Can one really wear Tipay Caintic’s surreal knits in real life? JED GREGORIO talks to the designer about showcasing at London Fashion Week, a flirty Aussie eye candy, and the perks and perils of putting your name on a tag.
What’s your work process like?
It always starts with an idea, whether I’m designing a collection or for a private client. The idea is the guide, the start-off point for design. Anything that you do has to mean something—an intention—or else you’re just adding to the noise of the over-saturated visual world.
I usually start with words, then silhouettes, then I start sketching. Then [I think of] the colors. At every stage, I consider the usability and end purpose of what I am designing. You also have to be aware of how to produce the things you are imagining. The worst ideas on paper are the kind that just remain as that—ideas on paper.
You have to know how to make your ideas a reality, or at the very least, know how to go about to nding the right people to execute it for you. Realistically, with any project, you are working with a budget. So I do my research and before letting inspiration get the best of me, I already know the limitations of the materials, deadlines, and manpower /expertise, then I work within these limitations. It’s part of the challenge!
You describe your aesthetic as offbeat, overtly subordinate, and unserious. Who’s that girl?
I imagine the person who is attracted to my clothes has a sense of humour. It takes a certain devil-may-care attitude and a not too serious perception of self to pull off the clothes I design.
What was it like being able to bring your clothes to the International Fashion Showcase at London Fashion Week last year? And getting interviewed by CNN?
It’s all business as usual when you’re there, emails and coordination, nothing fancy, like a brisk jog. Until I went back home and stepped back from the situation, I didn’t really realize the extent of what just happened! The interview and feature by CNN was unnerving. We had two days of taping. The rst day was a Q&A on the spot, with the producer interviewing me. It was all very personal, and the producer was a very empathic and passionate person. I did my best not to be too emotional. The cameraman was this cute and irty Aussie who had the male version of my real name. So a very serious and heartfelt interview was juxtaposed with an eye candy distraction on the side, ha ha!
The second day, Myleen Klass, a Fil-Brit presenter, came on the opening of Fashion Week. We were walking through the oor, discussing my clothes, my process, and our country, while security held back the crowd who wanted pictures with her!
What made you decide to do fashion design, and how is it different from your other jobs before?
I was once an art director in an ad agency. On the side, I’ve worked as a special effects makeup artist, stylist for commercials, and production designer. The difference this time is that I believe in my output. In advertising, I was always left with the feeling of discontent. That was it? All that hard work, ungodly hours, and this is it? A few seconds on television, or a billboard, who really cares? I felt like all my instincts were off in the different disciplines I’ve worked in. I always felt like somebody else could do a better job than myself, and felt like I wasn’t applying as much of myself as I should’ve been for a job so connected to who you are.
Now with my name connected to what I make, the line between who I am and what I do is a blur. It’s a bit problematic at times to think that way. But something I realized about myself is, the more invested and committed I am to something, the better I am at it.
I notice that you often work with knit. Why is that?
I love knits because you start with the thread, the most basic unit. A strand becomes yarn, yarn becomes stitches, stitches become fabric, fabric becomes clothes. I love to customize everything and have complete creative freedom. I love handmade things. You can do anything when you don’t buy pre-made materials. Admittedly this makes it a bit more costly, but all these processes make it more special. I also love leather, calf, sheep, and snake (my favorite). I would like to work with more skins. I love cotton because it feels substantial as a fabric and very light on the skin as an article of clothing. I love natural materials but I am also very much in love with synthetics. I love making my own prints. And playing with textures! There are so many possibilities with synthetics, but our technologies are not yet at par with other countries. So I try to work with indigenous materials as much as possible because this is where our strengths lie. My knits are always made from pineapple ber and cotton.
How do you deal with negative comments and detractors?
I zone out. Wash them off me like water. Ha ha! They’re just words anyway.
What’s your advice to young people who want to do fashion design, but are discouraged, perhaps because they’re told it’s not lucrative?
Who says fashion is not lucrative? It is a multibillion-dollar industry, it transcends borders, race and space. It redefines itself every season. It’s an animal that will never die. We have to smarten up and undo bad habits if we want a career in a volatile industry.
Sharpen, grow, and guard your talent like it is your only lifeline. Do the actual groundwork and behind-the-scenes hustle that could afford you the creative freedom you desire. Think of it as your business, and act like it’s your business. Don’t downplay what you are doing as a hobby or a gift you give out for free.
Build your team and nd people you can trust. This includes friends, collaborators, suppliers, stylists, photographers, models, muses, seamstresses—the list goes on forever and forever. Understand that no man is an island. You have to be an independent-thinking, functioning entity, but realize that you cannot do everything at once. I think everyone is blessed with his own skills and potentials. It is up to you where you want to go with it.
“You have to be aware of how to produce the things you are imagining. The worst ideas on paper are the kind that just remain as that, ideas on paper.”
Fashion designer Tipay Caintic, photographed by Paolo Crodua for Scout.