Paris when it sizzles

SUMMER reached feverish heights in the City of Lights, but trust Efren Ocampo not to get caught in delirious abandon and let his design philosophy melt in the Parisian heat. The designer chose the French capital as backdrop for his 2003 holiday collection.

Shooting in public places in Paris was easy. "There was no need for a permit unless you wanted to cordon off the area," recalls Ocampo.

The holiday in France turned into a working trip for the ready-to-wear designer as he hooked up with Malou Ramos who used to model for his mentor, Dante Ramirez, in the '70s.

Ramos later modeled for the houses of Givenchy, St. Laurent and Ungaro. Her statuesque daughter, Gwenael Ruais, now 17, became Ocampo's mannequin for the Paris shoot as the group hit the city's landmarks. Swedish lensman Seppo Suomela took the photos. Ramos did the makeup, while another former Filipina model now based in France, Susan Chanot, styled the shoot.

For his 2003 holiday collection, Ocampo revisits the little black dress and lets go a little by cropping the tops and skirts to up to there.

But the designer remains faithful to his creative leanings. "The clothes have a new twist but they're still very wearable," he says. Ocampo is well known for putting ease and wearability to his clothes above frivolous ostentation.

This time, in almost uncharacteristic fashion, he allows for ornamentation. But it's light and sparse-just the right amount of adornment that's still typically Ocampo.

Tops and hemlines are sprinkled with beads; skirts are similarly fringe-beaded. Necklines are cut low, while sleeves are almost nonexistent. He bares shoulders; backs are exposed. Hemlines boldly graze the thighs. The results are thoroughly sensual, with the drama of black fabric and the glitter of embellishment against the rich earthiness of olive skin.

If there's any doubt this collection would appeal to his loyal SM Boutique Square clients, Ocampo is unruffled. "It's not for everyone," he says matter-of-factly. "You have to have the right body and the right attitude." Or the will to work for the right body and the right attitude.

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