WHILE most headlines about the 59th annual Grammy Awards are focusing on Adele’s “Album of the Year” win over Beyoncé, a relatively unknown singer was catapulted into the limelight for her bold red carpet look made by a Filipino designer bearing a political message to support rather than resist President Donald Trump.
On Sunday night, February 12, Joy Villa arrived in a white coat and subsequently took it off to reveal her navy blue gown with “Make America Great Again” emblazoned on it, while “TRUMP” in silver glitter was spelled out on the backside.
Behind the statement piece is Andre Soriano, a designer based in San Diego, who appeared on Rihanna’s Bravo fashion reality show, “Styled to Rock” back in 2013.
“The gown was more a message of love and moving this country forward,” Soriano said during an interview with the Asian Journal on Monday, February 13. “I design for all types of human. I don’t really care — there are no races or barriers with creativity when it comes to dressing up women.”
Soriano, who has been working with Villa for three years, said he had a few outfit sketches prepared for her based their conversations about “static, the sun, peace, and love.”
However, the designs ultimately changed after watching coverage of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. following President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
“Someone said they were going to bomb the White House,” he said. “I called Joy immediately and said, ‘I have a new proposition for you. There is so much hatred happening right now in our country and we have a responsibility of making a statement.’”
Compelled by this, Soriano decided to transform a Trump flag into a gown and “blinged it out” on both sides.
“We have one president right now and we have to move this country forward. That’s why when she revealed the gown, that was her message: we have to support our president and we have to promote love, unity, family and camaraderie,” he said.
In an Instagram post, Villa wrote: “Sometimes you just gotta be free to express yourself. Thank you to all of my supporters and fellow believers. Life is about living free and loving it. Be your beautiful selves tonight!”
By Monday afternoon, various reports indicated that digital sales for the 25-year-old singer’s album, “I Make the Static,” jumped to the top spot on Amazon’s list of top 100 digital albums and the No. 7 spot on the iTunes top albums list.
“After I spoke to [Joy] last night, it was loud and clear that we delivered our message because there are so many not-so-good things happening here in America. President Trump said it was ‘America First,’ so why don’t we just give him four or eight years to really prove what he can do?” Soriano added.
Despite the controversial immigration orders rolled out within the president’s first two weeks in office, Soriano — who migrated from the Philippines years ago — said that he believes the United States will continue to be a welcoming place for immigrants.
“It’s an immigrant country where people from countries all over the globe can come here legally, and I think that was the president’s message,” he said. “With what’s happening, he wants to protect all kinds of people here in America. He wants to screen people if they are legitimate. It’s for the safety of the people who live here and that’s true for all types of immigrants, including me, considering I’m gay too.”
With the added publicity, Soriano said he’s motivated to keep on designing daring looks.
“I would love to dress our First Lady Melania Trump, and also to go back to the Philippines and showcase my collection,” he said, adding that he is still keen on helping and raising funds for victims of Typhoon Haiyan years later.
“I am a proud Filipino American,” he declared. “It’s the American dream for me just to be noticed.”
Villa’s dress wasn’t the only political statement made on Sunday night. Katy Perry donned a white pantsuit and an armband with “PERSIST” written on it, alluding to Senator Elizabeth Warren being silenced in Congress the week before. In her acceptance speech, Beyoncé spoke about beauty and racial identity. During a performance with A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes slammed the president — calling him “President Agent Orange” — for “all of that evil that you‘ve been perpetuating throughout the United States.”