Designer Jude Macasinag Showcases the Relationship of Fashion and Community

Sofia Mareque

The 23-year old designer and Institut Français de la Mode student works with Gravity Art Space to exhibit “Artist’s Proof.” Modeling his latest collection are friends and locals of the Filipino creative scene.

“There’s a sense of shared experience within the Philippine creative community that allows it to have a feel of its own,” muses Jude Macasinag, a young designer globally known for incorporating themes of Pinoy kitsch, catholicism, and nostalgia into fashion. For his latest collection entitled “Artist’s Proof”, Jude pays tribute to the eclectic creative scene in Manila. Through the collection’s showcase at Gravity Art Space’s gallery in this year’s ArtFair, onlookers discover the inseparability of creative laborers, fashion, and queerness; and the liberating quality of collaborative design. Jude continues “We want to properly define what it is that makes the community stand out and give that definition a voice.” 

A designer homegrown from a young age at the Philippine High School for the Arts, Jude would juggle his studies while attending Slim’s Fashion and Arts School. At 19 years old, he traveled to France to hone his craft at the Institut Français de la Mode. 

In Artist’s Proof, Jude gets his hands dirty by subverting conventional technique and design process. In birthing his collection, he employs Practice-Based Research, which includes studying the works of previous artists, and Practice-Led Research, the uninhibited interaction between hand and material––making Artist’s Proof an homage to the process of art-object-making. 

“Quite frankly, the project started because of a voluntary initiative between the models,” Jude says. During ArtFair’s Vernissage night, models dressed in Jude’s pieces (a hodgepodge of souvenir shirts, triple-leg trousers, and malleable garments) wandered freely in the venue amongst visitors. Jude continues “The aim is to show how the fine arts scene and the fashion industry go hand in hand […] I find it important to show this merging of the two interrelated fields, especially in the Philippines.” 

In an exciting and appropriate move, Jude and Gravity Art Space would choose regulars and nurturers of the creative community in Metro Manila. Among the 10 models: Paul Jatayna, a production designer who founded the queer collective and safe space Elephant; Bruce Venida, a model you’d likely be familiar with for handling the door if you frequented the now-defunct XX XX (of Chino Roces); Sai Versailles, a multimedia journalist and organizer of Manila Community Radio; and Alyana Cabral, a DJ and organizer at the speakeasy located inside Gravity Art Space. 

“We’re feeling the fantasy,” says Bruce while walking around the venue of ArtFair. When asked about what made this collection special, model Alyana adds “The gallery and speakeasy are a home to queer parties like Elephant. Some of the models are founders and organizers of these parties. I think there is a queer perspective in making the clothes […] I think Jude also made the clothes with us in mind.” 

Sofia Mareque

Jude Macasinag talks to Vogue Philippines about the influence of the Filipino experience, what makes the local creative community unique, and subverting fashion as we know it. 

In Artist’s Proof you are working with Gravity Art Space. Who approached who first? And how did this production with them start?

I first worked with Gravity Art Space when they previously invited me to be part of a group exhibit at their gallery last December, wherein I sent in works on paper. Their founder, Indy Paredes, then approached me to do a sort of runway show as part of their booth at ArtFair Philippines. He pointed out how it was fascinating how my years of training in the field of visual arts has led me to my creative practice now, doing clothing as an extended form of my art-making processes. We wanted to highlight the integrity of each field and show that fashion truly isn’t too separate from art.

Given the context that it would be for ArtFair, I knew I wanted to work with Art as a thematic guide. My previous collection was titled “Manifesto” and was about how designers establish a creative language in which they form the philosophy of their work with, so it felt innate to do a collection that revolved within that same vocabulary. There were two approaches applied in the creative process, both of which I first learned in art school: Practice-Based and Practice-Led Research. By definition, “if a creative artifact is the basis of the contribution to knowledge, the research is practice-based. If the research leads primarily to new understandings about practice, it is practice-led.” (Candy, Linda. Practice Based Research: A Guide. 2013) For example, a moulage technique to create a skirt with its preconceptions on shape and detail is practice-based, but freely draping a piece of fabric into some sort of form on the lower area of the body in an automatic sense is practice-led. These two approaches were used back and forth in the creation of each look, wherein sometimes the material informs the form, or sometimes an intention is inherent within the physical object. The process becomes freer and a richer dialogue is formed in this way.

In what ways has the Filipino creative community (like those you’ve chosen to model your clothes) affected your work?

Quite frankly, there wouldn’t be a collection without the creative community behind it. It was Indy who mentioned that there was an initiative within the models, who are also DJs, designers, artists, etc. in their own right. That initiative was enough to make me say yes to the project because I knew it was something that would be inherently collaborative, and at my best intention I wanted to keep it that way throughout the whole process until the end. During the lookbook shoot and the performance, I told them to “come as they are” as I wanted to respect the sense of self and personality each of them already had. They were encouraged to suggest the hair and makeup they wanted to have. The clothes were not an imposition, but rather an addition to who they are (at best, I hope). The lookbook was stylistically patterned after the work of the photographer himself, Ricardo Yan, who best captures the underground clubbing scene through his lens during the immensely cathartic raves Elephant and SadoMasoDisco (which the models are also the founders and organizers of). The creatives I worked with on this project definitely informed the outcome, noting that the outcome is not just the clothes itself. It wasn’t just a “Jude Macasinag collection” right from the start, and I still don’t see it that way.

