Performing gender: Fashion designer hopes to spark dialogue with collection


CEBUANO fashion designer Robert Andrew Hiyas explored Judeo-Christian elements, and incorporated them through his collection as a way to critique and redefine tradition. The collection is called “Trans/(f)igure.”

“The title is a combination of the prefix ‘trans,’ which can mean beyond, and ‘figure,’ as in form or the body. Also, the letter ‘f’ can either mean form or female,” said Hiyas. According to Hiyas, the title perfectly encapsulates the objective of the collection—to critique gender roles through the lens of fashion.

His designs were showcased during the Bench Design Awards last Sept. 1 at the Bench Tower in Taguig. A Fine Arts major in Fashion Design graduate from the University of San Carlos, Cebu, Hiyas was the youngest and the only Cebuano during the competition. It was also his first national stint.

“Ten were chosen among the applicants, and I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to present my collection to international fashion designers Willy Chavarria from New York and Mihara Yasuhiro from Japan, Tokyo Fashion Week-Philippines consultant Teresa Matera and Japan Fashion Week Organization director Kaoru Imajo, and Ben Chan himself,” Hiyas said.

Each designer was assigned to present eight looks during the competition.

“It felt overwhelming. Seeing months of work on the runway felt extremely cathartic, and accomplishing what I came to do, which was to tell a story, was very satisfying. I might not have made it to the Top 3 but the camaraderie, the learning experience and the fulfillment of presenting on a national platform was already a reward in itself for me.”

More than a showcase of talent, Hiyas’ collection is inspired by socio-cultural topics concerning gender and sexuality. “Trans/(f)igure” allows for conversation on the topic of gender roles. To create an opportunity for discourse through fashion, the designer fused sheer fabrics to give off that feeling of stained windows; the colors white, black and red; and beads and Judeo-Christian symbols for that secular aesthetic, and as a surface design.

“Gender is assigned and one performs it. Gendered uniforms and an artistic interpretation of Judeo-Christian symbols are employed as design elements in this collection as an attempt to dialogue with tradition. This objective is informed by reflections on socio-cultural constructs like gender and sexuality, and also in the context of Judeo-Christian tradition,” he said.

It’s through “Trans/(f)igure” that he hopes to explore the cross between clothing and the “performativity” of gender.

“As a designer/artist, it is my duty to problematize in order to encourage productive conversation and dialogue. This is done by reimagining gendered roles and the human figure, a medium we use to perform gender.”

Designer: Robert Andrew Hiyas

Photographer: Garel Sison

HMUA: Joel Sarimos

Models: Armand Hexon Llego and Emmanuella Isah of Origin Model & Artist Management

Assistants: KC Villamero, Aira Collera, Timi Hedocil


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