From waste to hip

Fiona Patricia S. Escandor stitches a story about 2 designers with an eye for trendy trash

Getting stranded during one of Cebu’s waist-high flooding incidents this year became an epiphany of sorts for up-and-coming artist Francis Sollano.

“What struck me most was the huge amount of plastic garbage floating all over and clogging the drainage,” he recalled.

Misfortune, though, can be be deep source of inspiration, and the flooding experience prompted Francis to team up with fellow artist Tin Mendez to create their latest project, “Beauty Unmasked.”

Highlighting material innovation, “Beauty Unmasked” is a wearable art collection that calls for the transformation of the city’s garbage into something functional.

Loosely labeled “trashion,” the collection features avant-garde clothing designs made from putting together thin strips of used plastic that were ironed and sandwiched on Japanese rice paper.

Francis said they acquired the used plastic materials from West Gorordo Hotel, Body & Sole Spa and Handuraw Café, establishments that are known locally for environmentally friendly practices. He added that eventually they wish to tap more commercial groups and private households for their projects—visualizing a citywide campaign of upcycling plastic waste.

“We want to help change the way Cebuanos define what is non-valuable garbage, and how it can be transformed into something of value,” Francis shared.

Beyond day jobs

Francis and Tin are graduates of the University of the Philippines Cebu College, where Francis studied business management while Tin took up industrial design. On paper, Francis is marketing communications head of Kenneth Cobonpue’s Hive, while Tin is junior designer for Kenneth Cobonpue Design. Needless to say, their creative pursuits
go beyond their day jobs.

Stemming from his childhood years spent doodling on walls—much to his mom’s dismay—nowadays Francis channels his creativity to “upcycled” art, or creating functional items out of used materials. Aside from “Beauty Unmasked,” he has done jewelry and lamp sconces, one of which is currently installed in the Permaculture Library.

A fervent supporter of environment sustainability, Francis currently stands as creative director of Youth for Livable Cebu, an organization that just last week took part in a clean-up drive in the oil spill-affected areas of Cordova. He has also done his part in community involvement by teaching housewives how to do design work as livelihood.

Tin, who is originally from Davao, has her hands full with her work in the globally acclaimed furniture firm and prop-making for commissioned gigs on the side. Prior to joining the Cobonpue group, she designed apparel and bags for water sports company, Blood Red.

She’s wary of being called an “artist” though. She said, “As a kid, I never thought of myself as such. I grew up thinking that it’s normal for every kid to draw and be drawn to aesthetics. And I think that’s the best thing about art—it comes naturally and expresses an emotion that everyone can understand.”

Beyond novelty

Tin said that nowadays she takes design inspiration from her favorite hobbies, mountain trekking and climbing. “Watching the sunset from the summit—with scratched arms and weary legs—brings out a feeling that we are all part of nature and of the environment, and that all we flow together,” she said.

Experiences like that have moved Tin to use her talent in art projects such as “Beauty Unmasked,” which she admitted she is very proud of. She said, “Francis and I made something most people would never deem possible. It started as a thought, a wonder, and was pursued into materialization by a belief that there are so many possibilities we can stretch.”

But far more than the art collection’s novelty, Francis and Tin emphasized that what’s more important is the message it is promoting. “We live in a world where we create more supply, and in a culture that persuades people to think they need it. In turn we make more waste than we can manage—compromising our environment,” Tin said.

Francis added, “There is also an extreme pressure being put on the natural capability of the Earth to produce. And once it reaches the point of exhaustion, there is no one else to blame but us.”
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