The Joey Samson journey

In Photo: Androgynous. Genderfluid. Genius.

FOR its ninth edition, the Red Charity Gala will take us on a journey. Design wunderkind Joey Samson, the featured talent, will be about a religious voyage that’s personal, nostalgic and emotional.

“The theme is called ‘PilgrimAge’, but I don’t want it to be an in-your-face religious angle. In general, a pilgrimage is the course of your life here on Earth. It is based on perception and understanding so when you look at [the collection], you will see something that you can identify with, [like] a religious icon or a place. That’s how I approached the collection. It could be inspired by a specific place that I’ve been to, or a mood, or a patina of a cathedral, or a saint I have a devotion to,” the soft-spoken Samson explained during the news preview at the Champagne Room of The Manila Hotel.

The fund-raising effort will be on October 14 at the Shangri-La at The Fort. As in past years, this is spearheaded by socialites Tessa Prieto-Valdes and Kaye Tinga with the help of Bench. The show benefits the Philippine Red Cross and the Assumption High School Batch 1981 Foundation.

The gala only features world-class Filipino designers, so expectations reach the stratosphere.

“The pressure level is something that I haven’t experienced before because I have to balance my work for my clients and my work for the collection. I’ve done work before na nagkakasabay-sabay ang deadlines but this is different. I thought after a few months before the show, I’d stop accepting clients. But I realized I have a responsibility to my clients also, especially those who asked me to do clothes for them that they could wear to the show,” Samson said.

Samson was invited to do the 2017 gala in November 2016, right after the successful staging of Chito Vijandre. The religious-slash-secular tension was already simmering in his mind before then.  Incidentally, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Met Ball, the most important event in the fashion calendar, was rumored this August to have “Fashion and Religion” as its theme for the 2018 gala.

“You know what? That’s what a writer-friend told me. When I decided that ‘PilgrimAge’ will be my theme, [it was] bago pa ako [na-imbita na] ako ang designer for Red Charity. As a designer, there are things that I have always wanted to do, and this is one of them: a religious/nonreligious angle for a collection,” Samson said.

“Yes, I’ve always been religious but I don’t want to be preachy about it. I was raised Catholic. I studied at a Catholic school. I go to church every Sunday. I have a devotion to specific saints. I pray a lot. But I don’t want it to be the basis of who I am,” he added.

“I’m working on 40 pieces, with no specific gender assignments for the clothes. I was asked to do more. I’ll just work on the 40 first and if I can afford to have the time and energy to do more, why not,” smiled Samson, who honed his skills at Slim’s Fashion and Arts School, Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions

and an apprenticeship with the Paris-educated Jesus Lloren.

“Joey is one of my dearest friends in fashion. I saw his evolution as a designer and, without any bias, I can confidently say he’s one of the most brilliant designers we have today. The only expectation I have for his Red Cross show is that I will be awed again by his genius,” rhapsodized Lloren, who showed in 2014. Samson’s usual men’s suiting treatments will be showcased, with new explorations in brocade, velvet and beading. “Don’t laugh”, he jokingly admonished.

“I’m a fan of his work. Joey is known for his androgynous, genderfluid designs. His look  is masculine, yet still sexy and sophisticated. You can easily identify his pieces,” raved Roel Rosal, a contemporary since their heady days during the Mega Young Designers and Paris Concours competitions.

Dennis Lustico, the first Red Charity designer in 2009, added: “I’ve always been an admirer of Joey’s aesthetics. He has this distinctive way of treating his creations with incredible lightness. His color preference isn’t arresting, they’re cool, soothing most of the time, always like a soft embrace. I think it’s also important to note that no other local designer has been consistent in coming up with honest and true androgyny. Joey’s clothes are as versatile and multifaceted as his talent. I’ve known Joey for the longest time and I’ve witnessed how his clothes have retained their edginess. Always modern and fresh, they push boundaries but never lose their appeal. I’m extremely excited to see his Red Cross collection and I love his inspiration, ‘PilgrimAge’. Something tells me that there’s a torturous balance between restraint, volume and drama.”

Come October 14, a new Joey Samson will be unveiled: “When I started doing the collection, my dilemma was how to address this Red Charity market—high-end, high fashion, more sophisticated, and their taste level is different. You’ve seen my work since I was still starting. It’s just for a niche market. Very few people understand why I do what I do and why I still keep doing it. Di ba parang ang tigas naman ng ulo ko, wala naman nakaka-intindi nang ginagawa ko? But you know, I just have to keep doing it because if I don’t, no one else would!”

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