Esther Gaor Brings Life To The Modern Fairy Tale in Her DEBUT Collection
Esther Gaor graduated summa cum laude from the Fashion Design program at FIDM and was accepted into the prestigious Advanced Study Fashion Design program where she received a scholarship. After nine months of intensive theoretical research and collection development, she will be showing her inspired designs on the runway, Thursday, August 18, 2022, in FIDM’s Annual DEBUT Runway Show event, live-streaming at 6:00 PM PDT. “My collection, ‘One Day x Day One,’ is based on the concept of bringing life to the modern fairy tale,” she said, “removing all the limitations and boundaries that the world has established and letting the inner dreamer experience life to the fullest.” Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, the designer attended Living Epistle Christian Academy, then earned a B.S. in Entrepreneurship from the University of Santo Tomas and a Fashion Design degree from the Fashion Institute of the Philippines before moving to the U.S. to attend FIDM. We caught up with her to learn more about her incredible journey.
Tell us a little about yourself: As a kid who grew up in an environment where opportunities are rare, and money is essential to survive, I became more motivated to dream bigger and give my all in everything I do. As a working student, I do the work—not for the grades, the teachers, the school, or my employer—I do the work for myself because whatever I produce represents who I am as a person and as a designer, and that is why when I am given a project or task to do, I make sure that by the end of it, I will be happy with the work I put out.
Tell us about your DEBUT collection: Like myself, not everyone is born into a privileged family. I grew up in the slums where food is scarce and the clothes we wore were hand-me-downs from our neighbors and relatives. I began focusing my attention on fairy tales that bring us into a place where we forget our challenges in life and let us see the world from a whole new perspective. As a result, I nurtured a dream that one day my family and I would be able to live and dream freely towards our happy ending.
My DEBUT collection, “One Day x Day One,” is based on the concept of bringing life to the modern fairy tale, removing all the limitations and boundaries that the world has established and letting the inner dreamer experience life to the fullest—transforming your One Day Dream into your Day One. With this, I will be combining the intricacy of the architectural designs of what we see every day and the ethereal essence of what we can only imagine. I will be executing this concept through the process of color blocking, paneling, gradient printing, and embellishment.
What silhouettes and fabrics can we expect to see? My collection is mixed with different weights of fabric to create depth and dimension. Some will be more fluid, and some will have a structure derived from the architecture we see around us. My garments have a lot of pattern work and paneling as one skirt has 120 pattern pieces, one coat has 94 pattern pieces, one skirt has 66 pattern pieces, and more.
What is your point of view, as a designer? To take the ordinary and make it remarkable, a short but potent phrase that ignited my love for fashion. I see fashion as my ultimate form of self-expression. Through passion and dedication, I believe we can transform ideas into reality.
How do you hope people will feel when they see your designs? I hope that when people see my collection and my designs, they will feel the emotions I have felt throughout this journey. That despite all the challenges that broke us down in life, as we piece our life together, we find the beauty in those seams that make us who we are as creatives and make us stronger as individuals.
What inspires you as a creative and as a fashion designer? My main inspiration is my family. My parents are both pastors and they travel to different countries and ministries to help them and support us. They have sacrificed so much and there are times when I would see them physically exhausted, but they will fight a good fight of faith to provide for us. I am the youngest of three, and our age gap is 9 years, and because my parents would always be away to do missions, my siblings became my parents, and they were there to guide me as I grow older. My family is everything to me, even from far away, I know that they are with me on this journey, and everything that I am doing is for them.
From a design perspective, everything around me inspires me. When given an opportunity to stroll, take a walk and go out, I see a lot of beauty around us. Even in the napkins, we see at the restaurant, you can translate it to pleats that create this structure that you can further explore. I always take photos when I see things that inspire me because one day, I might come back to them and use them for my next collection.
What is a lesson you've learned as you've been working on your collection? Aside from managing my time and doing the work, I think what really helped me throughout this journey are the people around me. At times when I feel so exhausted, and I am physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, I go to the people around me and share to them my progress and I realized that talking about my collection ignites my passion to work more towards my dream. It makes me more excited about the things I am about to create and I feel rewarded for the things I have accomplished. Also, be kind to the people around you, not just the people who you think are above you, greet your professors, the staff, the security, and the people who do maintenance, they are the ones who are working in the background to help you achieve your goal.
