He is based in Dubai. And his haute couture label, Amato, caters exclusively to an elite Arab clientele. But the Filipino designer Furne One has become quite a celebrity in Germany and has featured in top German newspapers and fashion magazines.
And a German TV channel is in Dubai filming the designer in his studio, while he prepares for his debut at the Berlin Fashion Week early next year.
And it is all thanks to the supermodel Heidi Klum. The fashion diva put the designer — and Dubai's haute couture — on the international map when she selected him to design the gowns for all 18 models in the final round of her popular TV show‚ Germany's Next Top Model.
The show was broadcast in Europe this summer and pictures of Germany's Model of the Year wearing his gowns were splashed all over the media. Since then, One has been flooded with assignments from well-known European celebrities and has been working in Europe for several months.
"It all seems like a dream," says One in his studio in the Al Hana Centre. "Top international labels as well as upcoming designers from all over Europe vie to have their creations seen on the catwalk in this show. I still cannot believe that Heidi chose Amato over other famous European brands."
Interestingly, the designer didn't know about the show and didn't lobby for it. A friend of a friend from Dubai showed Klum the catalogue of his latest collection. She loved what she saw and invited him to Berlin. "Heidi was wonderful. She listened to my ideas and gave me full freedom to create what I liked," says One.
With no specific brief and only two months to create the 18 gowns, he began looking for inspiration. "Although my basic style is European, over the years I have adapted it to suit the taste of my clients in the UAE. So, I decided to travel all over Europe to understand and imbibe a European vibe in my designs," he says.
After weeks of wandering around various cities, he found his inspiration in Milan. "It was a theatre production of Shakespeare's A Mid-Summer Night's Dream. I did not understand the dialogues, which was in Italian, but I was enchanted by the old world charm and opulence of the city and the magical, almost surreal look and feel of the costumes. I decided that in my collection I would use shades of gold and warm autumn colours as a tribute to the changing of the seasons metaphor that the play's title alludes to," One says. "I made the silhouettes sleek and flowing and I chose to use soft metallic leather, tulle and French lace."
The design process was complicated because One's sketches had to be e-mailed to his team of assistants and craftsmen in Dubai and the gowns were actually created here, without the possibility of fittings with the models. But he managed to get all 18 gowns ready in time for the show. "That was one of the most exciting days of my life. I was backstage assisting Heidi and the stylists to make sure the girls looked their best. It was such a pleasure to work with her very professional team and I learnt a lot from the experience, " he says.
"Seeing the beautiful finalists walking down the ramp in my creations was great. The models told me that they felt like divas in my dresses. But the best compliment was the applause from the audience. And then seeing my name on the screen in the show's credits was a real high," he adds.
The show opened many doors for One. The German actress Mariella Graefin von Faber-Castell asked him to design her costume for the lead character, Die Buhschaft in Hugo von Hoffmannsthal's, Jedermann. The striking red dress was later auctioned for charity. It was bought by a well-known German businessman whose wife plans to wear it to the famous Dresdner Opernball.
One also designed a white dress for popular actress and singer Jenny Elbers-Elbertzhagen, which won her the ‘best dressed lady of the evening' at the exclusive Leipziger Opernball. He is also designing her dress for a prestigious award show. He was also invited to participate in the Berlin Fashion Week in January 2009, where award winning actress and singer, Michaela Merten is expected to walk down the catwalk in his designs.
Furthermore, One is also slated to participate in the Miami Fashion Week in March next year. And Klum has invited him back on her show for the next season's finale.
"My mind is buzzing with ideas and there is a lot to do. But right now I am focused on creating wedding gowns for Heidi and some of her models," says One.
The gowns are for a promo of the next season of Klum's show and he will fly to Las Vegas next month for the shoot. "Having your collection featured in a top rated show like this is the kind of exposure every designer dreams of. It has helped me transcend cultural boundaries and to grow as a designer.
"And it has opened a whole new world of exciting and infinite opportunities for me. Now I am dreaming of expanding my label to include prêt-a-porter and diffusion lines with a more international look," says One. "But my heart is still in Dubai. I missed my clients here while I was away. And I am looking forward to having my annual fashion show here in February 2009."