Fashion, throughout the years, has evolved to mean so much more than merely the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet. From simple garments to extravagant ensembles, fashion has transformed drastically to accommodate society’s ever-changing trends, needs, and cultures.
As we enjoy an era of minimalism in and out of the closet, a growing number of designers are set to radicalize the industry with pieces that bring it back to basics, but with that much-needed stylish flair. In the Philippines, Kyle Cruz is making sure that this happens.
As the creative mind behind clothing brand “CRUZ”, the young designer has recently unveiled a collection to the Filipino market that meets all the minimalist criterion, and then some. His pieces are proudly genderless, wearable by any individual across the spectrum of identity and gender. But despite its minimalist nature and no-gender aesthetic, each garment sets out to make a statement on its own. Not too flashy on the eyes, but will definitely make you stop and look.
For Cruz, these pieces are a product of growing up in an environment constantly surrounded by art. As his parents are art lovers themselves, with their own ever-growing collection of paintings and mid-century modern furniture, it opened his eyes very early on on the many expressions of art and beauty.
“I perceive anything that’s been made through love and passion as art,” he tells Rank Magazine. “The aesthetic, and how it can really change how you look and feel, may also be why I am so deeply connected to clothing. I find it so beautiful to be able to put your vision into reality, especially creating fashion pieces you can wear. That’s why I also call [fashion] as wearable art.”
In terms of his own creations, he revealed that he usually just designs clothes for himself, based on what he would want to wear. It came as a delightful surprise to find along the way that other people resonated with these pieces as well, adding to the long list of reasons why he loves his job so much.
But of course, as with any person or creative at this time, the pandemic has massively impacted Cruz’s mindset in business and creativity. Though the CRUZ brand still continued to thrive in some aspects despite the generally slowed down nature the industry has taken, he reflected that the biggest problem he faced at this time had to do more with the direction of his brand.
“I’m still so grateful, with the pandemic slowing things down, I’m still happy the brand Is still thriving in a way. The biggest problem I’ve come across is probably the transition of having to be independent and trying to build a brand up in the middle of a pandemic and the sudden lockdowns,” he noted.
But these hurdles also allowed him to look more deeply into his brand, and the responsibility that entailed in today’s fast-paced, social media-heavy world. He highlighted that the pandemic really made him see and realize that a brand shouldn’t just be a brand. More than stylish inspirations and aesthetically-pleasing visuals, he’s now committed to create a platform that can inspire others, especially the youth.
One way he’s doing this is by carving his own space in the fashion world with design pieces that do not conform or subscribe to predetermined rules and go beyond these preexisting boxes in style. A collection to note is his iconic capsule of genderless and minimalist leather pieces that has effectively characterized the “CRUZ” aesthetic.
Looking back, he recalled how risky it was to release an all-leather collection in the Philippines because of our hot and humid weather. “I launched that collection for F/W20 and I wasn’t in doubt but I was pretty overwhelmed with how it still sort of worked out,” he mused.
The collection has earned a reputation within the fashion editorial space as well, as the young designer, who’s fairly new in the scene, and has already been asked to collaborate in several shoots with his pieces. His brand has now been rocked by names in the mainstream scene from the likes of Ian and Paolo Pangilinan, Kim Cruz, Pia Wurtzbach, Nadine Lustre, and James Reid in Rank Magazine’s very own New Agenda issue.
“I will forever be grateful of the fellow creatives who I’ve collaborated with, I honestly wouldn’t be where I am without them. I’ve been able to collaborate with some of the people I could only dream of,” the 20-year-old designer expressed.
However, while he has already successfully scaled his brand within the country in just three short years, his ultimate dream is to really take CRUZ around the world and represent Filipino fashion. He dreams of collaborating with the biggest icons and brands in the world, and even manifested to one day work with Travis Scott and Rhuigi Villaseñor. “I just hope they see this,” he enthused kiddingly.
For Cruz, the beauty of the Filipino fashion scene is the sum total of each artist’s work in the field. He hopes that, not only will the world see and recognize our artists’ talent and creativity in the global stage, but that Filipinos will as well.
“The Filipino fashion scene is amazing. The whole sense of fashion being made. From the designers to the stylists, the photographers, models even the manufacturers. It has so much potential, but what I do hope to change is how Filipinos having to support their fellow Filipino high-end designers compared to fast fashion,” he emphasized.
Right now, Cruz has committed to show off Filipino fashion as he prepares his SS22 Collection, which is soon to drop, he teased. “Only thing I could say about it for now is it’s going to be amazing, at least [in my opinion],” the young designer coyly remarked.
As we await his latest project, we’re reminded of the way he challenged the status quo of fashion with just his first collections alone. While he didn’t reveal much on what to expect, we already know that it’s going to serve some stellar looks for both men, women, and non-binary folks, judging from the brand’s ethos and spirit thus far. As is known of the Kyle Cruz brand, any and all pieces will be genderless, minimalist, and in our own belief, wholly unstoppable.
Produced, interviewed, and styling supervision by Leo Balante
Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin
Grooming by Nadynne Esguerra
Shoot assistant and videography: Bhernn Saenz
Models: Philippe Magalona and Abed Green
Shot on location at the RX Studio