When the pandemic hit us, my instinct was to find ways to really make clothing more functional and protective, but still beautiful,” fashion designer Yoya Gueco tells The STAR. She reflected on our relationship with clothes — how can it make us feel good and give confidence when we don’t even go out, when we are too scared to socialize?
This pursuit led to her brand Yoya’s partnership with Polygiene, the Swedish garment technology firm known for their proprietary ViralOff antimicrobial finish, for her latest collection Armored Awakening. It’s a first for a Philippine fashion brand. Over the past few months, Polygiene has worked with brands like North Face and Diesel — brands that make clothing for roughing it out — so the partnership is a first in contemporary womenswear.
On top of fabrics like cotton being infused with copper, a natural antimicrobial agent, each piece in Yoya’s new collection has been treated with ViralOff so the clothes themselves reduce viruses by 99 percent in two hours. Because coronavirus is more likely to be transmitted through airborne respiratory droplets, antiviral clothes alone cannot replace wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, but they can prevent its spread.
The launch is hosted by premier retailer Comme Çi during the first of its online event series #CommeCiConnects called Brave New Luxe. Yoya showed different ways to wear and mix-and-match pieces from the collection to a group of over 70 women from around the world.
Yoya is beloved by a cult following of Comme Çi regulars for her tailored construction executed in coordinated sets with functional details. When the Rajo Laurel and Burberry alum returned to the Philippines after 10 years in Canada and started Yoya in 2018, the brand was defined by its signature prints.
“Solid colors are part of the awakening for me,” she says, presenting a palette of black, rust and beige. “I want it to be more subdued and calming in all this chaos we have right now, everything in the muted palette, and transition once everything is better.”
During the virtual styling session with Comme Çi, she reveals that she “built and rebuilt this collection three times over during the course of the pandemic.” When Yoya approached Polygiene, she wanted to “make sure their claims are legitimate and tested.”
“They gave us a free hand on what we can do and did not put any boundaries on creativity or design,” she recalls. “My team and I had to quickly learn things about chemical composition, numerous lab testing and wastewater management to maintain the integrity of the whole process. R&D has really been my thing and discovering fabric tech has opened up so many creative possibilities for the brand. It has been my driving force. There is so much to be discovered, so many things we can do especially in terms of sustainability and functionality of garments. Slowly but surely, I am trying to map out the brand this way, to offer beautiful clothes not just in form but in every step of the process and that starts with the fabric.”
The result is protective pieces that do not feel hot and suffocating, such as her Smithville boiler suit, her take on the protective jumpsuit category spurred by the pandemic, made of ViralOff-treated copper-infused cotton.
Not only does this textile technology protect against pathogens, it also helps extend the life cycle of the garment. “It’s more sustainable this way because you don’t have to launder your clothes all the time,” Yoya says. The coating of antibacterial technology lasts for 30 washes.
Further encouraging conscious consumption, every piece in the collection can be worn multiple ways. The boiler suit has detachable sleeves and hood, turning it into a short-sleeved jumpsuit. Or you can unbutton the hood, keep the sleeves on, bring the suit down to your waist, tie up the long sleeves and style it as paperbag trousers.
In this collection, Yoya improves on classic silhouettes. The Kentville tulip top is reversible; there’s really no front and back. One side has a high neckline while another has a V neckline with toggles on either side that can be pulled to cinch the sides and deepen the neckline. “It expands your wardrobe. You feel like you have two new tops,” Yoya says.
Her T-shirt dress, a pleated piece with cutout and draw-cord details at the shoulder called Sonora, has the ease of your favorite loose tee and the effortless, pulled-together look of a shift, its drape highlighting your curves without clinging to the body. Bringing the arm out of the cutout and pulling the draw cords back transform it into a sexy, asymmetric silhouette that you can lounge around in or wear to a special dinner, even out to a nice restaurant when this is all over.
Her pleated and ruched Pictou skirt has a functional toggle at the waist that can be pulled up when you want to accentuate the hips. Its seamlessness wraps around the hips nicely. You can also pull it up to your chest and wear it as a tube dress, relaxing the drape to give it some depth. “We’ve lined the piece so it doesn’t feel sheer,” Yoya notes.
“We feel a little vulnerable. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. So everything in this collection is softer and tactile just to feel something new, something exciting,” Yoya says.
The same pleated and drapey softness and femininity is also in the Minhas polo — a refreshing contrast to its borrowed-from-the-boys silhouette inspired by Yoya’s found vintage granddad shirt from the ’70s. “I wore it all the time,” Yoya shares, “so I created one for myself.” It looks good with the Milton square culottes, elasticated Bermudas that have been tailored like trousers.
During the e-event, host Dara Roa commented, “These are perfect for travel,” referring to the wrinkle-resistant quality of every piece. But this feature also makes them perfect for low-maintenance, fuss-free days at home, whether you’re lounging or enjoying a productive streak in domesticated living.
It’s a collection that gives us a look into the ideal future of fashion: in terms of quality and timelessness, it’s for keeps. And when it’s safe to go out again, whether it’s for the return of your weekly brunch out with friends or to your postponed holiday getaway, you don’t need to stress about what to wear. You already have something in your closet, and it goes with everything you already own.
Yoya is exclusively available at Comme Çi online and in store until Oct. 31. Visit them at the R2 Level Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati, or their website commeciph.myshopify.com.