The Covid-19 pandemic put the world on a standstill. Airplanes were grounded, cities and countries closed borders, factories and public transport stopped operations, and people were told to stay at home. Despite all this, some individuals just won’t let any crisis, regardless of scale, stop them from pursuing their passion and showing the world that strength and beauty can still be found even in the darkest of times.
Among them is up and coming London-based designer Jessan Macatangay whose recent graduation collection made headlines in The New York Times, Vogue, Net-a-Porter, and just about every other fashion outlet in the world.
Cooped up in his flat, frustrated, and homesick, Jessan received news back in the early days of the pandemic that he will not be given the same kind of support previous graduates of Central Saint Martins enjoyed due to the spread of the coronavirus. Seamstresses, wood, and metal workers, even the ones who have access to his school’s fabrics were told to stay safe in their homes.
Hard as it was, the news did not deter the young designer. He’s worked so hard to earn his degree from one of the world’s most prominent art institutions, which gave the world iconic designers Stella McCartney, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen.
There was no other choice. He had to source out his materials and do all the manual work himself. Jessan took this chance to show everyone that with hard work, resourcefulness, and determination, anything is possible.
“The first few weeks after the lockdown was announced was the hardest for me. “We needed to move our work from the university to our homes. This really changed things for me. I needed to change a lot of things, from design to materials–even the process by which I was going to make each piece. More than anything else, I was really grateful for the guidance of my tutors from the university,” explains Macatangay.
He said that one of the biggest hurdles he had to face was having to change his mindset to fit the situation—making do with the limited access to resources and facilities that would allow him to create his pieces.
“Painstakingly working on each piece made me realize that what I was going through completely reflected the concept of my graduation collection, which is ‘finding beauty and power in the midst of struggle’. As I faced the disappointment and frustration of the whole situation, I rediscovered my inspiration for doing what I do as well as resilience. I felt strong and empowered seeing my final garments come together under these circumstances.”
Challenging as it was, all of Macatangay’s hard work paid off. His five-piece collection (everyone else created only three pieces), was one of his batch’s stars. The collection’s theme resounded with everyone and Macatangay’s visually striking pieces turned many into instant fans.
“I’m not someone who is unfamiliar with struggles. We all go through different forms and levels of challenges. Some may be more significant than others but each one is very much valid. What I want people to see with this collection is how challenges can eventually become part of your beauty and strength if you stay resilient.”
The challenges in Macatangay’s collection are represented by the sculptural pieces attached to the clothes. As you go through each look, the sculptures become smaller. This signifies how struggles become a part of one’s person as they go through life and how each challenge provides one with beauty and strength.
“I’ve been working on this idea for two years now and when the Covid-19 outbreak happened, it made me realize how important it is to get this message across. Little as it may seem to others, I want to inspire people to keep pushing forward and to never give up hope.”