Sotto is the fashion industry’s master of new elegance.
Simplicity is the essence of Sotto’s design, with his
clothes parred down to their essentials: line, cut,
color. Paradoxically, the very austerity of his designs
create a sense of opulence, from where his works derives its
highly individual statement.
Sotto started out as a designer quite by chance.
He recalls those frequent visits to senior designer
Christian Espritu’s shop to accompany his mother who had her
clothes made by him. These visits virtually opened Sotto’s
eyes to the creative possibilities that the fashion world
When Espiritu offered him the post of fashion
illustrator. Sotto accepted it with little hesitation. He
knew the job would introduce him to the rudiments of
designing. This was in the late 1960s, and instead of taking
up architecture, Sotto flew to New York City to enroll at
the famed Parsons School of Design. He later moved to the
West Coast to further his studies at the San Francisco
School of Fashion Design where he also took up related
courses such as window display and graphics. He joined the
U.S. – wide Saga Mink and the California Young Designers
Competitions. He won in both. In the latter contest, he was
adjudged outstanding young designer.
His sole purpose in joining those contest was
simply “to see how far I can go.” And far indeed has the
Finding himself back in Manila, Sotto started to
work on a number of shows for designer-friends. Still, he
found the climate less hospitable to his plans; he decided
to leave for the United States again. The trips only made
him realize even more the need of the local fashion industry
to upgrade itself. “it is heroic,” Sotto says, “how we
designers have survived all these years. But then I realized
I had to meet the problems head on. I told myself to forget
about change and to just concentrate on my career.”
Back in Manila, in 1980, he was voted by an
all-foreign board of jurors one of the inners in the
Philippine Designers’ Show. The accolade, however, was not
enough to make him stay. He left the country once again.
When he came back, this time it was for good.
In the last six years since that last trip,
Sotto settled in to finally face up to the challenge of a
full-time designing career. Happily, a more discriminating
set of clientele has emerged in the fashion industry. The
climate could not have been more right for Sotto.
Today, Sotto has remained quite selective of
clients and of the kind of clothes he would create,
preferring to work for people whose taste matches his,
mostly his friends and friends of friends. This is the
reason why he hesitates to go commercial via a ready-to-wear
ladies’ line. Typically Sotto. He would rather not make
compromises in the name of success. So that even if people
seemed to be more appreciative of his work, he is not about
to succumb to the dictates of the majority.
attitude is reflected in his clothes which are known for
either remarkable simplicity. There is not extraneous about
his design,” wrote a fashion editor. She added that
“onstage, his fashion design teem with confidence, ease, and
mightly sense of security. He knows fore sure what look he
wanted to present, overflowing with creativity and energy
but knowing where and when to stop.”
An ardent admirer of St. Laurent, Ungaro,
Armani, Galanos, and the late Coco Chanel, Sotto believes
that every designer worth his golden thimble must aspire to
reflect an aspect of his personality in his work, and not
simply and easily attempt to please his clients. As he says,
“I am not conscious of how come across people who are
conscious of my clothes. The impression is not intentional.
What is intentional is the output of the designs. It is
purposeful, it is intentional, it is something I have worked
Sotto has had seven solo shows, each one of them
a resounding critical success. A recent fashion gala
entitled “Sotto Solo,” his first in seven years, revealed a
more mature and truly confident designer. Before a highly
appreciative audience, he unraveled a collection that
confirmed the designer’s coming of age.
Late last year, Sotto launched his ready-to-wear
men’s line. The launching marked his first venture into
pret-a-porte dressing. Judging from the reaction of the
buyers, Sotto has found a ready market for his fastidiously
executed men’s wear. Like his signature clothes, Sotto’s
men’s line reflects the designer’s uncompromising fashion