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One such polymath is Jerome Lorico. He oscillates between fashion design, art, writing, mentoring, teaching, and, if you have access to his private account, social media-based punditry. His posts are lucid yet strongly-worded critiques on the state of mediocrity, railings on political abuses or injustices, and at times, pointed jabs at a decline of common sense—all stark contrasts to his generally shy, measured, and soft-spoken demeanor.

Jerome’s creative fluency cross-pollinates his writing and designing abilities. Pick up a piece of his garment, and it will be somehow apparent: His plot is a careful weaving of longing, imagination, and cultural references. Words are his fabrics, design his grammar, cut his syntax, and material manipulations and finishes his diacritics and punctuations. These combine into well-crafted pieces imbued with innovative details, cultural curiosities, and engaging narratives that make the clothes become wearable poetry.

LORICO, Jerome’s namesake brand, is the go-to fix for the confident, stylish, sharp, and fiercely loyal folks who embrace the designer’s maverick spirit, originality, and distinctive point of view. Fellow designers are openly vocal about their admiration for his talent, techniques, and authenticity. Yet it was a challenging, circuitous path before he reached this point of esteem.


We harken back to a young boy in a handicraft factory in a small town in Albay.

“My earliest memory was actually sleeping on top of the boxes of handicrafts in Bicol,” he candidly reveals about his humble beginnings. “That’s when I actually started getting really fascinated with anything that’s created, anything that’s tactile because, at a very young age, I was exposed to the different materials.”

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Growing up with meager means, he talks about having no access to the world of creativity, the pangs of jealousy for classmates with an expanded box of crayons, and walking up to school on top of a hill. The most ‘stylish’ event in the sleepy province is when people dress up for the kurodalan – the dance held in the plaza or a basketball court. He recounts his initial brush with the world of fashion through the colors and captions in his mother’s Avon catalogs. The most transformational awareness of fashion came one day courtesy of the television show F! (hosted by Cher Calvin, Angel Aquino, and Daphne Ocena). F! was instrumental for the young Jerome to discover the Philippine Fashion Design Competition.

“I remember vividly what really inspired me. It was FDCP’s Philippine Fashion Design Competition. Jojie Lloren won the FDCP grand prize and was sent to Paris to compete and won the grand prize there. That single news on a TV program inspired me because they mentioned that the materials Jojie used were wood beads. The corset was made of abaca, it was molded abaca, and abaca was very familiar to me.”

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Jerome’s father disapproves of this fashion awakening and regularly shreds the young boy’s fashion drawings. This reduces Jerome to tears but does not discourage him. He goes on drawing and hides his designs. This flourishing creative inclination has an upside: Jerome wins local drawing and design competitions and uses the prize money to buy groceries that please his mother. Yet the kindled fashion sense kept secretly burning. He made a decision to excel in school. This will be his passport to Manila to pursue his dream to design. His early heartbreak was wanting to enroll in the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. However, they could not afford the bus fare to Manila, so he enrolled in Bicol University, where he majored in Communications Literature and graduated with honors.

Running away from home after graduation, with nothing in his arms but a cigarette box containing his clothes, a backpack, and a few crumpled hundreds in his pocket, he rode the bus to find a job in the capital city. He hand-carried his CV to notable designers’ ateliers and never heard from them again. Money is running out, so he decided to look for a corporate job. Eventually, he landed an interview on PLDT’s customer service floor and got the job, but later found out that a design competition was about to happen. After a day of orientation, he decided to quit and pursue the competition instead. It was a stressful time laced with self-doubts, but his gambit paid off. The sketch he sent became a national semi-finalist, an incredible achievement since he’s the only one who is not a fashion designer or has any background in fashion design.

He went home to Bicol to make his entry, but he didn’t have money to produce the garment, so he sent out letters to Municipal and provincial governments, only to be disappointed. He cried by the municipal hall stairwell after he was handed P50 for the fare to go home. He persisted, and eventually, a cooperative gave him bus tickets to Manila, but he is short of a couple of thousands more. Then one day, his mother handed him P1,500 to cover the rest of the expense. His father sold all his chickens to subsidize his son’s dream to compete.

