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This Filipino Designer's Dramatic Graduation Collection Got Featured On Vogue

Did you know Jessan Macatangay also trained under Marc Jacobs and J.W. Anderson?
This Filipino Designer's Dramatic Graduation Collection Got Featured On Vogue

Making it in the fashion industry is no easy feat. For London-based fashion student Jessan Macatangay, it’s all about taking risks in pursuit of your passion. He made a major life decision to switch careers from being a registered nurse to becoming a fashion designer. Now he’s a fresh Fashion Design graduate from the Central Saint Martins art school in London.

His graduation collection, “Finding Beauty and Power in Struggle,” has earned recognition in the fashion community. He thought up with the concept during his second year in school and had been developing it since. While the pandemic prompted Jessan to make adjustments to his original plan, it certainly didn't compromise the message behind it.

The collection has a vivid color palette inspired by the paintings of renowned Filipino artist BenCab.  
Photo by Corinna Luce.

Before moving to London, Jessan began his fashion training at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines. There he learned the value of Filipino craftsmanship. “We have lots of amazing and incredible designers and artists in our country whose works are truly global. I think it is because we are very skilled in what we do,” he says. 

His schooling both in the Philippines and abroad prepared him to take on internship opportunities at renowned fashion labels like Marc Jacobs and J.W. Anderson. He describes both offices as “multicultural working environments” where he was able to hone his craft. Jessan shares, "I never felt out of place working for these designers. They made me feel like part of the team. I think the skills and learnings I got from working there are valuable."

Of Struggle and Strength: The Concept and Execution of His Collection

Ideally, working on a graduation collection would require help from patternmakers, tailors, and other suppliers, but because of the lockdown in the U.K., an unfamiliar country to him, Jessan had limited resources to work with. "The process completely reflected the concept of my graduation collection—finding beauty and power in struggle. I found myself inspired yet again and more resilient so as to not give up. I felt empowered seeing my final garments come together under these circumstances.”

Existing chairs were deconstructed and spray-painted for a mirrored brass finish.  
Photo by Corinna Luce.

Jessan used an everyday object—a chair—to illustrate human resilience amidst hardships. He deconstructed a large part of it and applied it to one of his garments as a representation of the struggles we experience. This appendage gradually became smaller, more bearable, like a badge of strength rather than an obstacle, as each item in his collection progressed. 

"Even though a chair is made for you to rest, when you put it in a different position on a body, you give it an opposite power, which becomes heavy and painful. I had my muse try on a chair and find every opening she could to make it fit. This signifies that when you face a struggle, it becomes smaller and eventually becomes part of your body, making you stronger, more powerful, and a better person,” he explains. 

Aside from this, Jessan attributes his use of vivid colors to the paintings of Filipino artist Benedicto Cabrera, more popularly known as “BenCab”. 

With limited suppliers, Jessan dyed and 3D-printed some of the fabrics in the collection.  
Photo by Corinna Luce.

Jessan tapped his longtime friend and housemate to model the collection. They shot the whole concept within the confines of their home. “Due to limited space, I decided to focus on subtle movements and close-ups of the garments, which in the end, I think, turned out amazing,” he describes. 

This dramatic interpretation caught the attention of popular fashion media sites like Vogue and Net-a-Porter’s online zine, Porter. Getting featured along with other fashion students enabled Jessan to introduce his art to more people. His virtual fashion show became accessible to more viewers including his family and friends in the Philippines. The message of beauty and power within his presentation truly resonated with the audience during these trying times.

This standout piece features Jessan's Hardoy or butterfly chair at home.  
Photo by Corinna Luce.

On the Future of Fashion

After gaining support from the global fashion community online, Jessan looks forward to learning new things so he can create more inspiring collections that will hopefully gain a wider audience. “I want to continue my studies. I just got an offer to study M.A. Fashion in Womenswear at Central Saint Martins. It will start this coming autumn,” he shares. 

His step towards higher education in fashion proves his determination to find solutions for how fashion thrives today and how it adapts to the future. Of course, Jessan acknowledges how the pandemic has changed the industry, but uncertainties aside, he remains hopeful that the fashion industry will be able to adapt to the new normal. “We should assess the current situation of our industry and find solutions to improve it. I don’t think we can go back to what it was before.” 

He further ponders, “How will consumers behave in the future? How will retail and online sales be affected? What will the impact be on fashion production?”

Jessan knows these questions remain afloat for the time being. “I don’t think anyone has specific answers yet, but the lockdown has shown that there could be new ways,” he says. Indeed, with innovative and creative minds like Jessan’s holding fashion’s torch, the future of the industry remains bright.

Buckle-like elements illustrate how the power struggle with the chair has become smaller, now an element of the garment that makes the design stronger.   
Photo by Corinna Luce.

For more of Jessan’s works, follow him on Instagram


This article was created by Summit Storylabs in partnership with JESSAN MACATANGAY.