Why this shoot was our labor of love for Auggie Cordero

Shot by Los Angeles-based Raen Badua, in a pre-war building, these were among his masterpieces through the decades

Auggie Cordero lace mini, with feathers, sequins sewn on the dress, shot at Espacio Creativo studio in a pre-war Andres de Luna building in Escolta (Photo by Raen Badua)

It was merely two days after the Tribute to Auggie Cordero last December 13 when Los Angeles-based Filipino photographer, Raen Badua, was to have his first fashion shoot since he flew back home for the holidays. Weeks before that, Raen and I had already been planning to do a couple of shoots to take advantage of his homecoming. He said he wanted to do a couture- or high fashion-inspired editorial.

Raen Badua: ‘Hearst opened doors for me’

Call it coincidence; I call it serendipity. While I was helping plan the Auggie Cordero Memorial, I was able to access tito Auggie’s vintage collections—he didn’t discard his collections from his gala shows through the decades. We were choosing two or three outstanding evening wear pieces to display in his Memorial. So we were going over the clothes racks in his atelier in Alonzo street, Malate, Manila, when I randomly blurted out to his sister, tita Neng Cordero, that I was preparing for a shoot and asked if I could use some of tito Auggie’s pieces. Tita Neng, one of the two surviving siblings of tito Auggie (the eldest, tita Zeny, is based in the US), is now the custodian of his creations, his vast fabric inventory, his shop, etc.

Tita Neng said yes in a heartbeat, ‘Choose whatever you want’

Tita Neng said yes in a heartbeat, “Choose whatever you want.” A rush of excitement came over me as I went to his archives. The racks of clothes spanned decades, ranging from the classic and ultra-feminine to the tailored silhouettes, from the richest to the most casual fabrics, such as satins, brocades, silks, taffetas alaskins to denims, eyelet cottons; and a far-reaching assortment of craftsmanship, from embroidery, beading and lace appliques to laser cutting and tassel work.

Pleated gold lame a fluid vision in the sun (Photo by Raen Badua)

In earlier years doing a shoot of tito Auggie’s pieces had been a challenging experience, even intimidating, since I was only starting to do shoots then. Always, he would have very distinct preferences about the look, makeup, and sometimes, even models. Even if he meant it to be very constructive, a nurturing way in his “mataray” demeanor, I couldn’t help but think of a strict school principal.

Now sifting through his works, I initially opted for five pieces, which ballooned to 15. Doing shoots now has become a respite for me since I do not do this on a regular basis anymore. Especially after the hectic preparations for the memorial, I actually looked forward to the shoot. This was also my own way of giving tribute to him who was more than a fashion designer to us— tito Auggie was also family, since my family had known him all my life.

Auggie Cordero was one of the country’s foremost fashion designers. He set trends and blazed the trail for Philippine fashion design from the ‘70s to the 2000s. He “discovered” Margie Moran and dressed her up in her winning gown for the Miss Universe 1973. He was also the mentor of Asia’s first supermodel, Anna Bayle. He was the presidential designer of President Corazon Aquino.

Luckily, Raen was very open to the idea of shooting the Auggie Cordero gowns. He was shocked when I said I was bringing around 20 pieces, including those of other Filipino designers. “It’s not a hassle,” I said, “it’s a labor of love for me, just check them out and choose.”

This was an architecture by Juan Luna’s son, the tallest building in pre-war Manila

The venue was Espacio Creativo in Escolta, Binondo, at the heart of Manila. It is a one-room office unit with high ceiling, smoked Art Deco-style windows. The filtered light that comes into the room makes it perfect for a photo studio and creative space.

Tulle, lace, polka dot silk long skirt

Located at the First United Building, formerly known as the Perez-Samanillo Building, this Art Deco-style building was completed in 1928. This was an architectural project of Juan Luna’s son, Andres Luna de San Pedro, and Juan Nakpil, the tallest building in pre-war Manila.

The building and the environment became the perfect backdrop for the editorial tribute, especially because Auggie Cordero’s life and career revolved in Manila.

After discussing the photography brief with Raen and selecting the pieces, we were all set for the shoot.
“It is my first shoot since I arrived in Manila,” Raen said, since he spent the first few weeks recovering from jet lag and reconnecting with family. This is also his first fashion editorial shoot of all-Filipino creations. “I have always wanted to shoot Filipino designs,” Raen said.

Raen Badua’s photography style is clean, simple, unpretentious yet sophisticated—perfect for our editorial. “I try not to do too much with my images and keep them as natural as possible,” he said. He knew confidently the best moment to capture, the angle, and more important in fashion photography, how to highlight each design, be it an intricately embroidered pink maria clara top or a modern bouffant in fuchsia.

Rose pink kimono-inspired tulle top over plaid lining with beaded lace and ruffle neckline; earrings, Koket Fashion

Fuchsia silk taffeta ballgown skirt, fully beaded black cropped top; statement neckpiece, Koket Fashion (Photo by Raen Badua)

Born and raised in Tondo, Manila, Raen moved to the US in June 2006 at age 20, and joined the US Army four months later. After spending six years in the military, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design at Sanford-Brown College in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In his senior year, wanting to intern in a magazine, Raen joined Seventeen in New York. The design director of Seventeen found Raen’s photography portfolio strong so he introduced him to the director of photography of Studio D at Hearst Publishing. He was given the internship. “That opportunity really opened doors for me,” Raen said.

During his internship at Hearst, he got to assist different photographers in shoots for various magazines like Esquire, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar. After completing a bachelor’s degree, he pursued Master’s in Fashion Photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

The model for our shoot, fresh from London, is another emerging Filipino model, Brea Umali.

Our shoot was bitter sweet—we enjoyed the creative freedom to shoot tito Auggie’s pieces, but at the same time we realized he was no longer around to see the shots and study the outtakes.

However, we were glad that Raen did more than give justice to these masterpieces. “I feel connected to his designs,” he told us, “and it is an honor to be able to shoot them.”

Now, tito Auggie could erase his trademark frown.

The author in an after-shoot selfie with photographer Raen Badua

Photography Raen Badua

Styling Luis Carlo San Juan

Makeup and Hairstyle AJ Castro using Dior Beauty

Model Brea Umali

Videography Lem Atienza

Editorial Assistant Marco Tubo

Accessories by Koket Fashion

Shot on location Espacio Creativo Escolta, special thanks to Belg Belgica

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