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Young Pinoy designer to debut Brutalist-inspired fashion label

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 13, 2022 5:00 am

At just 21 years old, Filipino fashion designer Ellis Co has all the ambition and brashness of youth, but also the passion and talent to back it up, if the two designs he showed us were any indication.

The young designer/rapper/music producer recently gave the media a preview of the fashion collection he plans to debut at Whitespace on July 27. Called “Memoirs of the Future,” the 44-look collection will premiere Co’s fashion label Archives.

“Archives is a high-fashion streetwear brand that encapsulates the energy of the youth, hip-hop, and other young people who make music such as myself,” Co says. “The reason why it's called Archives is because we want to archive that energy — the energy that streetwear expresses or encapsulates.”

Japanese-inspired: Archives button-down shirt cut from Japanese denim

A male and female model wore two looks from Archives, both with sharply constructed jackets, beautifully cut lapels, and Japanese-style, drop-crotch pants.

“The reason why it drops really nice is because the right leg is a little longer than the left leg, so it has a nice angle,” Co says. “The stitching and cutting are all Brutalist-inspired. A lot of Brutalist structures have this curve, so I have it as my signature.”

I ask why Brutalist architecture inspires him, and he replies, “Just because Brutalism is usually characterized as grim and cold, and that's something I used to be back in high school. But for this collection, it's actually eco-brutalism. ‘Eco’ is like the warm, mother aspect and brutalism is kind of like the cold, and I want, like, a perfect balance in between.

Gray scale: Long-sleeved shirt with Brutalist cutting and stitching

“And for most of the clothes it's usually just one type of fabric used per piece, just like brutalism,” he continues. “Because brutalism, they only use one type of material.”

Co is also influenced by the architecture of Tadao Ando and Santiago Calatrava. Fashion-wise he favors Japanese designers like Junya Watanabe. “In his recent collection he used this fabric,” notes Co, referring to the ribbed material of the ladies’ jacket. “He's one of my influences. I’m really into Japanese fashion designers.”

Consequently, Co orders some of his fabrics from Japan, and also from Korea and China, with local textiles mixed in. “It's really hard to get fabric here locally, so you really have to order them, but during the pandemic, a lot of their shipments were delayed. So I was supposed to do this collection way before, but I just started last January.”

Back to black: Trenchcoat with Archives’ signature lapel and pocket flaps

A self-described procrastinator, he finished designing the collection in six months with the help of his best friend, Archives creative director Reika Mayani.

“We came up with our branding, how we want it to look like, then conceptualizing basically the whole fashion show and the clothes — how we want to be inspired by brutalism, which aspects of brutalism,” she says. “Actually I don't have a background in fashion so I wouldn't say I design; I just gave some input on what I would personally wear, so he has an idea on women’s wear.”

You will see the clothes, you will also feel them, you will also taste it in terms of the food we’re going to be serving, it’s going to be molecular gastronomy.

Also a music-video director, Mayani plans to film the July 27 fashion show and will also shoot promotional videos for it. “In the show there's going to be an area with LED screens to show Ellis’ life, intimate moments while he’s designing, sketching.”

Fashion-industry veteran Frank Mamaril will direct the show, called “Memoirs of the Future.” “It's called (that) because for the whole collection, I basically tried to create what is familiar in the unfamiliar, so something that you would think is from the future could also fit here,” explains Co.

Curves ahead: An Archives ladies’ jacket bears the Brutalist curves that are Co’s signature.

“It’s déja vu,” adds Mamaril. “When you see something, you know it's reminiscent of something, but it hasn’t happened yet. Ellis is actually ahead of his time. He’s very ambitious, and very young. Very, very nice, so that's why I was so excited to work with him.”

Mamaril says the show will be an immersive journey for the senses: “You will see the clothes, you will also feel them, you will also taste it in terms of the food we’re going to be serving, it’s going to be molecular gastronomy,” he promises. “So it's very futuristic, but at the same time reminiscent of what’s in the present.” 

The multi-hyphenate designer

Co started designing shirts when he was 16. He studied entrepreneurial management at University of Asia and the Pacific, dropped out, then helped his dad in the family’s real estate and construction business, producing and making music on the side (he’s on Spotify and YouTube under the name Ellis G, and will do the soundtrack for his fashion show).

Fashion designer Ellis Co (center) with two looks from his label Archives: He will debut his first collection, called “Memoirs of the Future,” at Whitespace on July 27.

He also manufactures uniforms at his own factory, which is currently his main source of income. “The reason I started designing again was because my creative director and best friend Reika blocked me for a shoot. She got me to style for Ace Banzuelo and some of his dancers and they needed, like, a rush outfit custom-made, and I was like, okay, yeah, sure. No problem. I could do it in like a day or two. I got my notebook, and then I had it made, brought it to the shoot, and then everyone really liked it. People from Sony liked it, his manager really liked it, people wanted to buy it. And I was like, wait; hold on. I don't want to sell it to you because it's just a rough draft. And then everyone's like, ‘Yo, why don't you, like, get into designing then?’’’

Co with Frank Mamaril, the director of his fashion show

He plans to sell Archives through luxury channels here and abroad. “We’ll have a website, and we're meeting up with some of the shareholders of Dover Street Market, Club 21 and Lane Crawford in Singapore. I've showed them some of the samples, and they're interested.”

Most of the pieces will be made to measure, and after his debut Co plans to release two collections a year. “When we have enough budget, hopefully four per year,” he says.

I ask why he chose to go into high-end fashion, and Co says that his mom had always pushed him to get into it because she wanted to be a fashion design student herself, “but she had me so she had to work,” he admits. “So basically I’m doing it for her. That's the main reason.”

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“Memoirs of the Future” will show at Whitespace on July 27. For updates, follow @archives.galerie on Instagram.