Bringing sexy back

“Business in front, party at the back” is what fashion designer Robert Bjorn O. Santos, nicknamed Robbie, has in mind when working on his creations. That’s exactly what he presented in his first major fashion show, titled Devenir, which took place on 25 October at the Marriott Grand Ballroom of the Manila Marriott Hotel in Pasay City.

“I like giving surprises at the back,” he said in the post-show interview with DAILY TRIBUNE and other publications. “Most of my clothes, there’s something happening somewhere at the back.” Almost always, the surprise turns out sexy.

“When people say sexy kasi it’s either so skintight or too revealing. We have very few, if none at all, skintight clothes. So how do we achieve sexiness on clothes? See-through element. We call it peek-a-boo.” Other times, sexiness just happens with how the fabric flows and the accent moves.

Santos went on describing the 80-look collection that made up Devenir, which marked the seventh anniversary of his brand Septième Rebelle (meaning “seventh rebel” in French): “The highlights would be several. For example, how we do the beadwork, how we do the embellishment, how we do our cuts. There are some pieces in the collection, which I think, are quite unique.”

He then shared one interesting design inspiration involving the result of his electrocardiogram test, “Early this year, first quarter of this year, I had my ECG. It was just for routine test. What I did was with my ECG result, we incorporated it with how we cut our lace overlay. So we made patterns of my ECG, so we enlarged it, we made patterns, we did that on our embroidery. We did all our beadwork. It’s basically me saying it’s an expression of myself. My heart is in that collection.”

Aside from the clothes, other elements in the show had interesting backstories. Case in point: the stonewall stage design. Santos explained, “Parang I feel that each person kasi parang has a disability, a traumatic past. Hence the ruins. Parang I’m trying to say to the audience, ‘Okay, these are ruins.’ Metaphorically how some people have gone through so much in the past that, you know, maybe they’re like that. Or they feel like that.

“It’s an invitation to the audience to go beyond that. Go beyond the past and think of something positive. That they can consciously choose to do something positive with their lives. So, it’s always a choice that you make. Whatever disability or whatever past you may have, the choice is yours to make your life beautiful, to look beautiful, to feel beautiful. That’s where I’m coming from.”

Santos also expounded on the choice of background music that ranged from Gregorian chants to rock songs, particularly U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” He said that while he really likes that 1987 tune, he didn’t actually choose it but the fashion show director Jackie Aquino. He later realized the appropriateness of the song to his journey, which only began seven years ago after working in the academe for 15 years and eventually studying fashion in Paris and London.

“There’s still a lot to discover, a lot to learn, a lot to see, a lot to feel, whatever. So I think the song is a good jumping point for the next one,” he stated with full confidence and anticipation.