For years now, Uniqlo has been collaborating with Southeast Asian designers for a line of graphic T-shirts called UT Feel The SEA. The line has been doing well, with new collections dropping regularly. In fact, late last year, Uniqlo worked with Cebuano artist PJ Ong for five designs, all abstract and geometric.
This month, the Japanese fast fashion retailer is reprising Feel The SEA with a collection that includes the work of another young Filipino designer: Paulina Paige Ortega. Among her previous works are editorial design projects (including the cover design and inside art for Besties, a book by Georgina Wilson and Solenn Heussaff), as well as branded projects for labels like Float Swim, Wabi Sabi, and Tropa.
Uniqlo recently revealed the line's new T-shirts, including four designs by Paulina. They all bear a minimal, tropical theme:
To learn more about the collection, we asked Paulina herself about how the whole thing came about, where she drew inspiration from, and why representation is important. Here's what she had to say:
On her inspiration for this collaboration:
"My immediate source of inspiration for the designs was very personal to me. I grew up, for the most part, in a very tropical, beachy sort of environment in Cebu, where the beach is a quick 30-minute drive from the city. Most weekends were spent with friends and family by the ocean, or on a boat listening to good music, eating incredible food, reading under the shade of palm trees, soaking up the sun. When I think of home and the Philippines, those very fond scenes from my childhood come to mind. That was really where the design process began for me."
"I also took inspiration from the collages of Henri Matisse. I loved the idea of using clean, almost child-like cutouts to echo my own childhood memories of home. And then, of course, I had to turn my personal associations of the Philippines into designs that rang a little more universal. Uniqlo is very much about clothing and design intended for everyone, everywhere, so it was important to have the designs be relatable to all Filipinos."
On her style and visual identity as an artist:
"I don't wanna get too caught up in the idea of having to stick to a 'style.' I find that a little limiting and I think that can sometimes come off as a little inauthentic to have to only do things in a certain style that is associated with my work. I just try to express myself in the best way possible, and have 'style' come through organically. That said, it has been pointed out to me that my work tends to lean on the minimalist and feminine side. I think that comes through in these designs for Uniqlo. I've been doing collage work for years, and I definitely drew on that process, but tried to translate it digitally for these designs—like I was mimicking paper cutouts on the screen."
On representation and the importance of Uniqlo's Feel The SEA collections:
"I was especially excited to be involved in a collection that put its focus on Southeast Asian talent and culture. It's not very often that we see brands of this magnitude reach out to designers in their local markets and invite them to be design collaborators. It was really meaningful to me to create designs that were inspired by the Philippines, that Filipinos could wear, and in which we could potentially see ourselves and a bit of our culture."
"It's important that young Filipino creatives see the work of their fellow designers being valued and supported by retail juggernauts like Uniqlo. There is so much talent in the Philippines and in Asia. Collaborations like Feel the SEA shed a spotlight on our region and allow that talent to be celebrated and recognized. I am beyond happy and honored to be a part of it this time around."
The Uniqlo UT Feel The SEA collection is now available in select Uniqlo stores in the Philippines for P390.
*This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.