Rebel With a Cause: Designer Salvacion Lim Higgins Is the Second National Artist for Fashion - Arts & Culture

Higgins, who passed away in 1990, shares the honor with Ramon Valera.

Fashion designer Salvacion Lim Higgins, also known as Slim, is one of the eight National Artists proclaimed this year. 

The other arts and culture honorees include actress Nora Aunor, the late director Marilou Diaz Abaya, screenwriter and novelist Ricky Lee, choreographer Agnes Locsin, soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, stage director and theater actor Tony Mabesa, and poet Gemino Abad.

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These men and women championing arts and culture were selected by Malacañang Palace with recommendations from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Defining modern couture

Higgins, an Albay native, passed away in 1990 at 70. She left a legacy of defining modern Philippine couture by accenting the female form, often altering it. 

Higgins would constrict geometric shapes in the silhouette or make out-of-the-ordinary color combinations. “My mother herself was the rebel in her family,” Higgins’ son Salvacion wrote for ANCx

“She had an artistic streak, along with a fiery temper. So my very gentle Chinese grandfather was never really able to ‘control’ her. She pretty much got away with calling the shots and being herself.”

Breaking the rules was of the designer’s personality traits. However, she did follow a technique. The “Slims Method” was taught at the Slim’s Fashion and Arts School, founded by Higgins and her sister Purificacion Lim Zurhorst.

Famous alumni

It taught draping, patternmaking, and other fundamental skills for budding designers to kickstart a fashion career. 

The school’s alumni feature today’s superstar designers such as Albert Andrada, Michael Cinco, Martin Bautista, Cesar Gaupo, Joey Samson, Ezra Santos, and Oskar Peralta (who was its first-ever student in 1960, and Huggins’ mentee). 

“Salvacion Lim Higgins deserves to be a National Artist,” Andrada told Business Mirror. “She educated a lot of designers on what ‘couture’ really is. One of the most important values I learned from Slim’s is the discipline, dedication, and commitment of being a designer.” 

He added that up to this day, after graduating in the nineties, Andrada still credits Slim’s school for making pieces he’s proud of. 

Significant contributions

Throughout her profession, Higgins, who Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga inspired, carried the reputation of Filipino fashion.

 Her ball gowns were exhibited in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC—the same institutions where some of her creations are archived. 

Higgins is only the second National Artist for Design (Fashion), an honor she shares with Ramon Valera, who was named in 2006. 

“Slim’s Fashion & Arts School is deeply honored to announce that our founder, Salvacion Lim Higgins, has just been conferred the title of National Artist in the category of Design,” the school wrote in a Facebook post. 

“The Order of National Artists Award (Order ng Gawad Pambansang Alagad ng Sining) is the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts and letters.

“Slim’s Fashion & Arts School was founded in 1960 and is now not only the oldest fashion institution in the country but the only fashion institution founded by a National Artist.” 

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