Design for couture is integral. It cannot stand alone. It must work in proportion with the figure and personality of the wearer. The structure and form of the dress must succeed in creating a sense of balance. It is with this design philosophy that Oj Hofer works together with his clients.
While studying Fine Arts at UP Diliman, he also took courses in Clothing Technology in the same school. The original career plan was advertising, fully intending to work for a Manila agency after spending a brief post-graduation vacation. While in Cebu, he opened a shop with his cousin Ann. What was meant to be temporary turned out to be a full career spanning 20 years in the business.
He won a scholarship from the Philippine Trade Training Center, learning the many aspects of couture trade from teachers brought in by the government from the world's leading design centers. Oj related that his professors from the Chambre Syndicale in Paris and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York taught him his most valuable lessons. Heute couture took on a different face, a serious and deliberate one.
His creative process begins with a sketch like most fashion designers. What happens next is what distinguishes him from the others. While many are instinctive about their work, Oj follows a discipline. He finds a structure that will suit the proportions of the wearer, constructs his own patterns, and cuts initially on muslin. His first fitting is in muslin, perfecting the form in draft, using classic haute couture techniques. He carefully studies the grain of the final fabric so that it falls the way he wants and expects. Nothing is left to chance or guessing. The route from design to execution is planned and like his design, his process is structured.
His dresses can be seen as austere, devoid of flourish and embellishment. He describes it as an impression of economy of lines. This simplicity and purity allows his skill in construction to come through, to make it visible through the starkness of his design. It is difficult for most to appreciate this quiet sophistication considering that many Filipino women go for strong visual drama. But there are women that do, women whose sense of style is decidedly subdued and elegant.
There are two disciplines that Oj Hofer is known for: tailoring and draping. Both go back to structure, the essence of all his designs. It is a profound statement of style.