Jessan Macatangay

Filipino Designer Embodies a True Pinoy Spirit In the Midst of A Pandemic

Lory Joyce Andagan | July 27, 2020

Filipino Designer Embodies a True Pinoy Spirit In the Midst of A Pandemic

Lory Joyce Andagan
Lory Joyce Andagan | July 27, 2020

During the fight against COVID- 19, many countries imposed lockdowns and everyone is advised to stay at home. Amid this global crisis, many of us thought about how to move forward when everything was put on hold. Like many, Jessan Macatangay, an aspiring Filipino fashion designer based in London felt homesick and frustrated with the fact the pandemic could ruin his career. However, like a true Pinoy who embodies optimism by looking for the brighter side of each situation, he continued his dreams and passion to make way for the global fashion industry.

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Born in Batangas, Jessan Macatangay is a registered nurse- a course that he took up to fulfill his mother’s wish. Since his passion for fashion was undeniable, he moved to Manila to study at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines. Shortly, he moved to Central Saint Martins, the very same school of the iconic designers Stella McCartney, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen. To earn his degree, as both standard and tradition, all graduates were required to participate in a show for the culmination of their education. Since the threat of COVID- 19 hit the world, he received news that they will not be given the same kind of support the previous graduates have had for their final show. Since lockdown was implemented, the school decided that it’s best if everyone who can provide their support—seamstresses, wood and metal workers, even the ones who have access to their school’s fabrics— to stay safe in their homes. Even his suppliers had stopped their operations. “The first few weeks after the lockdown was announced was the hardest for me,” Macatangay recalls “We needed to move our work from the university to our homes. I considered flying back to Manila to be with my family but thought it was wiser to stay in London since my sewing machine and basic tools are all here.”

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Because of the situation, Jessan has limited access to the resources and facilities that would allow home to create his pieces. “I had to buy fabrics online, which meant that I had very limited choices,” adding that he only used two fabrics for his entire collection— lycra and cotton. Since he also had a little bit of silk satin, Jessan made use of it. “I dyed and digitally printed my fabrics to achieve the looks I wanted. For the pieces that required metal and woodworking, I worked with scraps and whatever I could get my hands on. I did everything manually using the most basic tools and actually enjoyed the process,” he shared. Despite these challenges, his Batangueño fighting spirit was awakened. “It 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.”

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Jessan reveals that his final collection is quite different from what he envisioned before the pandemic. “I needed to change a lot of things from design to materials and the process by which I was going to make them. More than anything else, I was really grateful for the guidance of my tutors from the university,” he shares. Jessan came up with a visually striking final collection that symbolizes how people carry the weight of personal struggles.  “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.” His pieces were a showstopper and were featured in international publications like Vogue, The New York Times, Grazia, and Net-A-Porter, providing him with a solid launching platform for a promising career. “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 never give up hope.” 

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TAGS: filipino fashion designer Jessan Macatangay,COVID 19,pandemic,global crisis,lockdown,Batangueño,pinoy,pinoy fighting spirit,struggles,challenges,Resilience,fashion,london,Stella McCartney,John Galliano,Alexander McQueen,Central Saint Martins,vogue,The New York Times,Grazia,Net-A-Porter