Emerging Fashion Designer: Fely Agader, the Dragon Lady

Emerging Fashion Designer: Fely Agader, the Dragon Lady

During the Philippine Heritage Month Declaration for the City of Fort Saskatchewan last June 2018, I met a Filipina who had an impressive table display of beaded and embroidered handicrafts, notably detached wired beaded butterfly sleeves (which took her 60 hours to create) and an elaborately and painstakingly embroidered dragon jacket. That lady is Fely Agader.

Fely hails from Cavite and grew up in a family engaged in the clothing industry. Her mother sewed uniforms and her aunt designed, sewed and beaded clothes for Lily Monteverde, the film mogul aka Mother Lily. Even at an early age, Fely did embroidery for the family and would sketch her own designs. Having studied Foreign Service at university, Fely worked as an English-Arabic interpreter in Jeddah then in Dubai with Prince Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. She also worked in Hong Kong before moving to Canada in 2006. She is conversant in Arabic, Nippongo, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin.

In Canada, she started creating embroidered and/or beaded handicrafts, retailing them in farmers markets and craft sales. The detailing of her work led to customized requests which resulted in expanding her business to include wedding trails, christening gowns and creating her own lace.

In 2009, she decided to pursue formal studies in fashion design, to fulfill a lifelong desire and as a means to distract herself while battling (and surviving) cancer. Her first collection, “D Fire”, in her recent graduation fashion show was a play on the dragon and yin yang symbols, which are a representation of her personality. The dragon is known as a symbol of power and strength. It may be silent when undisturbed but fiery when provoked. The yin and yang symbols speak of her philosophy of balance in life. Her collection presented an interesting use and match of different fabrics, with embroidery detailing in unexpected ways. Her designs, geared towards adult women, are “simple, clean cut, but elegant”. It was impressive enough that she has received three internship offers in Edmonton fashion houses. In addition, Fely still plans to spend more time back in the Philippines to do more work on Philippine fabric as she plans to expand her collection on Filipiniana clothes.

On November 24, Fely will hold her first ever solo fashion show featuring 50 designs in celebration of her 50th birthday. With a business tagline of “Skin doesn’t matter” she aims for her collection to appeal across cultures. In fact, she has designs specifically for Fort Saskatchewan MLA Jessica Littlewood, and Mayor Gale Katchur, who have gamely agreed to walk the runway. In getting to know Fely, I believe that her collection will reflect her innate sense of creativity, good eye for detail, and craftsmanship. I wish her all the best in her career, and in her life, and live the words of prominent designer Diane von Furstenberg, “I wanted to be a certain kind of woman. I became that kind of woman.”

The Agader Fashion and Designs Show is on November 24, 2018 at the Pioneer House, 10102 100 Avenue, Fort Saskatchewan. Doors open at 7 pm and the show starts at 8 pm. Free admission. For further inquiries on the show and Fely’s design services, email agaderfely@gmail.com.

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