The industry veteran died peacefully, leaving behind an impressive body of work that continues to inspire fashion designers both new and old.
On May 27, the family of acclaimed fashion designer Pepito Albert announced that he had passed away “peacefully.” The statement, forwarded to the BusinessWorld by a publicist of Albert’s, also wrote: “As you all know, he has been battling colon cancer for almost two years. Today, he joins Ramon, Mommy, and Daddy in heaven. While we are very sad, we are consoled in the knowledge that he is in a much better place free from sickness and pain.”
The 63-year-old’s family added that they will soon get in touch with the rest of Albert’s friends and loved ones to share the details of his memorial service.
Many designers and collaborators of Albert took to social media to pay tribute to the man who shaped Philippine fashion in innumerable ways. Among them was notable designer Rajo Laurel, who posted a black and white picture of Albert on Instagram with the following message:
“My dear Pepito, my mentor, my teacher, my boss, my friend. Thank you for everything. The world is truly less brighter now. I will see you in my dreams.”
A Respected Figure in Philippine Fashion
Beloved by both society and the Philippine fashion community, Albert was an inimitable visionary in the world of couture. Born in 1959, the designer lived in the U.S. for 15 years to study fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, California.
While abroad, Albert made a name for himself through his designs, which were featured in some of the world’s biggest fashion publications. These included Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle, and W.
Afterwards, he would return to the Philippines in the 1990s to continue designing sophisticated yet minimally embellished pieces for society women like long-time friend (and now first lady) Liza Araneta-Marcos, Korina Sanchez-Roxas, Dawn Zulueta-Lagdameo, Maricris Zobel, and Fe Rodriguez, just to name a few.
In a 2002 feature on wedding gowns written by Jenni Epperson, Albert’s creations were described as having “superb architecture, almost bare ornamentation.” It added: “A bride who wants just the gown to fall or flow on her body is the Pepito Albert bride. Albert is minimalism at its most elegant level.”
In a 2022 article from The Diarist.PH, Albert himself told Marge Enriquez that he preferred “simple, clean lines, and nothing attention-grabbing” when designing his creations. He also championed the use of local textiles like the piña fabric, which was used across many of his clothing pieces.
The designer’s most recent projects before his passing included the inaugural barongs of President Bongbong Marcos (he designed two, one for the ceremony and another for the inauguration dinner), as well as the gown Irene Marcos-Araneta wore during the very same event.
One of the last pieces from Albert was showcased in Pintô Art Museum’s “Algodon” fashion show last February. Composed of a bolero jacket with bell-shaped sleeves and a sizable tulle black skirt, the outfit was worn by 1990s model Jo Ann Bitagcol.
The Man Behind the Talent
Albert was known to be media-shy, so not many people truly knew the man behind the famed persona. He was known for wearing his hair in a signature ponytail, dressed in black from head-to-toe with a “mataray” yet humorous demeanor.
That said, his closest friends and loved ones remember him as someone who was true and loyal. In a 2002 interview, society writer Maurice Arcache described the designer as “the dahling’ of the social pack, envied and gossiped about by a few, but admired and loved by many.”
“Under his ‘mataray’ tone [was] a big heart and funny bone. A brilliant designer and arbiter of good taste, he [was] opinionated yet very objective. He was one of the most prayerful persons I know and his faith even grew stronger when he got sick,” shared fellow designer JC Buendia.
Albert will certainly be missed by those who loved and knew him, but he leaves behind a legacy of work that exudes understated elegance—a portfolio which will, undoubtedly, continue to inspire future generations of fashion designers for years to come.
Banner photo by Margarita Forés via Instagram @margaritafores.