Ellis Co and Reika Mayani return with their second runway presentation for the Filipino brand, infused with a sense of intimacy and bittersweet sentimentalities.
On Cagraray Island, the .ARCHIVES show was scheduled for sunset. There is nothing quite like watching the sun go down on the beach—that explosion of vibrancy drawn to the last slow rays of light. Beautiful, but maybe more so because it is so elusive; an hour before the show began, the sky threatened rain. Anyone else might have been disappointed, but not .ARCHIVES. Moody, gray, and overcast—it only seemed apropos for designer Ellis Co and creative director Reika Mayani’s aesthetic sensibilities.
The brand made its runway debut just last year with pieces they defined as “future wear,” a term they felt better encapsulated their work more than “streetwear.” Co draws from a mix of influences, including Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe, and tries to create silhouettes that he imagines people would wear in the future.
“When we came up with the brand, it was really hard for us to define what it was, so we called it streetwear, but we also have a lot of classic pieces that are reimagined or reinvented,” Mayani tells Vogue Philippines.
“Phases/Faces,” the Resort capsule collection they presented, draws from the otherworldly and the futuristic, with this collection taking inspiration from the 2021 version of the sci-fi film Dune. However, when they found an opportunity to present in Misibis Bay in Bicol, they say the designs became increasingly personal. Co’s family hails from the Bicol region, and the Misibis beach has always been his “place of reflection.” With this in mind, they changed course for designs that felt true to their personal journeys through life. Mayani recounts, “It came down to, ‘What if we just express ourselves?’”
Co continues, “We tend to always create fantasies where we make pieces for this character, or for this character… But, this time, we wanted to go with the different route ’cause me and Reika were feeling grateful.”
A 754-foot-long runway cut across the sand of Misibis Bay. Silver orbs dotted the water along the shoreline, reflecting the light diffused from scattered clouds. Glistening models emerged from a distance, gliding down the runway in slow, steady strides. Suits and hakama-inspired separates were rendered in flared and fitted silhouettes, finished with spiked lapels, strong shoulders, and trailing teardrop cutouts. The clouds swirled overhead; the garments billowed and swelled.
If there was a sense of intimacy felt through the setting, the music (produced by Co), or the clothing, it was intentional, with the collection being dedicated to the transformative phases and influential people in Co and Mayani’s lives. Co expands, “We were trying to reminisce these people [that] left a big impact—some negative, some positive. But it’s because of the people we met [that] we are who we are now.”
Neutral colorways depicted a thematic progression of light to dark to light again before ending with the final look of twin black-and-gray contrasting suits, just the reverse of each other. “It’s 21 looks dedicated to the people that influenced us, and the last look is us,” Mayani explains.
Grateful for gray skies
The show was staged by acclaimed director Robby Carmona, who has been a fan of Co’s work since his brand’s debut last year. Being inspired by Co and Mayani’s vision only made it easier for him to hone in on the story their collection was trying to tell. “As a director, I gave them some ideas on how the collection can be sequenced so that the storytelling, in terms of color, in terms of look, silhouette, treatment, will be told to you, the audience, in a very clear manner,” he says.
For Carmona, this show is one he will never forget, with the 754-foot runway being his longest runway to date. It came with its fair share of hardships that, in the end, became nothing short of a miracle for him, too. “It was very challenging because, as you know, for the past few days, it’s been raining. But God gave us good weather. Not sunny, gray skies. Not blue, gray—specifically gray,” he muses. “And then on the other side, while the finale was happening, it was drizzling on the far end of the beach while the models were walking. It was perfect.”
A sweet finale
One thing that was important to Co and Mayani for the staging of their show was their closing bow—making sure the people that brought their vision to life walked alongside them.
“To mirror the message of the looks, we wanted to show how appreciative we are of them. Kasi there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” Mayani says. “It might seem like ‘Oh, okay, there are clothes,’ but a lot happened before [they were] even on the runway. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
She adds, “At the end of the day, we’re really just grateful and blessed to be able to do something like this. Hindi namin goal to be the best or to be perfect because we know we’re not. We have a lot of gaps to fill.”
“We’re just grateful we’re in this position,” Co chimes. “If we enjoy what we’re doing and people understand what we’re doing, we’re happy.”