Cover Story

At first glance, it’s easy to identify that the garments and ensembles craftily put together by Filipino fashion designers Ha.Mu exude an uncompromising air of whimsy, marked by its clear unbarred experimentation and unapologetic playfulness.

Founded by Abraham “Ham” Guardian and Mamuro “Mamu” Oki, the two design students from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde put together their (seemingly contrasting) aesthetics and styles to launch the “Ha.Mu” fusion brand. While Guardian veered more towards maximalism, Oki thrived in the minimalist space. Once these two typically-opposing styles collided, a parade of ultramodern pieces were left in its wake—making up the Ha.Mu identity that’s strikingly novel, and unflinchingly stylish.

Ha.Mu design duo Mamuro Oki and Abraham Guardian.

By shocking, we mean that it’s almost unimaginable to think that puff sleeves would look good in “menswear”, but with Guardian and Oki, it is. By striking, we mean that when you see these clothing pieces on the street, it’s not unlikely that you’ll stop and stare. Or gawk, to be more accurate.

Since their official founding in 2016, they’ve taken their ethos of unchecked creativity and freedom of expression to heart, ultimately establishing a distinct place for them in the industry as rule-breaking and norm-challenging creators.

It is this freedom to create and express that persistently pulled them toward the world of fashion to begin with. The total liberation to craft and express their ideas in whatever way though the different types of clothing they make, and the imaginative challenge of strategizing it to fit specific tasks from their growing clientele—these are the irresistible forces that keep pulling them towards creativity, they shared to Rank Magazine.

“We were able to make a name for ourselves for being a local brand that really highlights and focuses on producing art clothing pieces to genderless ready-to-wear pieces for people of all sizes. While retaining the same type of details we would do on our art pieces. We are able to make our sketches and ideas come to life with our strong vision and our ‘never say die’ spirit,” Ha.Mu mused as they reflected on how effectively they grew the brand to global recognition in just a few years.

From their collaborative graduation showcase together in 2017 to now, the pair consistently emphasize in their work that they’re committed to take the artistic and norm-challenging route in presenting fashion, or, as they put it, in presenting their art.

And with their unmoderated imagination, a naturally curious mindset takes hold. Morphing into an endless well of inspiration from anything and everything they set their eyes on. “We take inspiration from things around us, from our friends to our childhood memories and past experiences. We get our inspiration from almost anything that sparks an idea in our minds,” Ha.Mu revealed.

True enough, this couldn’t be more accurate as the duo recently introduced the “Flowers of Youth” collection as part of the #PHxTokyo initiative of CITEM to help eight Filipino designers to launch successfully in Japan. The collection, full of flower-like patterns and intricate details, is one that was inspired by Ha.Mu’s individual childhood experiences, and growing up through the different stages of life. In their words, “Flowers of Youth” taps on the duality of youth—the good days and bad days throughout this period where you’re still trying to understand yourself and your identity.

“The idea of putting two different subjects together, flowers and youth, was derived from the idea of how one preserves flowers for decor or keepsake. Even if the flower withers slowly over time, the beauty and memory of it remains. Similar to our concept of youth where “youth” is not defined by age. Youthfulness depends on how you carry yourself even after your adolescent days have surpassed,” they explained.

The pair furthered: “The journey of adolescence heavily involves discovering one’s honest identity and along this period of discovery will come times of despair, confusion, and pain. The things we learn in life are not meant to be learned beforehand so every decision we make for ourselves opens up more joy, and inevitably more sadness in the process. These obstacles we go through eventually become memories; which reminds us of why we are who we have become today.”

With that, the aesthetic of each piece is in homage to happy memories from one’s young and carefree days. Where the passion to shine bright and forge a path ahead, even in the darkest of days, is all the more tenacious. Perhaps more so than during one’s adult life. Hence, the urge in all of us to look back fondly on the nostalgia of youth.

As this collection is a lot more particular about the concept and message than their previous ones, Guardian and Oki admitted that translating their ideas to a tangible and wearable garment was tricky and challenging but an experience they learned a lot from. “We learned to pay more attention to small details and we also learned how to balance big and small details in the looks we were producing,” they shared.

However, in presenting in the Tokyo exhibition without actually being there physically due to travel restrictions, they found unexpected ease. They noted, “Presenting it to the global market was surprisingly easy for us because we knew the vision that we had for our brand and how we wanted to communicate with the audience. We wanted them to feel and understand our collection even if we were not there physically to explain to them.”

While they were able to physically showcase their pieces in Japan through CITEM’s program, they expressed their regret that they couldn’t witness and feel the buyers’ dynamics in the showroom during the launch. For the rest of the world, and to the design duo, in some way, the launch was purely virtual. And though we were able to view the reveal in our own free time, we’re sure it couldn’t compare to actually seeing it with our own two eyes.

This is just one of the drawbacks of releasing something amidst a global pandemic. But Guardian and Oki shared that because of this, it pushed them to change their perspective on carving a space for their fashion in today’s home-based world.

In fact, they’ve revealed that there are currently in talks to make more pieces wearable at home, instead of their usual occasion-based looks. They are also more mindful now of the pieces they release, putting into consideration society’s changing cultures, traditions, and needs, while still sticking to the brand aesthetic and free-spirited nature.

Forging on ahead, and reflecting on what’s to come, the brilliant minds behind Ha.Mu believe that Filipino fashion is taking a turn towards more adventurous styles, as we all attempt to be more mindful of the things we purchase and consume. They trust that people are experimenting more with how they wear, mix, and style their clothes nowadays. In turn, they’re more open-minded and eager to try out new things.

Thus, it’s the perfect time for fashion brands like Ha.Mu to experiment even more, and be more in touch with their creative side to unearth concepts and spaces that haven’t been all that explored before. And if we know one thing about this brand and these designers, it’s that they won’t disappoint if the brief calls for out-of-the-box ideas, and even more unorthodox executions. We just hope we’re ready when they open pandora’s (surprisingly fashion-forward) box, once and for all.

Produced, creative direction, and interview by Leo Balante

Grooming by Kim Roy Opog

Model: Casius Panopio

Official Location Partner: Shutterspace Studios