Fashion

Meet the Filipino T-Shirt Designers of Uniqlo

Local artists put their imprint on Uniqlo's popular T-shirt line.
IMAGE Courtesy of Uniqlo
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If you're going to wear a T-shirt, wear one that speaks to you. The newest season of UT Feel the SEA, the pop culture-infused T-shirt line by Uniqlo, taps four up-and-coming Filipino artists, each of whom highlight a unique aspect of the Philippines, from the immortal jeepney to the power of happiness. Meet the creatives who are now sharing their works with T-shirt lovers across Southeast Asia.  

And A Half: Movement and Words

For their turn with Uniqlo's Feel the SEA collection, Tim Lopez and Addy Panadero of And A Half (cool name, by the way) employed what their creative studio is known for, which is not necessarily a singular visual style but, as Panadero explains, “a style of thinking.” 

Uniqlo taps four local creatives for its Feel the SEA T-shirt collection. Tim Lopez and Addy Panadero of And A Half employ worldplay and the unique imagery of the Filipino commute in their designs.

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IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo

IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo
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To inject local flavor in the collection, Panadero presented something very intrinsic in Filipino life: the various ways we get around the city in a jeep or tricycle or kalesa. “That was me trying to show the daily experience here. Something that can’t be replicated outside of the Philippines,” he says of the stylish commute playing out on a gray T-shirt. 

Meanwhile, Lopez chose to evolve the idea of logos, a very common theme in tees, into something more interesting. He ventured into wordplay, taking, for example, the word “lobo,” the Filipino word for “balloon,” and spinning it into a gang of balloon wolves. “Lobo” also means “wolf.”

IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo
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IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo

“I wanted people to see the language in a different way. There's a bunch of words in our language that are spelled the same way, but pronounced differently, and mean entirely different things,” he explains.

When asked to pick their favorite design, both pointed to a funny rendering of ylang-ylangs. The pair of droopy blossoms appear uncomfortable with each other. Ylang. Ilang. Get it? 

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Inksurge: Emblems and Jeepneys  

Inksurge's Rex Advincula and Joyce Tai were tasked to highlight the streets of Manila, so the pair zeroed on the undisputed king of the road, the jeepney and its attendant motifs, embellishments, and decorations. 

To apply their spin on the design brief, the duo referenced their previous exhibit on emblems. “Let's use the emblems but apply local terms,” says Advincula. “The inspiration was jeepney folk art, so its more of the expression of the driver... each design may kwento.” 

Joyce Tai and Rex Advincula of Inksurge rework the kitschy motifs of the jeepney into narrative emblems.

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IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo

IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo
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A night owl flying above the mountains, says Tai, “is like the guardian of the city and the country.” A carabao charging through the fields, on the other hand, is a celebration of the hardworking Filipino. Astride the beast is a woman holding a flag, and she is like the muse of a local town.

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Twin figures of a rooster, perched atop the words “aircon,” hew closest to the kitschy art of the jeepney. “We always see that design of typography. [Drivers] tell visually that their jeep is air-conditioned, so they paint it on the side,” says Advincula.

Inksurge wants to remind you that, from here to any point in Manila, the jeepney is cool.

Jeffrey Jay Jarin: Greens and Spaces 

Foilage is the theme of visual artist Jeffrey Jay Jarin. “I really like to focus on the mundane things that we don’t care about like the plants we see every day on the sidewalks and empty spaces,” he says. “This is what I wanted to incorporate here.”

Jeffrey Jay Jarin focuses on everyday foliage to create evocative images.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo
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IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo

Initially, he was intent on using previous works, but due to color limitations, the artist created new designs for the T-shirt set. With the guidance of the Uniqlo, his acrylic-on-canvas styles was reworked as sketches and digital art. 

That's not to say that art lost its magic. The resulting illustrations, in fact, play to the emotion, as in a scene of a room inhabited only by a potted palm tree, which is illuminated by moonlight. The effect—longing? calm? peace?—is further highlighted by placing the image on the corner of the T-shirt. The cactus and fig are also represented in a similar fashion elsewhere.

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IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo

IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo
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Jarin, who notes how Uniqlo had a very clear vision for his designs, shares how he enjoyed the collaborative process with the Japanese retailer. “It's my first time and hopefully not the last,” he adds. “They’re really a big brand, and I'm humbled they liked my design.” 

Gian Wong: Words and Power

The message is clear in the works of Gian Wong. Emblazoned on the T-shirts are the words, “Don't Fade Away,” “Make Your Move,” and “Now or Never,” all wearable mantras that dare you to not sleep on life. 

Gian Wong leans on universal adages, done in poppy colors, to highlight the cheerful nature of Filipinos.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo
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IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo

Wong wanted to underline the inherent optimism and resilience of Filipinos. “I think it's one of the best values that we Filipinos have, especially with the challenges that we face,” he says. “It's a very good thing that people, who will purchase the T-shirt, get to express a sense of motivation and hope.” 

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Thoughtfulness is also apparent in the way his designs were executed. Wong employed vibrant colors (poppy orange and neon pink, for example) that speak even more about the cheerful nature of the Filipinos, but the adages he used are universal, delivering the positive message of happiness, not just to locals, but also the rest of the world. 

IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo
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IMAGE: Courtesy of Uniqlo

Though words are the stars, Wong chose a symbol, the ampersand or the  “&” character that stands for “and,” as his favorite in the set. “I really like it because of its underlying meaning," he says. "It means something's coming next. It's like saying there's something more we can give.”

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The Uniqlo UT Feel the SEA Collection is available in select Uniqlo stores.

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Clifford Olanday
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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