EXCLUSIVE! Furne One on Rabiya Mateo's Miss Universe gowns: 'Vibrant, energetic, and eclectic'

Published May 11, 2021, 6:00 PM

by John Legaspi

The Dubai-based couturier talks about his creations and his Miss Universe debut

Rabiya Mateo and Furne One

The 69th edition of the Miss Universe pageant brings a lot of firsts for the Philippines. First, we’re about to see how the pageant will go in this pandemic time. Second is that this year’s contestants will be wearing Filipino-made shoes by Jojo Bragais. Next, Rabiya Mateo is the first champion from the new Miss Universe Philippines (MUPH) contest to compete for the international pageant. Lastly, Dubai-based Filipino designer Furne One is making his Miss Universe debut by dressing the Filipina beauty queen.

With his flair for drama and exuberance, Furne definitely knows how to dress a queen. With pop music icons such as Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Mariah Carey wearing his pieces, Furne proved to be a designer for royals. That’s why it is hard to think that Furne, with his design caliber, hasn’t dressed any candidates in the past Miss Universe pageants. But that is about to change.

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, the avant-garde designer shares the story of how his collaboration with MUPH started, his take on patriotic style, and what we should expect Rabiya to wear on the preliminary and coronation nights.

How did your collaboration with MUPH and Rabiya start? How was she during the process?

I was actually not expecting to dress Rabiya after she won but I believe the organization has decided to give this task to me as they would like to innovate the game of pageantry. As part of the process, I am closely working with the MUPH team headed by Jonas Gaffud and its head of design council Albert Andrada, who is a good friend of mine.

Jonas and the whole team have been very collaborative and engaged in preparing Rabiya to be at her best for the competition. I have prepared four evening gowns in four different colors.

It took me more than five months to finish all four dresses, longer than expected. Due to the restrictions brought by COVID-19, we work on a skeletal team that is why it took us a long time to make the gowns.

We all want to showcase how Filipino fashion innovates and advances to global trends. We are a powerhouse fashion capital, there are so many artists and talented designers in the country that are waiting to be explored and discovered. May this opportunity to showcase my design in the Miss Universe stage also help those who are starting in the fashion industry.

Additionally, it is my first time to dress any candidate on the Miss Universe stage and I am so thrilled that this milestone was achieved in collaboration with MUPH. I am happy that Miss Philippines is my first candidate in the Miss Universe pageant, it’s definitely one for the books.

What were the things you considered in making the gowns? Where did you get your inspiration?

Without saying too much, the gowns are full of energy and vibrancy. It is eclectic as I have gathered ideas from a lot of sources, inspired by the Filipino story of love, passion, perseverance, patience, and patriotism. Of course, there is an element of culture on it as I am a Filipino very proud of it, but it is definitely fashion forward.

Patriotism is one of the underlying messages in the gowns as we are all doing this work for the love of the Philippines.

As you have seen in my previous works, I love experimenting with cuts and colors, so expect a silhouette and fabrics you have never seen a Miss Philippines wore in the competition. That’s all I can say for now.

Did you take a different creative process in making the pieces?

Yes I did. I spent a lot of time with Rabiya and the team as it is a collaborative effort. Every time I speak to them, I generate new ideas.

In three words, how would you describe the evening gowns you crafted?

Vibrant, energetic, and eclectic.

The 69th edition of Miss Universe will take place on May 16, 2021 (May 17 in the Philippines) at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.