Today’s exclusive interview is with fashion designer and stylist, Tracy Dizon. From a young age, she has had an appreciation for fashion and quality clothing. Tracy has translated that appreciation along with her creativity into hip clothing designs. Her clothes, much like the artist herself, are equal parts punk-rock power and fairy-tale girliness. She takes her ability to mix and match colours and prints to a whole new level.  See what Tracy had to say about her new collection, her inspirations, and her Project Runway Philippines experience.

1.) What sparked your interest to become a fashion designer and what sort of experience did you have?

I really believe that fate led me to the fashion design path. I took up a fashion/clothing-related course in college after transferring from a completely different course. I almost gave up design when I had my child because I thought this industry was too capricious for my lifestyle and responsibilities as a young single mother, but it still led me to good jobs (as a designer, a stylist, a merchandiser) and prestigious competitions (like PRP).

I think I grew as a designer in the same way that I grew as a person. I was shaped by the harsh realities that face a single mom in a frivolous world of fashion. But what I thought would be the end of my career defined me as a designer. I learned to appreciate the brighter side of things and to look at life with childlike wonder even as I weathered my personal and professional struggles. I also learned to be true to my design convictions and vow not be tossed and turned by trends and fads.

My son, Atreyu, has always been my inspiration, my driving force to make it in such a tough industry. He was the one who encouraged me to join PRP, the Japan competition. I am determined to join the Philippine Fashion Week so he can see me there. We dream together.

But probably the greatest achievement for me so far was being a Philippine Representative and finalist for the 47th Japan Fashion Design Contest, together with Nicole Mori and Veejay Floresca. I was chosen as one of the 72 finalists, selected from 2,534 entries from all over the world.

2.) How would you describe your style of fashion?

Eclectic, quirky, playful, young, whimsical, kawaii!

For the longest time, I feel a bit at lost where I should put myself into this cut-throat world of fashion. I’m too artsy-fartsy to be a designer but I’m too “fashown” to be an artist. But as years goes by, I learned my strengths and weaknesses, few things remained consistent, I’m a little bit rebellious because I tend to be bolder and braver with my ideas but I don’t really intend to defy. I’m a free spirit and I just want to have fun with my designs.

My life experiences as a young mum, honed my design aesthetic. I learned to embrace the youthful, playful and colourful nature of designs, especially fit for young Japanese market. I think my innate fascination with the Japan Street Fashion (a little bit Lolita, a little bit punk rock) made my design aesthetic naturally super kawaii!

I’m actually a little bit of everything; I’m not an extremist street wear designer alone, nor an extremist Lolita designer. But I think that what makes me unique is my different influences meshed together to create something new.

3.) Tell me about your latest collection, what was the design inspiration?

Well, I have been working on my headpieces and fascinators line which I called “Tiara” early this year. I made different sets of collection to fit the recent market demand for headpieces to complete one’s look. Surprisingly, making accessories as such came naturally with my design direction. My clients asked me to make them headpieces even before I was making them. For this season, I have 5 collections: my bridal collection Jane Austen Brides is obviously inspired by the classical forms just like the Jane Austen novels. I also made a collection named Cocktail Cruisers inspired by cocktail drinks and old vintage pin-up girl. I made this collection in time for the prom season, especially nowadays; most school proms themes have that vintage feel. I also made other quirky special edition pieces like the Pinoy Pop Artista Collection, All You Need is Love and my prelude to my first Phil Fashion plans – the Oriental Overtures.     

4.) How far in advance do you work on your collections and what is the process?

Well it actually depends… back when I was working in a corporate set-up; I was assigned to make designs six months even up to one year in advance. I think this is where you can set apart visionary designers from trend-follower designers – to predict and make trends rather than making safe designs. It’s a gift I believe, It’s either you have it or you don’t.
 
In my personal designs, I always have an idea file – a concept book in stock. There are just days when ideas just wont stop popping-out of my head. I just draw them and keep them in my idea file. I always feel fascinated looking back after a few years that my ideas become trends… that I thought about them always in advance!