If you didn’t grow up in the Philippines and around the creative community, do you think you would be the same kind of artist?

Definitely not. I’m a believer of the idea that the environments we grow in translate in the work we put out. I think that that’s the defining factor of what makes a creative “good” — that they’ve had their own set of experiences which gives them a perspective solely unique to them, and that they are able to relay such perspective into a physicality or a way of thinking in which could be universally understood.

Sofia Mareque

What were your inspirations for each of the pieces?

In line with the two approaches previously mentioned, the collection ended up having three sections: one pertaining to the body, one to the usage of material, and one in the context of self, specifically on nostalgia.

The first section delves into our perception of seeing the body. What defines fashion from art, albeit almost totally overlapping in methodology and philosophy, is that the scope of fashion is directly in relation to the body. A garment without its wearer is simply an (art) object removed from its context. With the pieces presented — namely the Malleable Shirt and Dress, Triple-Leg Shorts and Trousers, and the series of garments from the BodyMorph line — the intention is to challenge the preconceptions of how the body is seen and known. It questions the lines of the body, whether through disrupting, covering, or adding to the silhouette.

The second section is a continuation of the Found Object line, which is guided with the aim of using existing materials, whether related to garment making or not, and giving it a new context and shape. Here, souvenir t-shirts, vintage denim jackets, and coupons (scraps) of luxury fabrics from French haute couture houses were used to create three garments. In the attitude of the Golden Age of Haute Couture, I draped a top referencing Yves Saint Laurent’s 1958 trapeze line collection for Dior using souvenir t-shirts which I saw on a recent trip to my parents’ hometown. Two denim jackets were reworked into a swing jacket with an open-nape collar, a style so famously attributed to Cristóbal Balenciaga sweeping déshabillé-style gowns. For the last look, I created an assemblage of luxury fabrics treated in a raw style, referencing French sculptor César Baldaccini known for his work of crushed and compressed metal objects which give materials a new shape.

This section, quite frankly, is an ode to my younger creative self. As a child, one of my first forays in fashion was dressing up myself and my toys in blankets and scraps of fabric. The usage of the very familiar Sparrow blankets comes from a childhood memory, while the garments’ seemingly hastily done shapes and details were informed by how the material falls and reacts with the wearer.

Looking back on your previous collections, Artist’s Proof seems to differ in structure and texture–it’s more post-modern in shape, yet sleeker in visual and textural motifs. What made you go in this direction?

After doing a collection that was so generous and extravagant in its use of material and volume, it felt natural to take a step back and divert the direction for this collection. My current challenge for myself is honing my skills on garments that don’t scream but rather engage its viewer and wearer in a more organic way. This isn’t to say that I lose my creative identity through not doing large and opulent things, but rather I want to see this identity to show in clothes that are more adaptable, more reasonable, and more “real.” The attitude of couture, the desire for craft, and the playfulness previously seen from my lengthy-trained coats and ballgowns aren’t gone — I just want to see it now through a pair or codified trousers or a simple white shirt. It’s time for me to grow again, and this collection I think is a small step getting there.

In your personal process when conceptualizing your designs, is gender a relevant factor?

No, not really. Despite being avenues for identity and expression, for me, clothes are inanimate objects that have no inherent impositions on the way one wishes to communicate. Clothes are there to be put on a body, and you just need to make things fit. If a person has broader shoulders, you extend the shoulder line. If they have breasts, you add darts on the bodice to shape the fabric. Or sometimes you just disregard everything. At the end of the day, that’s what matters to me.

Sofia Mareque

How has your education in Institut Francais de la Mode influenced your work?

In technique, the academic standards of how clothes are supposed to be made is something that I still try to uphold. This involves methods not often easy to notice at the first glance, like trying to keep some stitches as flat and invisible as possible or how material is to be shaped in the most subtle way or even all of the tedious ways of ironing fabric.

In design taste, I would say that compared to my BA studies at IFM, in the MA program I am currently in, I am in the process of fine-tuning the design decisions I take to try to get the best results. Sometimes this is a matter of choosing between denim and wool for trousers, or manipulating volumes, or knowing when to reduce.

In work ethic, it’s a continuous process of just trying to do new things and to be better at it. A mentor recently told me about how 100% isn’t always enough, and that sometimes you have to do things at 300% or even 1000%. With that in mind, after this collection, I want to immediately jump onto the next thing—something I haven’t explored before—and just do my best in being the best at it. I know, it’s obsessive.

In your opinion, what makes the Philippine creative community unique?

There’s a sense of shared experience within the Philippine creative community that allows it to have a feel of its own. Whether it’s from playing the same games as a child, sharing the same jokes, or having the same ambitions, there is a sort of “insider” language in which creative communities from other countries can’t necessarily relate with. We want to properly define what it is that makes the community stand out and give that definition a voice. There is an urge to be better as a community despite the struggles in what we do, like the lack of institutional support — and we push through. The Filipino creative, I think, is a dreamer.

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