipino fabrics such as piña (pineapple fiber). He also has a rack of Barongs (a sheer, tunic-style shirt worn like a tuxedo in the Philippines) and wedding dresses with intricate embroidery and hand-sewn, pleated satin appliques. 

Though he’s made the leap across the Pacific to try his couture skills stateside, Tolentino hasn’t forgotten where he came from -- his 35-person production team still makes everything in the Philippines, and he incorporates traditional Filipino craftsmanship into clothing. However, you wouldn't necessarily notice the cultural influence in some pieces, such as the striking red gowns displayed in his store’s front window.  “Some women stop in and comment, ‘Wow, it looks like Valentino’” the designer says. “And I say, ‘It’s not Valentino, it’s Tolentino.” 

Oliver Tolentino Boutique, 9003 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, Calif. 90069

-- Melissa Magsaysay

Photos: A runway look, above right, from designer Oliver Tolentino, who is shown above left. Credits: Oliver Tolentino

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