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Fashion designer Dennis Lustico has worked since the 1990s, yet really shot to fame in the early 2000s when his clothes were thrown on by socialites and celebrities hopping off from one gala to another. This year, he takes on a completely new challenge by joining The Cobra Ironman 70.3, a half-triathlon race in Cebu to raise funds for Smile Train Philippines, the Philippine arm of global charity Smile Train, which helps children smile with free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries.

According to a brochure from the charity, it has provided more than 45,000 cleft surgeries since 2001 in the country, and 16 surgeries are performed each day on the charity’s behalf in the Philippines.

Mr. Lustico was introduced to Smile Train by a friend from Cebu, but he is no stranger to medical charities, having trained as a nurse himself. In 2015, in a partnership with the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Mr. Lustico helped design pants specifically for use by patients with catheters. In an interview with BusinessWorld, he said that he did it as a favor to a friend, whose father had kidney disease. After studies and multiple prototypes, he came up with pants that anchored the catheter to the patient’s body, for convenience and perhaps to add to the patient’s quality of life.

Points for Mr. Lustico for adding a new dimension to fashion: fashion might be liberating, and we live our lives in it, and while it speaks to the needs of the soul, far too often it ignores the simple conveniences that the body craves.

“I come from a poor province. I’m from northern Samar, one of the poorest areas in the Philippines. I think I’m no stranger to a disadvantaged way of life. Whenever I have a chance to be able to help, as long as I can do it... then I go for it,” he said.

While this might shape his outlook for charity, his choice of beneficiaries (health and medicine-related charities) is interesting (other fashion personalities devote their charitable time to concerns about heritage, poverty, or gender-related causes). “I think what I’m doing right now is a reflection of my being a nurse. Somehow, I got acquainted or [I] familiarized myself with patients, with different causes, in my time [in] the hospital.” He admits though, that he had never been able to practice professionally, his time in hospitals being limited to his internship.

Asked if he plans to possibly release a line solely devoted to raising funds for his causes, he said: “Maybe later on, no? That’s actually a good idea.” In the meantime, Mr. Lustico will donate a portion of his profits from his bags and gowns towards funding more surgeries for Smile Train.

Right now, he’s concerned about the race (to be held in August), training for more than 3-1/2 hours a day, subsisting on five, small, healthy meals a day.

As for the rest of his life in fashion, Mr. Lustico is designing his Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018 collection, in gold: think lamé and lace, inspired by Frida Kahlo. Asked if his goal for gold is related to his upcoming race, he said: “No! Far from it. My only wish is to be able to finish it.”Read more at:formal dresses