It isn’t rare for designers to question and wonder about beauty; where it comes from, how we perceive it, how it affects us, indeed, I think we can agree that it isn’t merely what fuels their imagination, it is what they make their vocation. What is unique, however, is when a designer determines to explore what the majority finds unsightly, unseemly, and maybe even a touch ghastly and frightening, and places that directly beside something beautiful.
That is precisely what Jerome Salaya Ang has been doing for the past…well, actually, that is just what he does. But he doesn’t stop there, for the point is not to shock or upset, but to have a dialogue, a conversation between the acceptable mode of what is lovely or appealing, and that which we find disturbing, or in a word, ugly.
“I like finding the order in chaos” he tells us, “or playing around with chaos to find something beautiful that might not make sense right away. That’s usually my philosophy.”
Indeed, most women don’t necessarily find insects beautiful, in fact they usually squeal and get themselves far away from the “creepy” things, but insect anatomy was the inspiration for one of his gowns in 2008, and we don’t think there’s a woman alive who would run away from it.
His Holiday 2010 collection touched on the subject of the supernatural, how we seem to be fascinated with the relationship between those who seem to “conquer” death, (zombies, vampires) and societies’ obsession with them. How does that inform what we find divine or attractive?
In Holiday 2011, his collection got the catch phrase “Jerome’s Ugly Ducklings” which he didn’t mind at all.
“I want even the plainest woman to put on my clothes and feel she is changed, that she can wear it confidently and be beautiful,” he says.
In this collection, he saw his clothes as catalysts, transforming his “ducklings” into swans. A bold statement, but one I’m sure few designers would refute it’s how they want their women to feel. Not everyone is a supermodel, and Ang would say that is a good thing; they don’t own the monopoly on beauty.
In his most recent collection, this past Holiday 2012, he revisited the idea of death and our tender relationship with its mystery, its strange allure, and how to face it with both grace and courage.
Inspired by the passing away of his father, this collection was both a tribute to his father, and a conversation with the process of leaving this life behind. However, he delved not only into the topic of life and death, but how one lives, touching on the idea of the ‘seven deadly sins’ and naming his collection “Skin, Sin and Bones.” (Read our review of the show here)
We are beautiful, but we have death inside us, we want to grow up, but we want to always look young, we can have everything and we think we need more; we are a mass of contradictions.
“I’m constantly asking ‘what is beauty’ since no one is ever contented with how they look,” Ang says.” It seems we all want the opposite of what we have.”
So he explores, experiments, and forces the interaction between two (seemingly) opposing sides. Blur the lines, and then sew them together. Philosophy hasn’t looked this comely and exquisite in a long while.
And for his next story, his next collection?
Well, he told us, but we promised not to reveal too much. Let’s just say he’s going back to the garden, or, his heroine is trying to, and we cannot wait to take that journey with her.