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Fashion as art, art in fashion

ART is woven into fashion at Voyageur, a fashion collection exhibited at Alabang’s Art Lounge Manila until June 28. Voyageur was made in a collaboration between label Septième Rebelle and Fundacion Sansó.

The collection married the structure of Septième Rebelle with the textile designs of artist and Presidential Medal of Merit awardee Juvenal Sansó. Before making a name as a master painter, Sansó created textile designs for fashion houses: one of the most prominent among this list was Balenciaga in its heyday in the late 1950s to the ’60s. Designing textiles was a way for the artist to support himself after graduating from the École Nationale des Beaux Artes in Paris. These efforts would pay off — he was discovered by premier pre-war couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, who introduced Sansó to Galerie Lucie Weill, which gave him his first solo art exhibition.

This is the second collaboration of Fundacion Sansó with Septième Rebelle, the first one being held last year (Story here: https://www.bworldonline.com/arts-and-leisure/2021/12/13/416877/septieme-rebelle-brings-sansos-textile-prints-to-life/).

Septième Rebelle’s Creative Director, Robbie Santos, made about 70 to 100 rough sketches, and after receiving cues from Fundacion Sansó on which textile designs to use, these designs were printed onto fabric. During a June 15 show, Mr. Santos said about 30% of the clothes came from this archive. “Fundacion Sansó has a supplier that can print on fabrics,” he explained during a group interview backstage.

Voyageur took inspiration from the itch to travel after the pandemic. “It’s all about self-expression. We’ve all felt so stifled. Hindi ka puwedeng mag-travel (you can’t travel),’ said Mr. Santos. He rattled off a list of travel restrictions that were in place up until a few months ago.

“It’s an expression of your freedom,” he said of the resort-themed collection, which takes its bearings from activities one might do on vacation: dance, dine, party, or lounge. These have been polished by mixing in classic silhouettes for both men and women during the show: think softly tailored leisure suits for men in the ’60s; or else asymmetrical gowns from the late ’50s, all of them printed with the abstractions that would become Sansó’s trademark during the height of his own fame.

Mr. Santos reflects on his own similarities with the artist. “He was forced to do things to earn a living na hindi naman niya gusto (that he didn’t like).” The label’s name itself means “seventh rebel” in French, pointing to Mr. Santos’ own status as a seventh child. “For me, I could relate to that… there are some people who do something, but it’s not really their passion.” While receiving an education from Istituto Marangoni-Paris, London College of Fashion, and Central Saint Martins, he said that designing was his second phase in life, having built a former career in the academe.

He discussed the difference of discipline between art and fashion: “In fashion, you have to deal with bodies. You have to measure the body of the model… In art, all you have to do is take a look at the canvas, find out what your inspiration is, maybe you make a few rough sketches, then tira ka na (go ahead),” he said. “In fashion, it’s difficult. The fabric has to conform to the body of the person wearing it. If the process of painting is tedious, it’s because you paint layer upon layer of paint. In fashion, it becomes tedious because you have to do fitting upon fitting.”

While Septième Rebelle certainly makes nice clothes, they aren’t very well-known, and seeing a Septième Rebelle piece in the wild is a bit like spotting a bit of secret code. Mr. Santos said, “I don’t want to be so big that you sacrifice quality. I don’t want to be so famous that you end up being shallow.” —  Joseph L. Garcia