Jo Ann Bitagcol’s Debut Runway Collection is for Every Filipino of Any Age, Size and Gender

Jo Ann Bitagcol’s Debut Runway Collection is for Every Filipino of Any Age, Size and Gender


In an exclusive interview, MEGA talks to Jo Ann Bitagcol on how she honors Filipino indentity with her debut collection at BENCH Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2024

Fueled by creativity and the love of design, Jo Ann Bitagcol celebrates a visionary point of view on local craftsmanship and distinct designs—as seen in her outstanding collection at Bench Fashion Week 2024. In an exclusive interview, MEGA talks to the designer about the homage to culture and heritage she brought to the runway.

RELATED: Well-worn Love: Gabbie Sarenas Embraces the Happy and Intimate Moments with Handmade Designs

Multi-talented Jo Ann Bitagcol leads the first day of BENCH Fashion Week 2024

In her journey of modeling and photography, Jo Ann presented a monastic, almost ethereal persona to fashion design, coupled with a seamless blend of cultural richness with contemporary flair. Her line of art pieces is a debut assemblage of a reflection of her beliefs and a tribute to ancestry and heritage.

Jo Ann positions treasured elements from the past in a contemporary design

On beliefs in creating

Her design fusion of garments and fabrics elevates into contemporary wearable art. A ‘step up’ from her brand bitagcol, which accentuates photographs of Philippine costumes, Jo Ann enlivened Philippine heritage that adapts to time. The motivation for this direction comes from the designer’s desire to continue celebrating the Filipino blood. “My journey in fashion designing started with the brand ‘bitagcol’,” Jo Ann tells MEGA. “And with God’s grace, it was well received, so I decided to present more angles of it—an evolved version.”

Jo Ann’s designs toe the line between feminine and masculine, but ultimately wearable and beautiful

When asked what makes this particular collection stand out from her previous Baul and Tao, Jo Ann answers, “I used more piña fabrics, infused a bit of beadwork, produced a lot of long dresses, and made several looks for men this time.” The multi-talented artist is not one to shy away from the new and to step out into the familiar.

Jo Ann’s showcase began with Filipino-American singer June Marieezy’s Atin Ku Pung Seng Seng, a song that sampled the kapampangan traditional folk’s Atin Cu Pung Singsing. Jo Ann says, “The rationale for this is to emphasize the joy of looking in. The song is to acknowledge roots, culture, and ancestors through my own dialect, and the English vocals are a beautiful reminder to do what we love.”

The designer reimagines the traditional Philippine clothing with this collection

She is certainly living out her passion in the form of ever-changing art. Her interpretation of the baro, barong, and Maria Clara is drawn towards androgynous shapes and recurring motifs that include embroidery, floral patterns, and iterations of traditional clothing that are genderless and timeless. With this, it is vital to Jo Ann to spotlight Filipino excellence in her work. Her collection at the Bench runway showcased this belief and responsibility as a Filipino, as a photographer, and as a person in fashion. “It gives me a sense of purpose and direction,” she shares in her Bench opening. “This makes me very happy with myself, which is the most important goal.”

Jo Ann’s debut collection is a gateway to the world of local traditional clothing

Fashion appealing to all generations

MEGA also caught up with the designer after the show. Given that most of the team are young, Jo Ann was surprised when we told her we would love to have her pieces in our own closets. “You liked it?” she asks, to which most of the team enthusiastically says yes. “I’m so glad that even your generation resonates with my work.” 

The designer reimagines the traditional Philippine clothing with this collection

In the emergence of the digital age and modernity, Jo Ann’s designs express an interest in preserving and understanding the ways of the past. Her work is a representation of the Philippines’ appreciation for carefully considered beauty. Jo Ann’s pieces transcend time and appeal to all and different generations, seamlessly fitting into modern-day wardrobe.

That said, her fashion philosophy is to create wearable and comfortable pieces that are completely of Filipino essence. “I make sure to create for everyone regardless of gender, age, and body type,” Jo Ann tells MEGA. “I want everyone to have a piece of our culture.”

This collection debuted at Jo Ann’s first fashion show as a designer. Fondly, she says, “It was magical seeing our culture brought back to life. And I had a heavenly moment of receiving everyone’s love.”

Jo Ann presents pieces that are wearable and timeless
The designer mixed piña materials with linen and silk satin prints

Photography by EXCEL PANLAQUE of KLIQ INC.

Order your print copy of this month's MEGA Magazine:
Download this month's MEGA digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]