Following his victory in 1994, MEGA Young Designers Competition Alumn Furne One showcased his skills on an international stage, and now, he’s ready to accomplish his next major goals
In a world where being different often slows down progress, Filipino designer Furne One found his strength. Almost three decades after winning MEGA’s Young Designers Competition, he’s certainly achieved a myriad of milestones, including dressing different international celebrities and continuously putting our nation on the global fashion map. With the YDC returning, we caught up with the Dubai-based designer to talk about how the competition changed his life, his best tips for the upcoming finalists, and most importantly, the sincere ambitions he has for the future.
How YDC changed him
Pondering his competition experience, One recalls how MEGA not only challenged him as a designer, but also contributed to his personal growth. He explains that YDC transformed his perception of fashion, admitting, “I was so young [back then]. To me, being a designer was all about glamor, shows, and parties. But as a finalist, it changed me; you have to be conscious, you have to be responsible.” He stresses how the experience broadened his perspective on presenting a collection, highlighting the importance of other factors like quality and wearability. With sincerity, he also reflects, “Of course, the highlight is winning the competition.”
Beyond dunes and designs
Even though he’s now a well-known Dubai-based designer, One reveals he initially took a different route before reaching this point. Following his competition win, he ventured to cities like Paris and New York, testing his skills and becoming an apprentice for Filipino-American fashion designer Josie Natori. Returning to the Philippines, he continued his career. However, it was Dubai that truly opened doors for him. A self-proclaimed maximalist, he vividly recalls his first step into the city, likening it to “heaven” due to its prominent fashion scene.
Despite the achievements now associated with his name, the Filipino designer openly shares that his beginnings were tougher than they might appear. Not being a local originally posed challenges, limiting his opportunities. Working in private shops, he felt confined, missing out on chances to explore his potential as a fashion designer. Seeking a challenge, he finally got the opportunity to showcase his collection one day. “I did everything, and everybody loved it because it’s quite different from what they were doing,” he says. Thankfully, his close friend and textile expert, Rashid Ali, saw the show and approached him with the idea of starting their own shop. Therefore, Amato was born.
Unleashing the unconventional
“For me, it’s easier to do avant-garde. I think it’s my DNA.”Furne One
Talking about his design style, One says he favors the avant-garde. He believes it’s this choice that sets him apart, even attributing his 1994 MEGA Young Designers Competition win to it. He recalls asking the judges about his victory, and they unanimously agreed that his uniqueness gave him an edge. Describing his winning collection, he used unconventional materials like daster dresses and umbrellas, presenting a couture tropical fashion line. His message? Sometimes, being different is all it takes to stand out.
From edgy to elegant
A fascinating growth in his journey as a designer is his venture into creating dresses for pageant contestants, particularly those in Miss Universe. Initially daunting due to the contrast between traditional pageant dresses and his avant-garde style, he embraced the challenge during the height of the pandemic. He was approached to design the gown for Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo, and the Filipino designer rose to the occasion. The result? A fiery orange Phoenix gown adorned with intricate beadwork—a masterpiece that Filipinos regretted not seeing on the Miss Universe 2020 finals stage. Another standout creation was a shining gray gown with a veil for Miss Universe Pakistan 2023 Erica Robin, earning applause during the preliminary competition. Despite the ongoing challenge, the fashion designer honestly admits, “I’m enjoying pageantry now.”
When asked for advice for young designers, especially those gearing up for MEGA’s YDC, the Filipino fashion designer keeps it straightforward: “You have to respect every designer’s aesthetic. But for me, just be you. And don’t be afraid.” He encourages aspiring creatives to pursue their passions and adds a belief in luck. Despite not considering himself the best designer, he emphasizes that with luck and good timing, anything is possible—just as it happened for him a few decades ago.
An exciting sartorial reunion
Discussing their new prêt-à-porter line, One highlights its significance as a major focus for their company. Noticing significant support for Amato’s ready-to-wear pieces, they are determined to make them more mainstream. When asked about other future plans, the Filipino designer takes a moment, admitting uncertainty. He honestly acknowledges achieving a lot already and feels it’s about time to recharge and regain some energy. “I want to go home,” he confesses, concluding our conversation with an anticipated return.
Photos: MEGA ARCHIVES