The name MAR LAPENA, a Haute Couture whose creative designs can transform “a hidden beauty” into a “Cinderella” is a byword among Filipino Ameri-cans in Chicagoland, not only among fashion aficionados but among folks involved in commu-nity fundraising activities to send help back home. Mar has always been a part of this community service. His artistic versatility includes his comedic staunch, like impersonating Hollywood singing Devas. Mar, perhaps, is the first Filipino haute couture to have done a live Fashion Show and interview, on a mainstream television in Chicago, at WLSTV Channel 7. His fashion designs were featured live last June 2014 and June 2017, featuring Fil-ipiniana vintage ternos and sayas and modern gowns, modeled by the Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC) beauty queens. (The television segment is a personal annual Commu-nity Service of this writer, Elsie Sy-Niebar, to share a segment of our Philippine culture to the mainstream, as we celebrate Philip-pine Independence Day.)
Born in Manila, Philippines, Mar is the son of the late Mr. Mario P. Lapena, a school teacher, and the late Mrs. Erlinda Santos Lapena, a well-known Dressmaker, whose clients included fashion-conscious ladies in her time. “I have inherited my Mother’s fashion touch,” says Mar with nostalgia. As a youngster, instead of playing games just like young people do, I helped her create fashion designs which she appreci-ated so much,” says Mars.
Mar studied at the Araneta University to become a high school teacher (B.S.E.), but he pursued his love in fashion designing instead. He went to Slim’s Fashion School and Madonna Fashion Design, two prestigious fashion schools in Ma-nila then. Later, he put up his own Dress Fashion Shoppe.
In 1985, Mar got a contract to work in Saudi Arabia as a Managing Couturier of a famous Fashion Cou-ture. For 15 years, Mar’s clientele included Saudi Arabian Royalties, Princesses and Diplomats. “The most common work in fashion de-signs in Saudi Arabia is meticulous and detailed beadwork, specialized by Filipinos. So, I was able to spon-sor some Kababayans (country men/women) to work with me in Saudi. I felt so blessed helping others. Very true. Charity is always in Mar’s heart. Until today, he supports many relatives in the Philippines, includ-ing some charitable institutions there.
“My greatest joy is seeing my fashion clients very happy with my work. But deep down in my heart, my mission is not only to make them look beautiful as seen by the naked eye, but to bring out their beauty from their heart and soul,” he added.
“I feel so proud and happy when Ms. Veronica Leighton, Founder and Executive Producer of the CHI-CAGO FILIPINO ASIAN AMERI-CAN HALL OF FAME, informed me I qualified for this prestigious HOF award. Through this write up, I extend my heartfelt thanks to all my friends, especially Chaz Patron, who not only nominated me but coordinated all the requirements for me; to my dinner guests and advertisers, for their invaluable sup-port. You are all so precious. I value your Friendship. May God continue to bless you always. I love you all! Enjoy the HOF evening.”
(Nominator: Chaz Patron, past Hall of Famer in Excellence in Entertainment 2015)
Marionito Lapena, 2017 recipient of Excellence in Fashion Art, at the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame gala event last October 14, 2017.
Sister models Cece & Crisza Patron.
The group picture of the 2017 Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Famers together with the VT/CPRTV staff.
Wonderful display of Mar Lapena’s fashion creations worn by his favorite models (partly shown here)… Left to Right,)Manuel Lapena, Vicky Lee, Geraldine Gaden, Sally Gardner, Lourdes Livas, Marionito Lapena, Liza Vasich, Mar Crome, Susan Francisco and Neri Pineda.
At the HOF gala night, from left, Consul General Generoso Calonger, Lourdes Livas (trophy donor), awardee Mar Lapena receiving his crystal trophy, HOF executive producer Veronica Leighton, and Chaz Patron, Mar’s nominator.
Left to right, Consul General Generoso Calonger, Lourdes Livas, Mar Lapena, Veronica, Chaz Patron.
Mar Lapena is shown with his co-awardees at the headtable during the gala night of the 2017 Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame.