Final thoughts for my final year

A cube of various colors organized in 3 by 3 set with the rest of its color clan at their respective sides sits daring anyone passing by to mess up its neatness. A daredevil comes along, picks up the the cube, light in their grasp, dared to twist the colors off various sides. A row of red would sweep to the left, with the rest of the red would go the other way. A blue would break the rows up. A yellow enter the scene. There’s a green that popped up in one corner. Oh the white says hello. The orange slides through. Utter chaos of colors as the daredevil jumbles to cube in his hands, tongue out. Twisting up, twisting down. One row to the left, a column to the right. He pushes his hand as if daring anyone to organize it back. Everyone would look at each other. One by one they’d twist one row to the next so the colors would return back to its family of colors. Often one side would return to its organized state, but the rest still in chaos. As the next side gets reorganized, the first one would go ballistic, then back. Nobody got it right back up. Then again, til someone, experienced enough to know the pattern of each colors, would push one row after another. He’d twist the cube so swiftly, calmly nothing’s getting organized. He’d stay at one side of the cube, only turning to other side to check his progress. Back to the same side he’d twist each row. As he’d twist, the colors start to build back up and soon, the Rubik’s cube was back to its organized state.

It’s the only way I know how this year has unfolded. I began my year, organized and well planned, then something came along to add chaos (yeah, I’m talking about coronavirus), then it was a game of twists and turns trying to organize one side, then messing it up while reorganizing another. In the end, I just had to focus on one thing, look at the progress, then keep going.

I didn’t find that focus until late this year. I started pattern making my dresses, knowing exactly how to do it. I organized my weeks making sure I’ve toiled enough, so that by the time I’d get to making the final garment, I was ready. Turns out, something was still against me. The fabric choice was a curveball, french seaming was unprepared for, weaving was too overwhelming. It was utter chaos. As the project progresses, a lot of what I know in garment construction and patter making, had to be unlearned so I can accomodate to some mistakes and mishaps I learned. The weaving, most especially, was the part of the project that was all learning along the way. I never worked with a nail and a hammer, I suddenly have a 1m x .7m loom with 70 nails on one side, 50 nails on the other. Did it without breaking a fingernail. I never designed my own textile, here I had to weave a whole lot of panels to make a garment. I just had to keep doing new things, don’t I? It was this newness of the method and the project that always led me to ask, am I good enough with what I’m doing? Am I really pushing the limits more? Why am I still holding back when I’ve tipped the edges up a bit? Am I really a designer? Am I pushing boundaries here? Do I provoke questions? Am I designing to solve a problem? Which problem needs solving?

I have gone through all of those questions and until now I never know the answer. All I know is that I enjoyed the game and I’m getting addicted to it. I wanted more Rubik’s cube, some made in white frames, plastic, wood, glass, I want them all. Small size, big size. A marathon, a relay, a competition, give it to me. I want to keep going. Further, I want to make this research into reality. With coronavirus hitting those on the lower end of the social status harder than the 1% who can pay 900,000 Philippine pesos for a lockdown worth of grocery (that actually happened, and made it known on social media), there’s a need to keep the people thriving and alive. Fashion has changed in the face of Covid-19. It had pushed the conversations to actions. We’ve only been talking about the problems, but rarely do we make it a reality. Instead, companies keep searching for loopholes to stay profitable than ethical. The Philippine fashion industry is not as innovative as those making names in the world stage. But, as in true Filipino spirit, we take the negative and make something out of it. Rajo Laurel staged his latest collection digitally, making it the first digital runway, seen live by millions on Facebook, elites and the mass, Filipinos and foreigners alike.

I don’t know where I will find myself after this year. I have ideas that needs a lot of confidence to make true. But I am hungry to do more, to learn more. I am hungry to make this project’s ideas into a reality where I can bring more Filipino craftmanship to New Zealand, then the world stage. It’s a collective work, and designers are doing their own part. I want my works to contribute to making this a reality. But it is such a big dream, and I have just finished four years of introductory learning to such a large industry. Fashion is so vast, and culture is so wide. There’s so many ways forward.

If I had to learn only one thing the whole time I was at Massey, is that with the right support and great environment, we can do anything. While Massey showed me a snippet of what the industry looks like, I had to also go out there and experience it. I’ve left a comfortable job at a coffee shop to work in menswear retail. I’ve volunteered in cultural foundations. I’ve met new people. I was pushed to text people I barely speak to. I learned to be specific with what I need and want. I learned to step on rocky ground so I get to the other side. I have met great friends that walked with me, some have left me, some said hi, others watched. I met great mentors, that although I barely picked their brain for ideas and suggestions, I will always have their guidance to help me throughout a new endeavor. I know I’ll always take every opportunity to come back to Massey and remember everything the past four years have allowed me to take in. I’d bring these learnings to the Philippines, so I can bring the Philippines back to New Zealand. It’s about time people, and I mean the world, to know about the Filipino art and design. We’re not just singers, we’re makers too.

So, thank you for a crazy final year. It was intense, it was invigorating, it was creative, it was vibrant. And it was never depressing. Off to the next one.

And no. No more studying. Just yet.

Hybrid Form: Dear Rosa, class notes

Dear Rosa is written in a personal letter form to an airport security personnel. The letter contains:

Description writing of a matchbox
Personal manifesto of being a feminist
A little bit of instructional writing

As a reader, I felt as if I was being invited to become as one, especially when the writer mentioned modern women. I am too. I was invited to see beyond the obvious and the properties that made the matchbox a “dangerous weapon” but to look at it deeply and see that there are new properties in it that is beyond what it was originally developed.

I liked how every piece of item is related to something personal and that allowed me to connect with the writer.

As a hybrid form, the differences are in the details that I didn’t notice until it was pieced apart in class. This is the type of writing I really liked.

Review Form Update: Virtual Fashion Show with #RajoRunwayOnline

Last night, for the first time in years, I went on Facebook awaiting a very exciting new experience for the Philippine fashion industry. Rajo Laurel, one of the Philippines’ biggest fashion designers staged his first online fashion show. I was there waiting in anticipation on the same Facebook page the Philippine elites and celebrities he dressed were also viewing. This digital stage disregarded my location so far away from where it was hosted and equalized people. For the first time, I sat front row at a fashion shows I probably would have never seen if it was produced in person. I did not have to crane my neck to have a good look at garments through the shadows of the well off.

This was not the first time it’s done in the industry. Shanghai staged its fashion week virtually this year. The presence of Covid-19 that spread across the world had forced brands and events to be produced digital. Conversation on the future of the industry has been in discussion for so long now. However, early this month it was opened to a wider range of audience for free at the Vogue  Global Conversation held early this month digitally. The people in the industry expressed a feeling of being adamant about the change of show space. Or at least, not fully willing to let go of the old. While there is a common agreement amongst the speakers that a stimulating experience in being part of the community of the brand is still important (and simply nice to have), the possibility and the chance to do something online is not looked down upon, and even inviting. One speaker noticed that having access to the shows online brought in thousands more viewers compared to the 600 invited and ticketed guests in the physical show, allowing for a wider range of customers. Fashion, as always, is open and even adapting to the never ending change in society.

So last night, in true Filipino spirit of resilience, Rajo Laurel celebrated his birthday with a first in Philippine fashion industry. Together with Saga Events, they revolutionized the industry by staging a virtual show amongst the community quarantine the country is still experiencing. It showed a new collection from the fashion designer where unlike a recorded version of a fashion show, it was shot as if the viewer is right there sat front row. The show was an hour long (including a long wait at the beginning) where emcee sat in a space in her home in Metro Manila (I believe it is), speaking to the designer in his own space in the province of Batangas. Saga Event’s Robby Carmona, the managing director of the show, was also present online to talk about the process of digitalization of the show.

I have to be honest, I expected a show filmed live as it was literally happening. Alas, they were a cut and sewn videos of pre-recorded model walks, projected online live from Saga Event’s Facebook page. The show aired at 6 pm (10 pm NZ time) in the tropics where the sun sets at 5 pm all year round, but the models were walking outside under the blazing sun as though it was 12 noon. The opening remarks were live, however. Although it took too long (typical in a Filipino event), it was the part that made watching the show felt live. Fast forward to the actual fashion show, compared to the opening, it happened in a snap, almost literally. Especially after a brief blip on the connection, which caused me to miss a good chunk of the fashion presentation’s beginning where most of the individual garments were shown. With a triple split-screen effect at the end, it was difficult to catch up on the looks I missed. However, it did make for an exciting virtual show.

I realize now what stimulating, inspiring experience that is missing online. On the one hand it gave me a sort of feeling of being on front row seat allowing me to appreciate the clothes up close. However still lacked that presence of over-dressed people, alcoholic beverage in hand confined in a space to watch people walk by. For a student, this gives a sense of excitement for a potential future.

I don’t know if a live recording of a model walking an empty catwalk is the future. However, the speakers at the Vogue Global Conversation does make a great about this possible future (even after Covid-19 is dealt with): there is room for both physical and virtual shows in the future. The future is not to plan for showing online but to visualize, plan and design a show that both in-person guests and online viewers can appreciate at the same time.

Operational Form: Class Exercise

How to lift a pen:

Engage the muscles of your right arm and open your fingers. There’s a blue inked object on the work bench. Reach out towards it and, with your fingers, pinch its plastic body and lift.

How to raise your hand:

  1. From a relaxed position, tense the muscles of your arm, either side.
  2. Pull the lower arms towards the sky bending at the elbow.
  3. Stretch out your fingers as if saying hi. Doing so will give you more visual cues that can call attention.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Manifesto Homework: The Vision, A Creative Manifesto

This manifesto is via WGSN. It embodies everything I believe as a fashion designer in 2020 and the future.

