By Susana Hernández
Patty Victorino sees fashion as an opportunity to tell stories as well as express and celebrate identity. A Manila-born Canadian citizen, she sees the value in exploring and highlighting cultural roots, and uses her work to do just that.
Mak & Maya, Victorino’s thesis collection, celebrates cultural duality by blending Filipino history and culture with West Coast fashion. Inspired by the baro’t saya, a traditional garment worn by Filipino women during the Philippines’ colonial era (1880s-1910s), and colours inspired by West Coast natural landscapes, Victorino has created garments that feature full sleeves and lines that resemble that of wrap skirts.
Mak & Maya will be unveiled at 2018 The Show presented by Tamoda Apparel Inc., on April 19 and 20 at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) new purpose-built Wilson School of Design building. The beautiful and innovative $36-million building houses a range of design programs including the fashion-design-and-technology program. Thirty-one other lines by KPU fashion design and technology students will also be showcased.
Susana Hernández: Who or what was the inspiration behind your line?
Patty Victorino: Mak & Maya is inspired by my own experience with cultural identity. I was born and raised in Manila and moved to Vancouver when I was 14. I struggled quite a bit to bring those two sides of me together because Filipino culture and West Coast culture are so different. And then last year, I was able to go back to Manila for a few weeks, and while I was there, I realized just how deeply my own identity as a person and as a designer have been influenced by my cultural roots.
It only made sense to develop my collection with that Filipino inspiration as its foundation so that I could highlight the often underappreciated culture and history of the Philippines. I also wanted to showcase how that fits into the lives of Filipino-Canadian women, because when I started doing my research, I started seeing a trend of people growing up ashamed of their Filipino heritage.
SH: What made you want to become a designer?
PV: I started thinking about going into fashion design when I was 13. My family still lived in Manila, and while my older sister was getting her prom dress made, I was able to sit through the design consultation. I had a chance to see the creative process from an idea to a finished product through fittings, and it got me hooked. I was completely fascinated by that process.
Besides that, what really keeps me passionate about design is the opportunity to create change, and to express and celebrate identity in all its forms—especially now that we are talking more about subjects such as race and gender as a society. There’s this massive opportunity to continue this conversation with fashion because it’s so accessible. We all need clothe, so creating something to help people express who they are, and actually celebrate it, is a really big deal for me.
SH: Walk me through your creative process.
PV: I find it difficult to define my creative process just because it’s not something that has any clear or linear progression—there’s usually a lot of back-and-forth between every step. But I do know that it always has to start with a "why".
It has to start with a reason as to why I’m creating and designing. Once I answer that question, it’s a lot easier to begin the work and things generally go more smoothly A lot of my creative process also involves plenty of feedback and collaboration; I often get stuck so I need people to bounce ideas off of and help me to see my work more clearly.
SH: How do you set yourself apart from other designers?
PV: It’s not something that I intentionally think about, but I would say it is how deeply I consider the story behind everything that I do and make. I don’t like making things just for the sake of making. Everything I’ve created, and loved creating, has always been rooted in some personal experience or some kind of story.
Whether that is Filipino culture and history, or clothing that represents identity, the concepts of identity and belonging are so important to me that everything I’ve done has needed to have something behind it. Design and fashion that isn’t rooted in people and experiences is not meaningful enough for me.
SH: What's the most helpful thing you learned at KPU?
PV: I would say the most helpful thing I learned at KPU is learning how I like to work. And I’ve learned that how I like to work is very much rooted in community and collaboration. I did not know how important it was to be surrounded and fuelled by other people’s creative energy.
I also value just how important it is to learn, at least at the base level, all the aspects of a project. Knowing how to do research, produce and test a garment, market it, communicate it, and run the business side: there’s so much more work involved in the industry than just the actual designing.
Susana Hernández is a final-year fashion design and technology student at KPU’s Wilson School of Design.