Je t’aime Paname: One Year Later

Cher Paris,

It all started one lazy afternoon, sitting at the back end of my high school classroom, pondering on the possibilities of my university choices. Time felt incredibly long, the classroom walls started to close in, and the sound of my teacher’s lecture faded into thin air. In a swift second, I was lost in my own daydream.

I pulled out a ragged old filler and on the cover page wrote a quote I stumbled on from a Tumblr site: “If dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough.” I started doodling mes rêves, from colleges across the globe to meeting my favorite bands or even simply owning a Chanel. But on the very first page, I drew an Eiffel tower with macaroons, baguettes, and chocolates. Written beneath “One day, Someday.”

The mystery of not knowing you lured me in. My parents have seen you in their thirties, twice. My brothers once lived in this city in their youth. But for me, I was a stranger.  You were a shallow existence birth from my cinematic fascination.

 

For the most part, that notebook was tucked in the dark and gathered dust while life went on.  Once in a while, I would pull it out and cross out the dreams that turned into reality. If I told my sixteen years old self that the same Eiffel Tower she once randomly drew would one day be at the foot of her yard, she would call it a bluff. But here we are six years later.

Dreaming was my perfect escape to the pressures of reality. After a brief downward spiral in early 2017, I decided to take a leap of faith. My chance to chase one of my million desires. To be brutally honest, you were not my first choice. But it was one of those “what if” moments I could not run away from.

Is it possible to love a stranger you have never met? Or understand each other even when you don’t speak the same language? I knew an ounce of you, but fate had it always written in the stars. And any self-obsessed le rêveur knows no limitation. This, you, us, was something I was ready to fight for.

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Paname, you aged me with wisdom and knowledge of myself and the world around me. You gave me a sense of clarity and the courage to face my personal demons. You bruised my ego but healed my wounds. Scars then turned into a reminder of being broken can be okay. We’re here to live and to learn.

Although it took me three months before I fell at your feet, broke myself to pieces, surrendered my soul to uncertainty, I have proudly regained my freedom emotionally and mentally.

I found a home in you. At times you challenged my womanhood, my morale, and even my sanity, but taught me to trust in a higher power greater than my self-existence. I no longer felt chained by the impossible standards I use to create to make myself feel alive. Your artistic soul charged my curiosity, and since then I could not stop feeding on it. You encouraged me to chase my passion when it was something I used to hide from. When the winter days made me grey, you warmth me with the strangers you introduced who I now call family.  And most of all I discovered the value of simplicity.

Some say my youth was robbed for choosing independence over comfort and a chance of wealth. I say I chose education, experience, travel, and self-discovery amongst others. But It doesn’t matter whatever path you decide to take. As long as it is authentically yours.

Paris you were never the end goal. You are my beginning.

Cheers, mon amour. Twenty-two set the bar so high, I can’t wait what the next 365 days have in store.

 

LVMH enters a new phase: Streetwear Luxe

LVMH’s men of the hour solidified the rise of streetwear luxe during the S/S19 Paris Men’s Fashion Week. Both newly appointed creative directors Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton and his personal mentor Kim Jones for Dior Homme showcased a collection that fully integrates both worlds. 

 

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Source: https://www.grailed.com/drycleanonly/virgil-abloh-fashion-history
Prior to Jones’ move, he had already successfully produced collaborations with streetwear brands such as Supreme x Louis Vuitton. The positive response for the fashion designer and heritage brand immediately increased. Thus, LVMH had the potential to delve deeper into this untapped territory, at least for luxury.
 
Early 2018, LVMH announced yet another reshuffling of creative directors within the men’s category. Kim Jones was set to succeed Kris Van Assche for Dior Homme. I thank the fashion gods for this decision. In the farewell show of Kris Van Assche for, I felt a certain disconnect and disappointment with the creative direction or therefore the lack of it. The stereotypical powerhouse suits that graced the runway looked overwhelmingly lazy. It did, however, give Kim Jones a clean slate to simply create. And must I just laud this guy for proving himself, not that he has anything to prove, to be called one of the most respected and revered designers of this generation. It was as if Dior was brought back to life through texture and color – far from the more subtle and monochromatic collections of his predecessors. Kim Jones features more daring key pieces such as sheer, floral and kimono inspired garments in bomber jackets, double-breasted suits, and lightly lined trousers. And of course with a mix of streetwear luxury.  Dior doesn’t have to be dull and boring despite critics arguing that Jones’ collection is a far outcry from the brand identity. But only a fashion forward-thinking brand will survive the ever-evolving market and that is exactly what Jones did. 
 