Keys are:

Red: Underline what the manifesto is championing, advocating, arguing pleading for or against.
Blue: Highlight significant persuasive or emotive language.
Yellow: Highlight evidence in the text that indicates who the manifesto written for (audience/ reader).
Green: Underline the key points of the manifesto.
Orange: Point out anything you do not understand, and anything you think is extraneous.

Speech Homework: Manuel L. Quezon’s Speech to the Filipino People

Upload the url to your blog and add notes that document your observations about how the speech is delivered, use of imagery, sound, gesture, back ground relevance, emotive use of language, volume, pace etc.

This is the first time I have encountered this speech. Not one of my high school teachers ever encouraged us to read or listen to this president speak. This was delivered in 1920s, when the Philippines was under the United States, a time when the foreign nation is gaining great power and had infiltrated their culture into the Philippines through a different method of colonialism. Manuel Quezon was the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, but he was the second Philippine president in history after Emilio Aguinaldo, who was the president of the first republic.

The content of the speech is so inspiring for someone like me who is putting Philippine culture into every creative work I do, through which I allow myself to absorb my culture no matter where I am in the world. I grew up in a time where the Philippines wasn’t at its best. It was the 90s, every who can left the Philippines in search for a better life, everyone who didn’t wishes they could. But in a time where the American presence is so largely felt in the country, someone fought for the independence. This is the speech, I wish I heard when I was young. I probably wasn’t one who wished for a different life.

The speech was so well presented, so simple yet so strong. Delivered twice, in the languages the locals spoke at the time. I wished though it was spoken in Tagalog or any other Philippine dialect. The Filipino language is the one that isn’t spoken as much without any interference of an English word. It even shares words with the Spanish language as some words never had any translation to Tagalog or another dialect. (For example, cheese is keso in Tagalog, which is also the term in Spanish only spelt differently: queso). We have always been a nation encouraged to speak the English language. It seems like an advantage in a time of globalization, but when it becomes the preferred language, especially of the educated, forgetting our own, then the problem is presented. Speeches as such would help bring the language back on its own pedestal.

I am glad the video reveals Manuel Quezon captured by cameras of the time. He has such a presence one can trust to lead the country. He has a commanding presence, that even though his grammar isn’t according to the rules of the English language, he never flinched or excused himself. He kept speaking showing that Philippines will not be broken.

Descriptive Form: Another writer’s companion

Tap, tap, tap, tap it goes. The white square keys cheeped against her drumming fingers. The alphabet is stamped onto the keys in a sequence order different from the Alphabet song everyone learns at age one. Tap, there goes a letter popping onto a screen. The same one her finger pressed on. Numbers and symbols are on it to available at the tip of her fingers, literally, to help her develop her thoughts. Tap, tap, tap, her head is still but her fingers blur with every tap, tap, tap, revealing the narrative in her mind. Silence. She must be thinking. Cheep, cheep, cheep. Away she went.

Manifesto Writing: Class Notes

“Words are weapon”

Reading -> Recognizing the person writing

Acknowledging yourself in it

Contextualizing yourself and design

Responsible of what you make.

It can be:


a propaganda

Catalogue Essay Writing: Denouement

“They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!”

Blanche DuBois, Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams


She entered the stage in a white coat extruding a presence that made her distant from the realities of the streets of New Orleans when the audience were introduced to Blanche Dubois. Her demise was announced at her arrival at Elysian Fields where her sister resides with her husband. In Greek mythology, Elysian Fields is an underworld. This project came about as a response to a previous project created – a white 1930s dress with a blush pink ribbon for the character’s opening scene. An expression of a childlike innocence and far removed from reality. Everything these set of photographs suggests are not. Denouement is a photographic series that portrays the closure of Blanche DuBois’s chapter in her own Elysian Fields as told in the play Streetcar Named Desire written by Tennessee Williams in 1947.

Other versions of this sampler:

Denouement is a series of photographs previewing the final parts of Blanche Dubois’s story in Tennessee William’s 1947 play Streetcar Named Desire. Her narrative began at the end of the lifestyle she once had when she arrived at her sister’s apartment in New Orleans via a streetcar named Desire. It was the first project I produced when I returned to Massey in 2017 where students were to respond to one of the projects created in previous first year studio papers. Unlike most of the other students, I too began at the end, and so the concept had to come from a project I created at Southern Institute of Technology where I transferred from. There I designed a garment for the opening scene of the play, a white 1930s dress with a pink bow, a portrayal of a Southern Belle’s childlike innocence from reality. In this project, there was nothing innocent nor perfect, just the death of one’s lavish life they once knew.

Essay Exercise: Catalogue Essay Analysis Exercise

A little class exercise on analyzing a Catalogue essay. The keys were:

Historical / Context
Theoretical framing / Influencer insight
Connection to art and design

Art and The Indiscernible

Angela Kilford

Final Thoughts

Kim Lee