When I first saw Sassa Jimenez’s Birthday Dress, a confection of a frock with puff organza sleeves, boxy, argyle tricot knit body, finished off with a tulle hem as frothy as its namesake, it made me smile, even inspired me to dress up for dinner because… why not?
“I was so worried that people would find a collection like this irrelevant to our current social climate, but I really believe that as much as fashion is a reflection of society’s current state, it’s also serves as an escape or a way of projecting our fantasies when we’re down and out,” the designer admits via email.
In April, Sassa’s father, former tourism chief and “It’s More Fun In The Philippines” creator Ramon Jimenez, Jr., passed away.
By June, her studio was back, bringing her touch of girlish fun to a limited line of reusable fabric face masks in pastel-hued gingham and whimsical candy-colored prints. Sassa started teasing about her new collection in July, championing archived fabric to reinvent her favorite silhouettes: loose and boxy dresses and separates with fluttering sleeves.
“Planning and designing the collection really cheered me up and I was hoping to pass on that joy even just to one person,” says Sassa. “Cheering each other up matters so much these days.”
These days, clothes are a silent companion — protective outerwear gives wearable courage, new loungewear feels like a commiserating hug. Sassa’s newest collection takes you by the hand, gloved with a pretty pink bow. Let’s celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, your first successful bake.
YSTYLE: How are you feeling these days?
SASSA JIMENEZ: It’s different every day. Some days I’m very hopeful and energized, some days I feel a little more dreary. I think, just like most people, I take it day by day. I make it a point to do at least one thing that relaxes me, like baking, drawing or playing with my dogs. Those little things really keep me centered in the middle of all the uncertainty.
How did the idea for your latest collection come to you? I imagine that some pieces — like the apron and the gloves! — were inspired by domesticated activities, celebrating the small wins of perhaps baking your first perfect loaf of bread.
The apron was definitely inspired by me spending a lot of time in the kitchen, and most of the other pieces are things that you can throw on to amplify your current outfit. I wanted to keep things fun. Clothes really have a way of transforming our mood and that shouldn’t change even if we’re just at home. We tend to buy clothes and keep them hidden in our closets for a different occasion but I really wanted these pieces to start this new behavior of dressing up for ourselves and really using the things we have in our closets.
Was it designed entirely during the pandemic? Did the pandemic redefine your creative process as well as how things work in your company? What challenges did you encounter in completing this collection?
Everything was designed during quarantine and, these days, it takes a lot longer for my studio to produce a collection. The pandemic definitely altered how I work and how I work with my team. It takes a lot longer to accomplish certain tasks now but I think it’s also time to slow down and see what we can cut out of our system to become more efficient. I have to be more creative than ever before, not just in my designs but in how I’m going to handle my business. Our world is changing and fashion is not exempt from that.
I see a bit of Wndrboy (her menswear line) in this collection.
I think what I learned from dabbling with menswear and Wndrboy is the adaptability of a garment to every life. When I was just making wedding dresses and gowns, I never saw anything beyond that one special day or occasion, but now I really think about all my designs as everyday pieces. We’ve never sold our collection in this quantity before. It’s a nice exercise on size grading and quality control. It’s a great learning experience for me to produce our collection this way and I’m really excited to learn more so we can give our customers the best quality each time we come out with a collection.
You collaborated with visual artists Mags Ocampo and Sam Ganzon for a series of iron-on patches and voile scarves. What set this idea off? Why Mags and Sam, and what brief did you give them?
This was the most exciting part of building the collection because I’ve never collaborated with anyone this way before and I’m so glad I did. It came out so much better than what I imagined that it inspired me to add more pieces to the collection. I was always a fan of Mags’ digital work and have worked with her in some Sassa J shoots in the past. Her playful and inventive style really matches what the Sassa J brand is all about. Sam’s work always intrigued me. I used to ogle her Instagram. She had one artwork of these sheer gloves with pearls on it and it never left my mind, so it was only natural to choose her to do digital paintings of our sheer garments. I really owe a lot to these talented girls for adding such a great energy to the collection. It’s so inspiring to see your vision through someone else’s eyes. The brief? Just have fun with it!
* * *
Shop the collection at sassajimenez.com. A minimum of 10 percent of earnings goes to Save the Children Philippines’ COVID-19 interventions and Project ARAL campaign.