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All the initial struggles ended in failure as his entry was not chosen for the top prize. Yet the setbacks, losses, and heartbreaks are not deterrents for a determined, creative, and passionate dreamer.

Jerome eventually triumphs, winning many international competitions. Most notable were the ones in Japan (judged no less than the legendary Hanae Mori). With the winning prize money, he labored to finance his designs and collections. Eventually, his work was noticed, and he was invited to Singapore Fashion Week.

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The Singapore show led a chain of events. During the after-party, he was approached to join London Fashion Week. He applied, was accepted, and later discovered that The Philippines had already endorsed Mich Dulce as an official delegate to the prestigious London show. Both of them went, but unlike the other invited country representatives, the two had no government support. They soldiered on despite the lack of resources. Having no money to present their collection in the Fashion Week venue, they showed their clothes in a couple of small rooms in the Philippine Embassy.

Jerome’s innovative knits and sculptural dresses got noticed, and he got encouraged by a fashion week attendee to send his CV to an unspecified brand. Intrigued, he followed suit. This resulted in two weeks of tense waiting, a return ticket to Manila about to expire, running out of money, sleeping on the couch, and doing household chores and errands for a benevolent friend who sheltered him while he waited for the result.

The anonymous brand turned out to be the revered Alexander McQueen.

If his competition triumphs in Japan made him aware of a different level of craft, creativity, and design, the McQueen experience gave him a window into a proper global brand’s inner workings. It refined his techniques, polished his point of view, and elevated his creative aspirations. He recalls how the interview was a nerve-wracking experience, gripped with fear, self-doubt, and a sinking feeling that he had let himself down. Eventually, his competitive nature and inner fighter kicked into high gear, and he managed to demonstrate his sense of determination, skill, and blossoming talent.


Returning to Manila, he established his brand, had a critical and commercial collaboration with directional denim brand VIKTOR, had successful fashion week presentations, and a runaway hit solo show. He later accepted fashion design advisory positions in the country’s top academic institutions like Mint College and DLSU-College of St. Benilde. He has proven his design chops and ability to build a brand, but something about his hometown cannot be untangled regardless of where or what he designs.

He feels that Albay and Bicol’s imprints are fertile bedrocks of inspiration and a sense of unshakeable longing.

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“Even though I’ve been longing to be in the city for the longest time, deep inside my heart, I’ve always wanted to stay in a place like my province. To have quiet nights where you can hear crickets,” he wistfully declares. “Whenever I’m sad, back when I was young, I would just go to our rooftop, and I would stargaze. I would just look at the shadows of the mango trees growing on the hills. This is what my childhood was all about. If I was not a big dreamer, I wouldn’t be in the city. But at the same time, that dream was also founded with what was around me when I was young.”

“I believe that your origin is very important,” he adds. “Roots are very important because it is where you come from, and where you come from actually not just affects who you are right now, but it can actually determine where you’re heading. It’s impossible to actually erase the things you’ve been experiencing in the past. It’s essential to appreciate who you are right now because I believe that a person also changes. You evolve, that’s true, but it’s vital for people, not just creative people or people with dreams, any ordinary person, to actually really find who you are. And you can only find that out if you know and acknowledge your origin.”

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Anyone attempting to condense Jerome’s accomplishments so far will struggle: how can you give justice to such prodigious talent, risk-taking feats, and compelling struggles in the confines of a thousand words?

He humbly admits that he is still evolving. If you care to listen closely, while he talks of pushing forward, the deep roots of his earliest years in Albay and Bicol find their way into the unhurried enunciations of his answers. It draws you to see the lateral branches that reach deeper into a visionary pool of memories and yearning. It’s down there that exceptional beauty springs from to blossom and capture imaginations everywhere.

A condensed version of this was published by LawigStories.

Writer Ric Gindap
Photography All photos provided by Lorico Team
Date Published July 19, 2022