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An uprising in the seams

By MARBBIE TAGABUCBA, The Philippine Star Published Jan 27, 2023 5:00 am

Swaths of silk are held together by humble cotton strings, hand stitched with heavy-duty polyester threading in Geof Gonzales’ nearly five-year return.

At a glance, the archetypal luxurious fabrics get all the glory in his exploration of traditional haute couture techniques. You don’t know what you’re looking at—where does the jacquard coat end and the skirt with an astrakhan-lined pocket begin? The shape and drape and sheen are mesmerizing. Mink and rabbit have no business lining pockets, yet there they are, on decorative welt pockets in damask. But all this beauty is made possible only by the handiwork of cotton and polyester seaming underneath, perceptible only when you lift the hems.

Of course, you don’t have to lift the hems. You don’t have to know how your clothes are made. You don’t have to be aware of the power and economic imbalances by which our society functions in order to go on living. In Numbing, Gonzales wants you to look. 

Faille draped tank top with pocket lined in astrakhan and faille flat skirt with pockets lined in shearling

Gonzales is known for his floral arrangements that are at once as exotic and rustic as Akong Gugma and for building fantastical worlds for global brands like Hermès and Bench as designer and creative director for design collective RabbitHole Creatives. Since his last collection in 2018, he has released a capsule of understated wearable pieces for lifestyle store Guava Sketches in Greenbelt.

But the latent anger and frustration have yet to be cooled. “The last thing this world needs is another dress,” Gonzales says. “This idea pushes met—the paradox of creating in today’s socio-economic climate. I make stupid clothest—stupid garments done immaculately.”

Jacquard tank top, pocket lined in mink and rabbit, and damask skirt with pocket lined in mink and fox.

YSTYLE: How did you begin creating this collection? What was the most challenging part?

GEOF GONZALES: This happened due to COVID and was finished by the end of 2021. The past few years displayed many critical implosions by the government. How polarizing it has been for us as a nation. It is so absurd how lenient we are when it comes to abuse. Our dignities desensitized so inhumanely. I pulled from those frustrations. What I can’t verbally eloquate, I make with my hands. This collection echoes an eat-the-rich proclivity. It was a challenge to allow myself to release it. 

Upcycling also invites further introspection. Lining the pockets with real fur is such a stupid thing to do, but what does it say?

Brocade dress with rabbit appliqué

People are talking about fur again, real and faux, since the lion head at Daniel Roseberry's Schiaparelli in the couture shows. Can you talk about your use of upcycled fur?

I have been vegan twice in the past and fully understand the flip side of it. However, I just adore the finer things. The scores of references attached to furt—good and bad. Upcycling also invites further introspection. Lining the pockets with real fur is such a stupid thing to do, but what does it say?

Damask suspended dress with pocket lined in mink and seal

In Numbing, did you work with a new technique or material you previously haven’t explored before in this collection, or getting to know a textile in a new way?

Traditional couture techniques were incorporated in most pieces. Referencing the golden era of haute couture. The way they fastened to the body while maintaining a particular shape. It feels impractical yet intentional. While some have complicated seaming for the most conventional shapes.

Jacquard wrap coat and jacquard draped skirt with lamé appliqué and pocket lined in astrakhan

Your venue was formerly Today x Future. Is there a connection?

Not particularly. I’m just delighted with recontextualizing atmospheres. It’s really up to our guests how they will interpret it. 

What does fashion need now?

A new voice.