- Could you tell us about your work in the fashion space, and your background in integrating sustainability into fashion?
My design practice draws inspiration from reflections on socio-cultural constructs like gender and sexuality. My present work explores the intersection between gender and clothing in which I interrogate and cirque the construct and performativity of gender—in the context of Judeo-Christian tradition—through the lens of fashion and design. I intend to deconstruct gender conventions by reimagining the human figure as body, as embodiment, and as a medium that we use to perform gender. For me, the figure (or body) is constantly transforming and transfiguring.
In my work as an artist-designer, sustainability is naturally integrated. I work closely with my team and make sure that they are compensated and treated well, as they should. In our KNJ collection, where we explore the intimate relationship of identity and dress, we sourced deadstock fabrics from our local market. While in Bunteduffem, we experimented with an alternative material for embellishments because we wanted to customize the pattern on each ‘sequin’. We don’t release collections by season but rather cater to bespoke clothing on an order basis. We also explore the opportunities provided by fashion as a medium for artistic expression whenever there’s an itch for it.
- Do you think designers, especially on a larger scale, should be accountable for environmental considerations as they are creating?
Who can we really hold accountable for the environmental crisis that we are facing right now? The system? Corporations? The word “accountable” scares me as an artist-designer.
Guy Deborg’s Society of the Spectacle tells us that our obsession with image or the idea of having things conditions us to consume more than what is necessary. Climate change is a direct consequence of our relentless consumerism. I acknowledge that it is important that we, as creatives, integrate sustainability into our practice by being thoughtful of the types and amount of materials we consume, how often we consume and if consumption is necessary.
We are all participants in this fight. I think it’s good that we integrate eco-consumerism as well in our daily lives like bringing our own reusable utensils and shopping bags, riding bikes if possible, etc. But I think the best way this can be solved is when we start to collectively take on corporate power and break the spell casted on us by neoliberalism. Canadian journalist Martin Lukacs once said that we must break the “spell cast by neoliberalism.” We must stop thinking and acting like individuals and solve environmental problems collectively as a whole.
- Your collections have dealt with garmentry’s relationships to the body, to socialized ideas of gender, and the church. What role do you see design plays in shifting the dominant culture, specifically as they relate to identity and authenticity?
In my body of work, I try to use design elements for surface techniques like embroidery, embellishments, print and the like, in an attempt to dialogue and renegotiate with tradition. It raises the question of, “Can fashion allow us to accept our authentic selves and not pretend to be somebody else or something we are not?”
One of the key roles of dress in society is self-expression. I leverage on this opportunity and try to express my negotiations through the lens of fashion and design.
As the closest thing to our body, literally envelopes the figure, garmentry provides us a chance to reimagine the form. In my body of work, I’ve also explored its relation to gender and played around with conformity, gender expression and identities in hopes of engaging conversations on dominant culture by means of critique.
- In recent years, the term “petropatriarchy” has come into light as one of the dominant forces behind ecological and interpersonal destruction. In your work that deals with gender, while maintaining a focus on sustainability, how have you seen the interplay between gender and the environment manifest itself?
Another commonality in my work is my interrogation of power, which in nature is patriarchal. Queer voices are the least heard in conversations that are “HE-centric”. By being aware of environmental issues, we are able to use any means necessary for our voices to be heard, like our art practice for example.
Movements like the New Fashion Initiative is a really good example of using a platform led mostly by women to encourage conversations on issues that matter especially for an industry like fashion, which is one of the leading contributors to world waste.