Jessan Macatangay on His Design Principle: 'I Want to Create Pieces for Women Who Adore Sensuality Without Fearing Sexuality' - Lookbook

L’Oréal Professionnel Womenswear Creative Award winners wants society to realize that a woman is more than her body.

Like many young people stumped on what to take for college, Jessan Macatangay proceeded to take what his parents suggested. But after finishing a nursing degree and becoming a licensed in the Philippines, he realized his heart wasn’t in it. 

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But when the young man came across a Comme Des Garcons fashion show video on YouTube, it sparked an interest. “This is where it started for me.” 

“After I got my license, I started doing pattern-cutting short courses in [the Fashion Institute of the Philippines]. The more I looked into the possibility of pursuing a fashion career, the more I naturally learned about Central Saint Martins (CSM) here in London,” he tells Lifestyle Asia.” I was accepted on the BA course and, later, the MA course I just finished.”

Macatangay didn’t only finish a second bachelor’s and master’s degree—he accomplished both with global recognition. 

In good company

With his five-piece Fashion Design with Marketing graduating collection, he received praise from various Vogue editions, Grazia, and The New York Times in 2020. More recently, his MA graduating set titled “Sculptural Sensuality” bagged the prestigious L’Oréal Professionnel Womenswear Creative Award.

Every year, Central Saint Martins, the top fashion school globally, showcases its graduating class collections at London Fashion Week. While the creations of fresh talent are debuted, industry leaders watch to award the L’Oreal Prize. 

The judges of the 2022 class were fashion directors and editors, namely Women’s Wear Daily’s Tianwei Zhang, British Vogue’s Julia Sarr-James, and I-D’s Osman Ahmed. 

Previous winners include the “daughter of the digital revolution” Mary Kataranzou for her innovative computer-based prints and Grace Wales-Bonner, who uses her work to “address the politics of identity, sexuality, and race.”

Embracing sensuality 

For his award-winning collection, the Batangas native wanted to influence courage for women to express who they are. Macatangay says that, in the Philippines, religion plays a role in putting restraints on women, including how they dress. 

“This is especially true in areas outside Metro Manila. I grew up in Batangas, where the prevalent dress code is always modest and conservative. Batangueños are naturally religious people. So religious, in fact, that they allow their beliefs to influence every aspect of their lives heavily,” he shares. 

While he thinks the mindset is outdated, Macatangay notes that women are still subjected to unnecessary judgment and being told to cover up when not conservatively dressed. 

In effect, the eight looks for Sculptural Sensuality feature form-hugging silhouettes, revealing cut-outs, and unapologetically shot-hems. “This collection is about making the society realize that a woman is more than her body,” Macatangay explains. 

Clothes, he says, exist to accentuate the feminine figure and showcase it in its most lustrous light. “I really want to create pieces for women who adore sensuality without fearing sexuality,” he explains. 

The takeaways

After seven years at CSM, Macatangay considers the international people, from students to instructors, the highlight of his journey. And, of course, finding his purpose in the fashion industry. 

“It wasn’t easy at the beginning because I’m a designer who always wants to do crazy things—which I still love, by the way. But during the process, I always ask, ‘Does it make sense? Who is it for? Why?’ he shares. 

Now, like his acclaimed MA collection, Macatangay begins with a woman or muse in mind. He creates a story of who will wear his pieces and draws inspiration from what he wants wearers to feel when in his brand. 

“Needless to say, I quit [nursing] to pursue fashion. It was quite risky because I was entering a totally new world with lots of uncertainties,” Macatangay says. “So the [L’Oréal Prize], for me, was a confirmation that I am on the right track.”

This story first came out in the June 2022 issue of Lifestyle Asia.

Banner: Photo from @jessanmacatangay on IG

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