Why Translation Is The Secret Behind The Works Of Designers Joey Samson And RJ Santos

Why Translation Is The Secret Behind The Works Of Designers Joey Samson And RJ Santos


Designers Joey Samson and RJ Santos talk about their unconscious mentorship, the weaving of the past and present through their works, and how they learned to find happiness in their own terms

This is an excerpt from MEGA’s April 2024 Designer Profile

When did your fashion journey start? 

RS: I started after graduation. Passion project talaga siya. I was also looking at other companies and designers. Naging full-time work ko talaga siya no’ng pandemic. It was late 2019 when I decided to quit my job and focus on Randolf.

JS: This year is actually my 21st year. I was telling RJ earlier that for me, my journey with fashion started when I joined the Philippine Fashion Design Competition back in 2000. After that, it’s one project after the other. 

What’s your fashion ideology? How would you describe your creative process?

RS: My process always starts with music. I apply it to everything, even made-to-order designs. I always ask my clients for a song or playlist, which I can listen to and get inspiration from. When it comes to ideology, I believe that clothes should be enjoyed. It should make the person wearing it feel more confident. It should be about the person, not entirely about the clothes.

JS: I always say that my clothes are always a work in progress because I feel that making clothes doesn’t stop after making it, delivering it, or when the client uses it. I want the clients to be able to enjoy them as much as they can and make them part of their future orders because that creates a lasting relationship with me and what I make for them. 

Can you talk about the pieces you brought here today?

JS: The pieces today are part of my collection for Bench Fashion Week. It’s still in keeping with what I think people look for in my pieces: tailoring. At the same time, they have a different flavor. I incorporated historical patterns, particularly baroque with the oddly shaped structures. 

RS: Mine is part of my recent collection. I like making my own clothes, so I apply that with digital prints and embroidery. And I like playing with silhouettes, so it’s an oversized printed suit with a star lapel.

How did you two meet and how long have you known each other? Can you describe the relationship you have?

RS: Hmmm…(laughs)

JS: (laughs) Okay, I think mas through Noel. Hindi ba?

RS: Parang hindi

JS: Okay, so it’s either through Noel Manapat, who’s the creative director of Bench Fashion Week, or Raymond Ang, who’s a common friend of ours. So, hindi namin ma-determine through whom. 

RS: Or kailan ba talaga. Parang sa exhibit?

JS: With Noel, it’s always through something, like a show or a project that we both happen to be invited to or involved with. We just see each other there. It just happened.

RS: Parang mga “hello” lang. (laughs)

JS: Most of the time, very random exchanges. Kapag nagkikita kami, like, “Ang ganda ng gawa mo” or—

RS: gusto kong magpa-mentor. (laughs)

JS: Hayon! Gusto niyang magpa-mentor (laughs). It’s also as simple as me liking his posts because I really admire what he’s doing. Among the crop of designers now, or at least his generation—and I’m not saying this because we’re on camera (laughs)—sinabi ko rin ito kay Noel before that, you know what, I really like RJ. For me, he’s very authentic. 

He was the one who really started doing playful and colorful pieces. Kasi di ba, ang perception ng marami sa barong is it’s only worn in weddings, or by our dads or lolos. Very serious and costume-y. But, RJ was able to translate it to become more relatable because of his themes and patterns. If you’re really a good designer, you’re able to translate something that used to be “old” into something that becomes part of the younger generation’s wardrobe.

RS: Yong favorite ko talaga about Joey is you know if it’s a Joey Samson piece without asking.

JS: Talaga? (laughs)

RS: For me, that’s the trademark of a great designer.

JS: Ano ba ’yong great? (laughs)

RS: Hindi mo na need ’yong tag or label. Alam mo na kung sino ’yong gumawa. I’ve always admired Joey’s work. Ilang beses ko na siyang kinukulit mag-mentor sa akin. (laughs)

JS: Sabi ko sa kanya, we’ll get there (laughs). I just have to find a way. I don’t want to be stiff and serious. Gusto ko ’yong mentoring will be like nagkukuwentuhan lang kami and not something na, “Oh, may mentoring ako kay Joey, kailangan ko nang lumakad.” Masyadong forced or contrived. I wanted it na, “May ginagawa ka ba? If wala, let’s talk. Kung meron, let’s move it.” I’m still trying to figure out how to do it.

Get to know more about designers Joey Samson and RJ Santos in MEGA’s April 2024 issue, now available on ReadlyMagzter, Press Reader and Zinio.

Photographed by JV RABANO. Creative Direction JONES PALTENG. Styled by RYUJI SHIOMITSU. Makeup JANICA CLETO. Hair BRYAN EUSEBIO. Editorial Assistant JONNIE NGO. Sittings Editor MARIAN SAN PEDRO. Model YAOFA DELA CRUZ of MERCATOR. Shot on location VINYL ON VINYL. Special thanks to MIKI MICLAT of MERCATOR and PIA REYES and GABY DELA MERCED of VINYL ON VINYL.

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