Having been the first Filipino designer to showcase his collection at the prestigious runway where Kate Middleton once walked, Jann Bungcaras is just getting all warmed up for royalty.
Taking us to other worlds with his whimsical and vulnerable point-of-view in fashion, Jann Bungcaras is the Filipino designer from Cebu City that’s been truly making a mark as of late. After winning the Gen-Z Approved Fashion Designer/Brand at the NYLON Manila Big Bold Brave Awards, the champion of global sustainable fashion design competition, Redress Design Awards, and now, designing a collection worthy of the royal treatment, Jann Bungcaras is paving his path to greatness.
As with anything in fashion, it’s not all glitz and glamour as one would assume. The Filipino designer is known for his outstanding upcycling methods, using only rescued textiles from landfills that he transforms and manipulates into breathtaking creations. No wonder he was the first Filipino brand chosen to showcase his collection at the prestigious DON’T WALK show where the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton once walked (and met Prince William). Below, we were able to catch up with Jann Bungcaras on how this is a huge win for all the aspiring Filipino designers.
Describe your aesthetic as a designer?
For physicality; we are in-your-face whimsical, comical however wearable (in its loosest definition) and genderless, since we do not gravitate towards any gender and most of our wearers are female though we always put our garments in men on the runway and look books. Beyond what wearers and viewers could see, my aesthetic as a designer often falls into my desire to radiate my own story, thoughts, politics and environmental advocacies towards them. A feeling that can only be accomplished once I thread-in familiar narrations to make where I am coming from relatable.
We are anti-fashion because we do not follow the standards of the fashion industry, we do not create new collections every season, we ban certain types of people from wearing our clothes, we are unapologetic about using damaged and discarded fabric from textile-waste landfills, and we even tell people to not buy new clothes, which is contradictory to the purpose of owning a clothing business. We merely exist because I would like to think that it is my purpose to give light to issues using the narrations I tell through sustainable clothing.
How does it feel being the first Filipino to present in this fashion show?
I feel appreciated, heard, and seen. Since 2015, I have been trying to put myself out there even without a fashion degree by joining fashion competitions that I barely even make it to the top; and even in 2020 when we were up for the People’s Choice for Redress Design Awards, I received so much “seen zones” from acquaintances and local publications, to the point that I even doubted myself if I was the right person to be there. I knew my ailments and diagnosis shortened my lifespan, so since then, I am on my toes trying to be someone impactful in the field I chose; and this was surreal.
The revelation from Grace Dreher that I was the first Philippine-based brand that they ever featured made me speechless and it took me awhile to absorb it as it only means that I got a stamp of approval from the Royals of Scotland and the UK since Saint Andrews is where Prince William and Princess Kate graduated College. Fun fact: Kate Middleton and Prince William met at DON’T WALK as she was one of the models back in 2002.
Why is it important for you as a designer to remain sustainable?
I would say that it is important for everyone to be sustainable for by its simplest definition we really need to sustain what is left of our world and undo the damages that we made as humans since we discovered our dominion and power over all things.
As a designer, it is important because it is my responsibility, the promise to my younger self and my purpose. I am only one person, trying to inspire people everyday by being as transparent as I can in my personal sustainable practices, revealing the unglamorous side of a sustainable brand as we take extra steps just to limit our negative impact to the environment: commuting, recycling, reusing, rescuing, storing, and upcycling.
Sustainability is an immense word to grasp because it can connected to a lot of things—the economy, the market and the survival of the human race. But it can be rooted to “how can we meet our needs while sustaining the next generations.” And the answer truly is to make this shift in consumption wherein we should be mindful on the things we buy for while there is demand towards a certain damaging product, people will still produce it. And furthermore the government, as the most powerful system, should also take action for it is only through their unbiased intervention that harmful production can be stopped.
How long did it take to conceptualize the collection?
This collection was actually done in pressure, and took us less than a month to complete from concept to reality. This was before I decided to not follow the existing fashion format of designers releasing at least two collections per year.
The Eromenos: loving the beloved, was supposed to be my letter to my younger self telling me that being gay is okay as being one existed even before the binds of religion through the love and mentorship between the Eromenos and Erastes of Ancient Greece; but due to deadlines and my whole team succumbing to the flu we only had a week to finish all 13 looks for a runway show in Mindanao. (This is where I bought the Pashmina scarves that I later on fashioned into an ensemble for Nadine’s Wildest Dreams MV, ah, everything happens for a reason!)
This collection was not even included in my website, because I am truly doubtful of its impact compared to the Wanderings of a Child Prince and Howling: a Wolf’s Longing; and how we only did everything in a week. Which is why DONT WALK’s interest in the collection came to me as a surprise and eliminated the inferiority I felt. This collection was also chosen to be in a showroom in Paris but the event got canceled. The uneasiness I felt the moment I released Eromenos was the reason why I no longer strain myself to the fashion rule of new collections bi-annually; and would only release new narrations once we have strong stories to tell.
Share with us three of your proudest moments as a designer.
I still consider myself as a bud waiting to bloom; however choosing only three moments that led me to where I am now would be really difficult; but try I must.
First was when we broke the record for the Redress Design Awards People’s Choice, because it was the moment that I really feel the love from everyone around the world especially from my countrymen. As I said earlier, while in the competition’s campaign we were seen-zoned, but an influential bunch took notice and campaigned for us non-stop. We received support and campaigns roughly from every continent even when they do have countrymen competing for the same title. Ekaterina Brovkoff of Ukraine even made several fashion illustrations to be used as Campaign paraphernalia. So I am really grateful that this happened to me and also being recognised by the top NGO for sustainable fashion is every sustainable designer’s dream; and we achieved it early on.
Second was when we were discovered by i-D magazine’s Lia Savillo and she wrote an article about us, our sustainable practices, and our brand; and introduced us internationally via the magazine. At first I thought it was i-D Asia who will publish us, but I literally shivered to the ground when Lia sent us a screenshot of i-D’s Instagram Story about our feature. It was unbelievable, humbling, and a great elation. The elevation we needed when some were already sick of the notion that we have no new collections yet. It was the perfect international introduction for our brand and we are very thankful and blessed to have this happened to us.
Last but not least was the moment I saw my parents at the audience of Bench Design Awards 2. Though I know that they were in Manila for the event, I already expected them to not attend judging by the phone call we had during rehearsals when they told me they had nothing to wear. The moment was encapsulated by the Bench Photographers as I scoured the audiences for them and heard my mother scream my name and my father waving his hands. Remembering it still makes me cry as it was the only fragment of time when I feel that they are genuinely happy for me, in my truest form, dressed as The Little Prince and telling my story.
Photographer & Videographer EWAN HARVEY
Director DANYA BAVETTA
Head of Fashion GRACE DREHER
Fashion Logistics ELIZABETH REAGAN
Hair SPOILED HAIRDRESSING
Makeup EMMA SNIZEK