Co-stylists MJ Benitez and Daryl Chang on how subculture informs style for the next generation of Filipino trailblazers.
Vogue Philippines’ May 2023 cover story “Young Blood” highlights the 32 individuals setting the local arts and culture scene ablaze. Welcome the artists, advocates, athletes, fashion designers, musicians, and actors who are ushering in a renaissance of Filipino excellence.
“Young Blood” was one of the biggest shoots that Vogue Philippines has ever mounted, with a great number of clothes to an even greater number of people—including talent and production teams—present on set. Despite the chaos of it all, co-stylists MJ Benitez and Daryl Chang were up to the task.
“I would be lying if I said that the scale of the shoot didn’t make me feel nervous at first,” MJ recounts. “With so many moving parts, it’s hard not to be! Nerves aside, if you put a lot of creatives in one space, the energy you get is undeniably electric.”
It was in trying to cultivate that energy that served as the basis for the looks. “We wanted the clothes to look like them, but—at the same time—[look] very elevated,” Vogue Philippines fashion writer Ticia Almazan adds.
“Cheeky provocation for the new generation of cool kids that understand that what they wear is as much about community and diversity.”
To style this class of creatives, MJ and Daryl didn’t impose a dress code but instead set the stage for the next gen’s shared vision of the future: one that values sustainability, champions diversity and inclusivity, and celebrates unabashed self-expression.
“The styling was a mix of references and movements from romantic dandies to eclectic preppies to indie grunge,” Daryl narrates. “We’ve combined vintage pieces, local designers mixed with international ones, and kept it mostly gender-fluid.”
The result is a sartorial language that plays along the boundaries, across lines of gendered dress and against a militant uniformity. It is reminiscent of times the youth of generations past rebelled against societal codes and pressures, using clothing as their medium.
Daryl describes it as a “Cheeky provocation for the new generation of cool kids that understand that what they wear is also as much about community and diversity.”
That sweet tension comes in the form of subversive tailoring, striking a neat balance between fit and flare. Model/artist/DJ Hideki Ito wears a HA.MU shirt under a Philip Lim dress, and musician Jason Dhakal wears Comme des Garçons. In these black-and-white stills, what is masculine and feminine becomes superimposed.
Photographer Sharif Hamza captures Ito and Dhakal carrying themselves in strength. The frilled billowing sleeves and tulle are only paradigmatic, flounced shapes that allow its wearer to take up space.
MJ says that she is “particularly fond” of the group cover of artist Brisa Amir, illustrator Gianne Encarnacion, designer Daphne Chao, and model Siobhan Moylan entangled in a playful dance.
“Not only did I get to play with different prints, colors, and silhouettes, the shoot itself was just so…kooky,” she muses. “[Seeing] the girls laughing and gamely trying out different poses [made] me break out into a grin too.”
The fun on set might have had to do with how these looks simply called for movement; Martin Bautista’s tulle creations, worn by Amir and Moylan, provide a rush of energy, one so electric, it’s visceral.
Chao’s look is composed of a checked Ziggy Savella suit and velvet Gucci bow, making an ensemble that is at once dapper and dandy. Encarnacion wears a sheer Randolf bodysuit that injects that very necessary tinge of blue.
“We’ve also sourced with sustainability and rewear in mind. Proudrace used deadstock from Bench while Strongvillage’s pieces are all made out of upcycled denim,” Daryl explains.
Zofia Agama, one of three Vogue Philippines writers tasked with getting to know the talent, said that the fashion and beauty “captured how varied, diverse, and fun the characters that compose our generation are.”
She adds, “To witness them transform from head to toe really felt like a generational kairos made in the flesh.”
In this series of images conceptualized by Daryl Chang and Sharif Hamza and styled by Daryl and MJ Benitez, the 32 creatives are framed in the light of optimism. If they are anything like the future, it certainly looks bright.