When talking about fashion and artistry, Filipinos are not ones to allow themselves to be left behind by their contemporaries from other countries. In fact, from Rajo Laurel and Michael Cinco to Rosenthal Tee, Albert Andrada, and Monique Lhuillier, there is never a scarcity of great Filipino artists whose creativity and dedication to their craft continue to impress and provide inspiration to the world.
The most recent addition to this long list of world-renowned artists is Jessan Macatangay whose graduation collection was featured in The New York Times, Vogue US, Grazia, and Net-A-Porter, among many others. The collection was showcased digitally as part of his course requirement in Central Saint Martins where other iconic designers like Stella McCartney, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen also came from.
The collection’s theme focuses on finding beauty and strength in the midst of struggle, which, anyone would agree is pretty relevant nowadays. However, Jessan came up with the idea two years ago after triumphing against some very personal bouts.
The collection features a chair and parts of it. These sculptural pieces, which are attached to the fabric, represent struggles. According to Jessan, “A chair is something that was created to allow us to rest and be comforted, but when you put it against your body differently, you give it the opposite power.”
As the collection progresses, the sculptures attached to each piece become smaller, signifying how as one perseveres, the struggles become part of their identity and later on, of their beauty.
With colors taking inspiration from the works of BenCab, Jessan’s collection also showcases his own craftsmanship. He created each piece by himself in his small flat in London—a situation forced upon the graduating class by the pandemic.
“The first few weeks after the lockdown was announced was the hardest for me,” shares Macatangay. “We needed to move our work from the university to our homes. I considered flying back to Manila to be with my family but thought it was wiser to stay in London since my sewing machine and basic tools are all here. My final collection is quite different from how I envisioned it before the pandemic. I needed to change a lot of things from design to materials and the process by which I was going to make them. More than anything else, I was really grateful for the guidance of my tutors from the university.”
He said that one of the biggest hurdles he had to face was having to change his mindset to fit the situation—making do with the limited access to resources and facilities that would allow him to create his pieces.
“I had to buy fabrics online, which meant that I had very limited choices. I only used two fabrics for the entire collection, lycra, and cotton. I also had a bit of silk satin, which I was able to use. I dyed and digitally printed my fabrics to achieve the looks I wanted. For the pieces that required metal and woodworking, I worked with scraps and whatever I could get my hands on. I did everything manually using the most basic tools and actually enjoyed the process. It made me realize that what I was going through completely reflected the concept of my graduation collection, which is finding beauty and power in the midst of struggle. As I faced the disappointment and frustration of the whole situation, I rediscovered my inspiration for doing what I do as well as resilience. I felt strong and empowered seeing my final garments come together under these circumstances.”