Luzon-based designers Ellis Co, Mikayl Trinidad, Renz Reyes, and Marlon Tuazon take root deep, finding inspiration for their fashions from the spaces they occupy.
In the Philippines’ capital, Metro Manila, it’s easy to get swept up in all the noise, as in any other vibrant, bustling metropolis. It’s not a problem for city dwellers; after all, they might find themselves at home in it. But for those in practices of art and design, beauty might be found in the things that are tacit. Quiet down, watch the intervals between people: there is something of value to find in the fleeting moment. For fashion designers based in the city and the surrounding Luzon region, inspiration often comes from the mundane: daily commutes, hometown fiestas, the push and pull of waves along a shoreline.
For one, when Mikayl Trinidad went to the city for university from Rizal, frequent trips to Quiapo thrift stores and Divisoria fabric stores led to a love affair with fashion and the founding of his label Monohomme Studios. It was the same for Renz Reyes, whose own commute between Cavite and Manila informed his practice: old-world glamour versus grit.
Find a similar juxtaposition in Ellis Co’s spur-of-the-moment creations, too, inspired by the two places he frequents. While Manila’s ever-changing landscape leads him to silhouettes that are more experimental, Bicol’s secluded beaches remind him to start from a point of reflection. For Marlon Tuazon, memories of his childhood around women in traditional baro’t saya in Pampanga are still as vivid as ever; his work often harkens back to that “much simpler, happy place.”
For its November issue, Vogue Philippines takes a survey across the Philippine islands to discover the work of the designers of our times. Below, discover the four talents that hail from Luzon.
Ellis Co of .Archives (Manila and Bicol)
Ellis Co follows the footsteps of creative director extraordinaires Virgil Abloh and Nigo who create fashion at the intersection of streetwear and music. Starting out with statement shirts and hoodies when he was 16, he progressed into gender-neutral tailoring with the discipline of a monochromatic palette with .Archives in 2022. Co has since presented at Rakuten Fashion Week under PH Mode x TYO, incorporated Bicolano materials like abaca and rattan with Japanese denim to resort wear, and envisioned clothes for a dystopian future. The likes of actress Nadine Lustre and the who’s who of P-pop and the Philippine underground music scene gravitate towards the sculptural toughness of his pieces. The two places he toggles offer different expressions for Co. “Whenever I design or do a show in Manila, I find myself more explorative and experimental with my creations, while designing and doing a show in Bicol allows me to reflect and create more intimate pieces,” he shares.
Mikayl Trinidad of Monohomme (Manila and Rizal)
Fashion wasn’t a part of Mikayl Trinidad’s plans. He was pursuing his broadcast communication degree and his daily commute meant stopovers at thrift stores in Quiapo and fabric shops in Divisoria. It was then that his love for fashion bloomed, and armed with self-study efforts informed by a short course in pattern-making he founded Monohomme Studios just before the world shut in 2020. But it wasn’t until January 2022 when he honed in on lace that the brand took off. He launched Pagsibol, a spread collar button-down made entirely of embellished lace typically fashioned into wedding gowns. With the return of occasionwear and the rise of genderless clothing, Monohomme has been spotted on trendsetters like Stell of P-pop sensation SB19. He is now working on developing lace with denim and might even give womenswear a shot for his “metamorphosis.”
Renz Reyes (Cavite)
Born and raised in a province known for its brave locals, Renz Reyes muses, “It does take nerve to be a designer.” From the moment he opened a copy of Vogue in grade school, his destiny in fashion was set. Designing the clothes he was so drawn to, however, didn’t materialize until after his Fine Arts degree. He took a short course and gained the approval of Josie Natori, whose brand he works for as a womenswear designer. In his practice, Reyes is decidedly maximalist; the extremes and contrasts of grit and glamour that make his work so singular are informed by commutes from a historical town to the hustle and bustle of Manila. In 2018, Reyes had his full circle moment when he won the Bench Design Awards and showed his collection at Tokyo Fashion Week: it was featured and reviewed on Vogue Runway.
Marlon Tuazon (Pampanga)
Marlon Tuazon made fashion headlines for the unprecedented feat of Ternocon Double Gold winner in 2018, and has since become synonymous to ternos that recall old-world elegance. “My inspiration comes from a much simpler, happy place,” shares Tuazon, looking back at his formative years among the pastoral landscapes of Porac, its fiestas and holidays where the ladies donned baro’t saya. While a fixation for mecha anime honed his sketching skills, it wasn’t until his teenage years that the glamour of beauty pageants opened up a path for him: that he could be a designer “to make these ladies feel even more beautiful.”
DESIGNERS OF OUR TIMES
By MARBBIE TAGABUCBA. Photographs by BORGY ANGELES. Styling by DARYL CHANG. Introduction by CHELSEA SARABIA. Makeup: Angeline Dela Cruz. Hair: Miggy Carbonilla. Models: Lulu Eslao of Luminary Models, Martha Raagas of Luminary Models, Siobhan Moylan. Nails: Extraordinail. Producer: Anz Hizon. Photographer’s Assistant: Pao Mendoza. Stylist’s Assistants: Neil De Guzman, Ticia Almazan, Renee De Guzman. Makeup Assistant: Jian Santos. Hair Assistant: John Dave Villalino. Interns: Sophia Lanawan, Jill Santos, Allyson Nibungco. Shot on location at Ito Kish Cafe. Special thanks to Ito Kish