Tell us about your path to FIDM: In 2017, I finished Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines. In one of my classes there, a professor told me that I was not good at sewing, and that statement pushed me to be the best seamstress and pattern maker that I could be. I started creating clothes for myself and people around me began noticing my talent and I did projects with friends and relatives until they began referring me to other people and that is when I established “Esther Gaor Couture,” a design shop for custom-made evening wear, bridal wear, and casual wear. I established the shop on my own, I would be sewing and doing patterns day and night and it enhanced all my skills in production. After my first year of doing everything by myself, I started to hire people and began leading a group of individuals to produce lines for entourage parties. From August 2017 – June 2019, I have sewn over 300 garments including gowns, suits, and dresses.
At that point, I had reached the limit of what I could learn on my own and I needed to upgrade my knowledge in fashion, so I decided to study abroad and found FIDM. When I first entered the building, I saw the DEBUT Runway Show on the screen and I said to myself, “one day I will be a part of that,” even though I knew it was impossible as I lacked the resources. But that did not hinder me from doing my best. I have worked my way through the top of my classes, won several competitions, and have been a part of school collaborations including:
- Chairing Styles 2021
- Top 8 Fashion Designers for HBO Max: Genera+ion Series 2021
- FIDM: President’s Honor Roll GPA 3.97, Summa Cum Laude
- Keedo x Fedisa x FIDM International Collaboration 2021
- Fibershed Design Challenge 2021
- CottonWorks x FIDM: Fundamentals of Cotton 2 Second Place 2020
- CottonWorks x FIDM: Cotton Sustainability 1 Finalist 2020
- Lucky Brand Face Me Mask Competition Finalist 2020
When I graduated some professors recommended that I apply for the DEBUT program and I thought to myself, that there probably would be hundreds of students who would apply for it, and most likely that I won’t get in because there are only 10 slots. But I applied because I didn’t want to regret not trying. After a month, they called me and told me that I got in. I was so happy and I was in tears and they told me that I had to enroll as soon as possible to reserve my slot. When I found out the tuition fee, I had no choice but to back out because I lacked the resources to enroll. After that call, I cried to God. It felt like I was so close to my dream and then got pulled away from it. But I knew his plan was greater than mine and said to myself, “I don’t have to be sad because one door closed, I should be happy because another door is about to open.”
After a month, FIDM offered me a full scholarship to study Advanced Fashion Design. I couldn’t believe it. I was crying with happiness; my heart couldn’t contain it. How could a kid from the slums get an opportunity to study at one of the top fashion schools in America? I am beyond grateful to God, my family, and my school for believing in what I can do, and that is why I am here today, giving my all to produce this collection with all I’ve got.
How is FIDM helping you get closer to your career goals? FIDM has helped me so much and has become a huge part of my life. Because of their resources, I was able to get into collaborations, win competitions and get multiple jobs. I am currently doing part-time as a lead wedding stylist for Maradee Wahl on the weekends and have been teaching some students in the sewing lab hours on the weekdays. I want to give back to FIDM so I try to teach the next generation with all that I know when it comes to pattern making, sewing tips, and garment construction. Hopefully, after DEBUT, I will be able to work as a full-time designer or part of the production team, because I want to learn more from the people who are already in the industry and become the best version of me.
Any advice for someone considering applying to be a DEBUT student? If you are thinking about applying, don’t hesitate and just apply. Don’t think that you are not capable because if a girl like me who came from the slums was given this opportunity, then why not you. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what you have, what matters is what you can do. Show them what you are capable of. In your classes, do your best not for the grades but for yourself; don’t stop until you’re satisfied with your work because whatever you produce will represent you and that is what people want to see. If given an opportunity to do a project, do, even more, think of ways where you will stand out in the crowd because in the industry that mindset of creativity will bring you far and will get you recognized. Test the waters, expand your boundaries and push your limits because it will transform you to be the best version of yourself.
But when you get there, don’t forget where you came from and the people around you; always remember to stay grounded and humble. Our stories make us who we are, and one day it might be your turn to inspire another upcoming designer to go for their dream.