We all like to get the most bang for our buck. Personally, I am always on the lookout for a good bargain. Internet shopping has aided many an intrepid shopper in getting a coveted or longed-for designer piece at a budget-friendly price. Many of my friends and I talk about how we now have the option not to pay full price for stuff we love anymore. Aside from quality, wearability and versatility are factors I put on high priority when I’m thinking of restocking or amplifying my closet. It was then welcome news for me when designer James Reyes announced that he would be creating his first line of limited edition multi-wear pieces. Multi-wear has come a long way from a poncho/wrap that could be worn depending on how you buttoned it up, as a capelet, as an off-shoulder cover-up or as a thick shawl — it was, in its time, a popular item but for some reason, its appeal was not long-lasting, perhaps because it wasn’t very well-made and looked rather worn-out after a couple of washes. Nowadays, even international top designers are creating diffusion lines for more mass market stores in order to amp up their accessibility — often making active wear or reversible collections to give the practical shopper a boost in spending a little bit more than she feels she should.
Reyes, who came from an advertising background, started his design career in 2002 when he joined the Mega Young Designers Competition. A few months later he was a finalist at the Paris Young Designers Competition with a gown design chosen to be among the five creations to represent the Philippines in Paris. He credits his Paris competition entry as his “breakout” design, being a piece that was mostly stapled together. Perhaps this was an early indication of his foray into multi-wear, which are pieces that seemingly come together through twisting, buttoning and turning inside out. The first design he showed me (which I fell in love with and eventually purchased) was a green ball skirt in taffeta (P10,000). In its floor-length full version it could also be hitched up in front, then could be seen as an asymmetrical skirt, then finally as a short bubble skirt. One could also play with the position of the bustle as Reyes placed several buttons and loops at the waist so one could experiment on different looks. The skirt comes in green, white, ivory and yellow.
Next came what he coined his “Circle top” (P4,000) because when laid out flat on the floor, it was actually cut in a circle form. Made of jersey, the bias cut ends could be worn as ruffles, a sash, or over the shoulder; another plus was that it could also be worn back to front. Reyes then showed me his Sando shift dress (P8,000) a continuous cut dress that could be worn inside and out, and one could even twist the shoulder drape for added texture and detail. The last piece was an oversized, unisex black T-shirt (P4,000) that would look good over your skinniest jeans or tights but could also be transformed into a shirtdress when tied around the waist, creating a short skirt and blouse-y top. When asked what inspired him to try his hand at multi-wear, he replied, “I am drawn to Asian garments that are tied and knotted in different ways for decoration or for a certain function, like the malong. So in my mind, I am just recreating an ancient, basic garment that is free for reinterpretation by the wearer. The garment then becomes individual and well-suited to the person wearing it. I just used the idea of multi-functionality in contemporary garments like the T-shirt, the shift dress, the ball skirt, etc.”
Perhaps it is also due to his love of Japanese designers and their seemingly out-of-this-world aesthetic that gave Reyes the idea to make garments that look almost sculptural when draped and twisted in interesting detail over the human form. Just fitting his clothes was an exercise in imagination. The activity of creating different looks with a single piece was like fashion playtime — and thinking of the varied ways one could go from boardroom to ballroom was incredibly fun. Practical may not always be pretty, but in this particular case, pretty was practical as well.
James Reyes can be contacted via mobile (0917)623-6183 or e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org.