For his graduation collection, the young fashion designer showcases his poetic perception of tailoring, and beckons us to close our eyes and follow our daydreams.
He didn’t design with eyes closed. Neil Anthonie depicted his daydreams deliberately: with faux leather and suede, in parchment and chartreuse hues, and strokes of acrylic and thick impasto. Subtle storytelling wasn’t an option, either, because his mission was clear: he wanted to float new concepts in fashion with a comfortable and contemporary narrative.
And in this way, he succeeded.
The multiverse Neil created dabbles in fashion design, photography, and creative direction—a combination usually seen only in the world of young multi-hypenates. It challenges culture and consumption, and even poses questions about what shape brands will take in the coming years.
His reality—the one that sprang from his mind—is a celebratory point of view: pitting tailoring against the endless takes on the now-ubiquitous PPE we see around us.
Listen in on our conversation below:
When did you first become interested in fashion?
I distinctly remember when I was ten years old, I’ve always had this fascination for magazines. I read them and skimmed through them religiously, then I discovered America’s Next Top Model and started watching it. At that moment I got hooked! That was when I started taking photos of me and my friends, all dressed up and acting like we were part of the fashion industry. It was fun, and at that time my dream was to be a fashion photographer. After graduating from grade school, it shifted to fashion design. So ever since I set foot in high school up until I graduated, becoming a fashion designer became my dream.
Do you have any role models?
I’ve always admired my parents. Aside from them also being part of the LGBTQ community, they taught me a lot of things in life that I continuously treasure. They had this way of unconsciously teaching me and giving me advice that I always get to apply in real-life situations, without even knowing that what they said were life lessons.
In terms of my fashion heroes, I’ve always been fascinated by Thom Browne. I actually have a funny back story about this: it all started when my mentors and classmates kept telling me that they see similarities with me and Thom Browne. At first, I had no idea who Thom Browne was and what he does, so I did my own research about him. While I was browsing through his works and collections, I understood what my classmates pointed out. Our thought process and designs follow the same methodology and aesthetic. I felt honored to be compared to him!
Speaking of Thom Browne, he dressed Evan Mock, Pete Davidson, etc at MET Gala! And he returned to show at NYFW ’22 to complement the event. What do you think of his narrative arc in his collections? Do you, in some way, incorporate this kind of formula in conceptualizing your collection?
I think Thom Browne’s thought process and way of designing is quite unique for his own. His refined showmanship is unparalleled, which can be seen in all his shows. Whatever he does I admire, but as a designer I also have my own process that I follow and experiment with. I conceptualize through my own research, my own experiences, and my own emotions. I follow what I feel is right and everything falls into place after. What I see is similar to what I do and what Thom Browne does is we both stick to one formula that we innovate and explore new interpretations of every season. We each have our own world that we move in and continuously find inspiration from that gives us consistency in our works while maintaining the modernity that the fashion industry is always hungry for.
Can you tell us about your graduation collection?
The concept of my graduation collection came from the rabbit hole we spiral in when we wander into our daydreams. I wanted to present a visualization of a battle that takes place in our minds when we daydream and fantasize. It’s about the shifts that take place from reality and fantasy as a form of survival. That’s why the collection was divided into two phases, it’s the representation of reality and fantasy.
There’s something magnetic about your pieces. Can you tell us more about the materials used in the collection? And also, can you share the mood board, fabrics, color palette, and tailoring?
I used a variety of materials in this collection like leather, suede, wool, twill and actual I used a variety of materials in this collection like leather, suede, wool, twill and actual rolled canvas for the painted garments because the collection called for a dynamic mix of fabrics. The different materials contributed to the concept of the collection, which also in turn unfolded their respective challenges especially in tailoring them. The upholstery suede and leather proved to be the hardest to work with because of its unconventional use on clothing. They had to be hand tailored to create the look! However, what I enjoyed the most during the whole production of the collection is the hand-painted detail on some of the pieces that I personally did. I thought it was the cherry on top to bring everything together and convey the concept I wanted to show while still maintaining my brand identity through the monochromatic palette I used.
The mood board is a collection of images that I felt reveal the idea of escaping into The mood board is a collection of images that reveal the idea of escaping into daydreams – the battle between fantasy and reality. There are photos of painted faces that represent the masks we hide with in real life, images of reflection that convey the serenity in wandering into our thoughts, and the opposition of self seen in the splitting bodies. These were chosen because I found a strong connection to them so I wanted to incorporate them both metaphorically and literally in the collection.
What were your design process and inspirations?
I’m all about reinventing classic pieces. I describe it as a harmonious blend of two I’m all about reinventing classic pieces. I describe it as a harmonious blend of two concepts that result in contemporary, delightful, and chic creations with a bit of quirkiness. My references are drawn from numerous things like history, film, architecture, etc., which helps in my design process. However, for my graduation collection, I tried stepping outside of my comfort zone and explored a different environment to draw my inspiration from.
What challenges did you face?
I had some creative blocks due to the impact of the pandemic on our mental health, and I had some creative blocks due to the impact of the pandemic on our mental health, and consequently with the production of the garments because I had to do the majority of it. I could not risk going to my tailor all the time, so I just had him cut and sew the garments that were simple to understand, rather than sending him complicated designs that I can’t afford to redo. So I guess safety, cost, and time were the challenges that came with designing this collection during a global pandemic.
Creatives thrive on multiple projects and switch hats between roles. Recently, Frank ocean dabbled into high jewelry then collaborated with Prada, Mario Carbone did Our Lady of Rocco, While Jenna Lyons had a reality show which covered Home & Life styling. Do you think being a multi-hypenate creative is the future of fashion?
I feel like gone are the days that people are chained to just one type of job in their life. Our society evolves and adapts to the changes of the times. Today, I am seeing a lot of people exploring their talents, skills, and creativity probably because we are now more open and educated to the idea of the multi-hyphenate, and the necessity of being a jack-of-all-trades as a crucial aspect for survival.
Humans are complicated creatures. We are very talented, skilled, smart, and adaptive, so it’s no surprise that creatives and designers are doing other things that are far from their main job description. We all have the liberty to explore ourselves in pursuit of what could bring us to a more fulfilled life. Like me, aside from being a fashion designer, I dabble in photography and painting, because both interest me and equip me to stay inspired to live and continue what I love doing.
Being a multi-hyphenate is not the future of fashion: it’s what fashion and life is all about.
What could the industry do to help you?
The industry should bring more awareness to independent and young creatives. There are a lot of talented people who are just starting the industry who don’t get enough credit and recognition that they very well deserve. Being young and being experienced have their advantages and disadvantages, but I want the industry and the media to open up their circle and dig deep into searching for talents who are great at what they do. There is so much talent here in the Philippines, if only we give them the right opportunities to shine.
What do you dream of doing long-term?
Long term, I want my brand to grow and succeed and become its creative director. I want full creative control of what I design and be locally and internationally recognized someday.