 
My design process starts with a concept, but for clients, I make it a point to get to know them better and make designs for them as personal as possible. I believe that beauty doesn’t only come from wearing fashionable clothes but beauty shine from being one’s true self. And try to inject my style with their personality.

5.) What kind of person do you imagine wearing your clothing?

I dream of opening my own store in the streets of Takeshita Harajuku, but that remains a dream for now. I want my pieces worn by the colourful youth of Japan. Bold, playful and simply having fun with what they’re wearing.

Few of my local “dream clients” to dress up are Tessa-Prieto, Alessandra De Rossi, and Adrienne Vergara (of The HP Space Reality TV Show). They’re all daring in a sense and you can see that they simply have fun with what they’re wearing. 

6.) What do you enjoy most about designing clothes?

My fashion is my mode of expression for my life’s desires, it’s very personal for me. In some way, designing clothes is like writing in a diary, I get to emancipate through clothes my vision, my emotions and my values… The concepts excite me the most, reinterpreting mundane things and make it my own… It’s a brain exercise for me all the time and I just want to have fun with it.


Another favourite of mine is sourcing for the fabrics; it’s a real natural high to scout the streets of Divisoria for the most interesting materials.

7.) What is your design philosophy?
 
Fashion for me is art—it is a form of expression vis-à-vis making something beautiful, an artwork, a masterpiece. Fashion is my mode of expression for showing who I am, my vision, my desires and my life allegory. I have a commitment to remain true to my playful and quirky style in spite of being part of an industry known for its fickleness.


 
8.) Who are your favourite designers in the fashion industry (local and/or international) and what makes them special?

I am fascinated about many fashion designers, mostly women designers and avant-garde designers. Few among my favourites are Coco Chanel, Kenley Collins (Project Runway), Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Viktor and Rolf and Hussein Chalayan. I love these designers in their different aspects of prominence and style. But my top favourite designer is Betsey Johnson!

Betsey Johnson is my patron saint! I simply love her! She has set her stone in the fashion industry but still maintained her aesthetics all through-out the years. What I love about her the most is that she was able to mesh altogether her whimsical style with a high fashion market. What she has accomplished is an inspiration for me: she didn’t have to change her vision to cater to the popular market; the popular market loved her and respects her for what she offers.

Locally, I feel very blessed to have been mentored by few of the top designers in the industry. Joey Samson, taught me to trust my vision. Sir Jojie Lloren is very close to my heart – being a BS Clothing Technology from UP and being my mentor in Project Runway Philippines.

9.) Are there any new or upcoming projects you are working on that you can share with us?

I am thinking about trying out to join the Philippine Fashion Week, but I’m still a bit dreadful to take the plunge. I just started last year to concentrate as a full-time designer, for the past previous years, I beefed up my experience with my styling and office jobs to hone me in the different aspects of the fashion industry. I was also thinking of making pieces inspired with my Japan experience. I got a good review back then with my ability to match colours and prints. I want to do that for my coming collection if I push through. But we’ll see… Wish me luck!

10.) What do you have to say to the next generation, particularly for those hoping to follow in your footsteps?

 It’s a cut-throat industry, but what I can advice to the next generation is to keep their values even at rockiest roads ahead. It’s what hones you as a person and as an artist. Many people from the industry are superficial and snotty, that what makes the industry as it is. But don’t lose yourself along the ride. I always believe not to aim high, but to aim strong More often than not, the shiniest star burns the fastest. Rather than popularity, aim for longevity. The industry will always look for the next big thing but staying is the real challenge. I believe that’s what a professional sets from a hobbyist.

To see more of Tracy’s designs and the most current collection, checkout these sites: http://www.march30store.com/http://tracydizon.carbonmade.com/, http://tracydizon.tumblr.com/ and http://punkskaprincess.multiply.com/. You can also e-mail her at tsureishi@yahoo.com.

Photos courtesy of Tracy Dizon, StyleBible and ETC