by Mafelou C. Leagogo-Agriam
The first time Miag-ao-born designer Nono Palmos put-up a dress shop in Iloilo City was in the early 80s. It was located in the Rosales compound along Gen. Luna Street. After a couple of successful years creating well-cut and beautiful clothes for Iloilo City’s glitterati, the electric energy of Manila’s fashionscape lured him to relocate business to the country’s financial capital, Makati City.
In the highly competitive world of fashion, he established a solid reputation as a designer, gaining a star-studded following. Among his valued clients were award-winning actress and now newly elected Batangas Congresswoman Vilma Santos, another award-winning actress Nora Aunor, former actress and now wife of an Ilocos Sur Congressman, Dina Bonnevie, beauty queen Melanie Marquez, young matinee idol Aljur Abrenica, and actress Bela Padilla, among others.
Just a month ago, however, Nono Palmos once again announced his iconic presence in Iloilo City by opening a spacious and well-appointed atelier located on the second floor of the B&C Square Building along Iznart Street. The boutique is called Kalye, whose interior was designed by Armi Piamonte of Manila, a product of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York.
In the Men’s and Women’s Departments, respectively, are racks of very attractive, crease-free formal and informal wearables made of handwoven hablon (or patadyong) textiles mixed with conventional soft clothing materials or other indigenous textiles, like the handwoven Yakan of Mindanao (as accents) and pina handwoven fabric of Aklan (for the barongs). Interested clients can pick one out to suit any event.
Absolutely eye-catching (and jaw-dropping!) are the exquisite, colorful, long swatches of fabrics well-arranged and hanging in a wide open closet. These beautiful, finely-produced and intricate clothing materials feature laser cuttings, hand-paintings or dainty embroideries. A client can choose from any of the swatches from which to commission an elegant long gown, a billowing skirt, a stunning blouse or a knock-out dress.
These unique fabrics, it is learned, are made in Nono’s textile factory in Makati. Their unusual designs alone already give his shops here and in the country’s capital city a comfortable lead and edge for distinctiveness over his colleagues in the creation and fashion business. Assisting him in the areas of textile research and technology is Manila-based entrepreneur Raphael Kiefer. Prominently likewise in Nono’s list of very valuable persons are his aunts US-based Marie Toralballa (now retired from the International Monetary Fund or IMF), and Mae Tess Toralballa of Iloilo City for their unqualified support to his profession and craft.