I’ve been perusing different  accessories, purses and  shoes for the past fifteen minutes. My heart beats a little faster as I ask to take a closer look at one of the more intricate neckpieces. How absolutely gorgeous, I think to myself.  Then I  move on to inspect the clothes by the display window.  A row of  mannequins are all dressed in black.  Some feature delicate lace overlay while others have embroidered flower cutouts sewn in them.  All sported black baseball hats which are again adorned with floral appliqués. Quite an unexpected pairing with the distinctly  feminine cuts of the clothes.  My interviewee’s assistant promptly announces that he would be arriving shortly and that her employer sends his apologies for being caught in traffic.
It’s my fifth time to visit  Courtyard 1976. The  112 square meter showroom/boutique of fashion designer Joel Escober opened its doors to the public last  September 15, 2015. “This is the  biggest risk I’ve taken and the most fulfilling by far,” Joel says.  A business trip to Europe, London to be more precise, became the catalyst to his transformation from made-to-order maven to ready-to-wear designer.  “I saw rows and rows of stores that carried beautiful things. Opening Ceremony in Covent Garden blew me away. Tapos naisip ko bigla, gusto ko magkaron ng ganon. (Suddenly I  thought I wanted a store of my own) I wanted to dress all kinds of stylish women and not just those that come to my atelier to have gowns made. It was like an epiphany. I had a vision and  wanted a stage to show who I am and all that I could be. ”

Joel Escober inside Courtyard 1976

The possibility of expanding his business and owning a curated store excited the designer to no end. He had a hand in the conceptualization, construction and the final look of the store.  The interior is chic industrial.  Polished cement floors, exposed ceilings and glamorous  fixtures are found inside. Natural light from transluscent panes gives the customer the feeling of a being in a posh sunroom. In the middle is a long white  table showcasing different local products. To the far left are dressing rooms decorated with plush grey rugs and wrought iron chandeliers.  To the right is a wall lined with white shelves containing Joel’s accessories as well as creations by other Filipino designers. “One thing I’ve learned in this industry is that it’s a tough business but there is room for  the determined and the talented to succeed. I share my space with friends who consign their products.  They are a part of this dream, too,”  said Joel. Some of the featured personalitites include Noel Crisostomo, Jerome Salaya- Ang and Adante Leyesa.

Dark meets romantic describes the designer’s holiday collection.

What is next for Joel Escober? “My design aesthetic is feminine , romantic but always with a hint of unpredictability.  I want to keep treading that path. Ayoko ng may signature look. I always want to evolve and refuse to be boxed in! Aside from my fashion business, I’m thinking of a furniture store. Maybe even a restaurant in the future. “ He pauses for a bit and concludes, “As long as I have the support of my team, the encouragement of family and friends, I will keep on creating.”

Feminine silhouettes

Courtyard 1976 is located at the 2nd Level of Bldg. B, Evia Mall Life Style Center, Daang Hari Road, Las Piñas.

Courtyard 1976 Evia Mall

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Captions for photos:

  1. Fashion designer Joel Escober inside his curated store Courtyard 1976.
  2. Photo of four mannequins wearing black – For the woman who travels – The holiday collection is all about dark meets romantic.
  3. Photo of three mannequins – “Strong, romantic, confident and feminine —these words don’t exclude each other. I create clothes for the independent Filipina” – Joel Escober
  4. Store façade – Support local designers while you experience luxe shopping at Courtyard 1976.


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