While Jones prepared for his debut show with Dior, the off-white creator was set to take over his reign at LV Homme. Oh, what big shoes to fill for a newcomer. The announcement startled the industry and everyone went into a complete chaos. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggerated statement, but my fellow fashion peers and I had a long and in-depth debate on his role and representation within the industry plus questioning what it means for luxury to integrate with a designer that did not climb the typical fashion ladder. Not to mention who thrives in “Hypebeast” fashion, the total opposite of the spectrum.  But Virgil Abloh’s appointment to one of the world’s most luxurious brands signifies that change is coming and we’re all in it for the long haul. 
 
Stepping foot into Palais Royal for Abloh’s show entitled “We are the World” felt like witnessing history, or at least fashion history. For decades, this dynamic was rejected by the industry and now we are paving a new path and redefining the terms of luxury. His show represented unity in nation, race, gender and in culture. A man who values inclusivity and humility used a powerful platform to share a message. And for the first time in a long time luxury feels as if it has a purpose. When streetwear was frowned upon on, given negative connotations and left out in influential fashion conversations, Abloh made sure to redefine street for what it truly represents, a unity of the community. 
 
And yes, I will be frank in saying that I personally am not a fan of streetwear but I genuinely respect it for what it represents and contributes to art, culture, music, and fashion. But what I truly appreciate about this phenomena is the creativity it brings out to other designers and brands all over the world. It’s pushing luxury out of its comfort zone and allowing brands to adapt and socially listen to their consumers. Maybe this time around luxury won’t be as boring anymore as it was in the last five years. 
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**Photos are not mine.
Featured Image Source: https://noizz.de/fashion/virgil-abloh-hat-seine-erste-louis-vuitton-kollektion-in-paris-gezeigt/6jc5b66

Namacheko SS19: Recapturing Identity

Let’s talk about Namacheko for a minute. To be honest, this brand flew under my radar in the last year but seeing the show first hand this season and understanding how they were able to bridge their heritage into an appropriate representation through a collection reminded me of why I love fashion in the first place.

Namacheko opened the second day of Paris Men’s Fashion Week at the Palais Galliera. The sun’s rays beamed through the pillars to create shapes and shadows that highlighted the runaway. The collection or what I prefer to call another episode of Dilan and Lezan Surr’s discovery of their personal identity magnified the themes around culture, heritage, and customs. Slightly oversized boxy tops with diamond-geometric shapes as accents, sharp collared polos underneath, monochromatic thigh-high shorts, calf-length socks and brogue shoes reminded me of a prep-school uniform for young men. It was a classic and most definitely a wearable collection that could easily elevate a curated wardrobe. Dilan recalls watching the film “Solaris” by Andrei Tarkovsky and used this as an inspiration for playing with colors. It was unique enough to stand on its own without falling into the trend trap of streetwear luxe seen in other brands for the Spring/Summer 19 collections.

 

But let’s go past the aesthetic and into the story of the brother-sister duo behind the brand. The Surr siblings were born in Kirkuk, Iraq before moving to Sweden in the late 90s. Despite Sweden being home most of their lives, their deep-seated roots and connection to their homeland became a part of their quest in unraveling their personal identity. The duo wanted to embrace that part of themselves and in doing so initially created a short-film, a photo-book and a collection as part of a passion project where their family who still resides in the autonomous region of Iraq starred in.

The industry immediately took notice of their minimalistic and fashion-forward pieces. The unprecedented rise and acknowledgment put them on-schedule in Paris Fashion Week – unusual, especially for menswear. Though this is solely a brand for men, women graced the runaway dressed in the same outfit.

