An Interview with Furne One, When Couture Goes Pop

dsc_0343.jpg

Furne One’s name may not be on everybody’s lips but in the last five years the Dubai-based Filipino designer has built an enviable celebrity contact list: Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Beyoncé, Jessie J, and Lady Gaga are just some of the mega pop stars to have called on him to design one-of-a-kind outfits for their videos, world tours and red carpet appearances. The creative director and owner of Amato Haute Couture had already built a select couture clientele in the Middle East when he was chosen by model and TV host Heidi Klum to create dresses for the finale on Germany’s Next Top Model in 2008. On set, he met Katy Perry who was performing live, and, as they say, the rest is history.

The songstress asked him to create outfits for her 2011 “California Dreams” tour including a dress shaped like a birthday cake as well as outfits for her Wide Awake video and red carpet appearances at theMTV Awards and the American Music Awards. Other divas soon joined her, helping consolidate his presence in the music industry as the go-to designer for fantasy stage costumes.

“It’s every designer’s dream to dress up celebrities,” muses the 46-year-old designer, adding that he very much enjoys working with pop stars because it allows him to think out of the box, though within some pre-set parameters of course: “For the red carpet it is always limited to ‘less is more’, but for a concert, it’s the crazier, the better, so artistically it’s much more fun,” he notes.

“Of course it’s very important to understand what the artist wants to convey on stage,” he says, adding, “For Katy’s first tour, her team gave me some guidelines; it was to be more candy colors, fun, young, pop. And then I also had to keep in mind how quickly she needed to change. Nothing could be heavy, and nothing corseted because she would be singing, and she needed to be able to move easily.”

His designs have also been used to create striking images in commercials, like one for Absolut Vodka featuring electronic music groupSwedish House Mafia and for Smirnoff featuring Amber Rose.

The over-the-top world of costume designs for pop stars couldn’t be further away from the delicate, refined couture creations the designer is used to creating for his couture clientele, but both worlds have one thing in common: Furne One designs for a self-confident woman “who is comfortable in her skin.”

After studying Fine Arts at the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines, majoring in advertising — because “That was the closest I could come to fashion.” — Furne One, born Fernando Barrios, won the top prize of the inaugural Mega Magazine Young Designers Competition. One of the judges was Filipino-American fashion designer Josie Natori, CEO and founder of New York-based The Natori Company, who invited Furne One to work as an apprentice in her design house, giving him the opportunity “to travel and see ‘real’ fashion.”

In 1997, he decided to move to Dubai and shortly after impressed one of the members of the royal family, for whom he worked for 10 years. In 2002, he set up his own brand, Amato (beloved in Italian) with textile expert Rashid Ali. “The idea at first was really to have a bridal shop, but it has expanded.

Clients in the Middle East love to dress up, they love drama, and they appreciate intricate fabrics and hand-stitched designs,” he explains.

His collections often mesh cultures, layering eastern and western elements with many embellishments. His latest “Immaculate Abduction” Spring Summer 2015 collection has a futuristic yet romantic air in a palette of white, ecru, and ivory.

“It was A Space Odyssey meets the Victorians,” he says, adding that its inspiration stemmed from the Stanley Kubrick film. Using surface texturing techniques, Furne One has created stunning pieces with tonal lace embroideries, rubans, sequins, and Swarovski crystals, while also using Perspex to complete the futuristic theme.

“It was a collage of everything I like,” he explains. Looking ahead, the designer is ‘testing” the market in Los Angeles in a multi-brand boutique and is hoping that one day he will be able to set up his own full boutique there.

“Celebrities are there and being in Los Angeles is the best way to reach them!”

As first published in Blouin Lifestyle Magazine - March 2015 Edition