The designs of each are not just for aesthetic purposes. Everything from the shapes used, the textiles and the color combination are references to their personal story, the tale of two cities. In a previous interview posted on Kodd Magazine, the designers say that the colors used such as red, black and green are representations of the different ethnic communities present in Kirkuk, all of which live in the same city but are not necessarily allies.

Despite leaving a country that has been politically and socially torn, they are far from forgetting the past behind. In a way, they are proclaiming their truth and fighting the war against Islamic State through fashion and art. No guns, no bombs, but a powerful message on identity, community, and freedom of expression. Some would argue but how is this making a change? Through a culture of conversation.

No doubt the fashion industry can be stubborn at times. But it is continuing to be a platform where expression on the catwalk, on the streets, on print and etc is a revolution not just for people in the forefront but those who are struggling with displacement and belonging in their new “homelands”.

A few more photos of the collection below from Vogue:

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Afrobytes 2018: Branding a nation through Fashion

I never doubted the power of communication. But prior to moving to Paris, my definition of PR was merely event management, artist relations, lavish soirees and free giveaways.  There’s nothing wrong with that yet as I immersed my self more as a practitioner focused on the fashion industry, I understood the capacity of PR and what it can do to shape a narrative.

On occasion, I  find myself in a conversation where people let off snarky remarks upon learning I work in the fashion industry. Comments such as “oh, isn’t fashion shallow and only for the bourgeoisie?” or “What can fashion really do for  the world on a grand scale if its just for show?” I simply give a smile despite a built-up angst within me. Maybe it’s me not wanting to sound defensive or I am just used to all the criticisms.

To those who don’t seem to believe in the industry I am deeply passionate about and its role in today’s world, just proves why PR needs to exist now more than ever. The challenge for us is to continuously educate and use these tools to get our message across. And believe it or not, the fashion has more to say than what it lets off on the surface.

I recently attended Afrobytes, a conference on the African technology Industry held last June 07-08 in MEDEF France. Sissi Johnson, brand strategist and someone I personally look up to was the moderator for the panel “Exploring the intersection of Fashion and Technology and contributing to more representative stories of contemporary Africa”. With her were three speakers namely  Amina Belghiti, head of partnerships for Instagram France, Tania Habimana, entrepreneur and public speaker from South Africa and lastly Isabelle Faggianelli, LVMH digital transformation director.

 

 

With the African continent burgeoning, no doubt they will be the next fashion and cultural hub. Fashion weeks are taking place in cities such as Lagos and Cape Town;  The local luxury market is slowly gaining momentum and recognition from across the globe; emerging designers are making their mark within the industry and so on and so forth.

Sissi opened the conversation by stating “Fashion has the power to tell stories and brand a nation.” This statement led to an interesting and fruitful discussion on why and how fashion can become a catalyst for change. Not only do artists come together and showcase their work with pride but they too become part of a community that shapes the narrative.  And in doing so, the availability of technology and numerous platforms provide an avenue for these talented individuals to create a name for themselves and give Africa the voice they deserve. Their stories should not be dictated, white-washed or manipulated by anyone but rather let them speak their truth with their art. We already know the value of technology and the role it played in history, politics, and society now we move the conversation even further.

According to Isabelle, even heritage houses such as LVMH take part in social listening ensuring they grasp the needs and wants of their audience. This allows esteemed labels to adapt and move with culture.  Amina adds “The youth will listen more to fashion designers than they do to political figures”. And I believe this to be true to a certain extent because art speaks volumes and with no boundaries.

So if I find myself in another awkward scenario with judgemental stares and rude critics about the role of fashion, I would confidently say that no, fashion is not simply all about luxury or perfection neither is it exclusive to class, race or identity. but fashion is part of a wider dialogue that fosters innovation and creativity beyond imaginable.

And One day, I dream of doing the same for my country. I truly believe that the Philippines has a robust fashion industry deserving to be acknowledged on a global scale. For now, I’ll continue to learn the ropes of the fashion industry and the ever-evolving PR industry.