An exclusive interview with fashion designer, Felipe Asan Escobar.
BY GIUSEPPE CASTRENZE
"My name is Felipe Asan Escobar and I was born and raised in Ecuador. I moved to Germany over 7 years ago. During my studies, the desire to find an expression of my own gender identity intensified in me, a wish that conflicted with the reality of my upbringing and my cultural background.
During these very personal discovery experiences, I used my work to further define myself. My work combines elements of queer culture, traditional menswear and my personal experiences in relation to social ideals. It rethinks conventions of masculinity and creates new ideals around the body.
Within the constraints of what it is thought to be male or female, I playfully combine different stereotypes by blurring their boundaries and reinventing them in a harmonious way. Often looking back to the world of art to recognize queer expression and reinterpreting them through fashion."
What is fashion for you?
I view fashion as a realm of dualities: It is a space of fantasy and contrasting reality. It can reflect what the world is and how we want it to be. Something material and something intangible as well. I think fashion can be a space for protest and a road to influence change or at least that’s what I want it to be. It is a highly emotional space and yet people can view it as “just clothes”. I love playing with these expectations and contradictions, I guess that’s what is so appealing to me about fashion.
How does your work affect your personality?
I’ve been confronted with this question a lot lately. I am still not quite able to separate the two, to be honest. During the years I’ve used my work and research about art history, gender identity and queerness to help me discover my own identity. Through my work I was able to work through a lot of contrasts in my life; I grew up in Ecuador and was always confronted by the ideals of masculinity, ideals of Catholicism and what I was or wasn’t allowed to be or wear and my work helped me question this status quo and helped me become more vocal about what I believe.
The freedom to express how much and how important it is for you?
The freedom to express is the core of my creative process and it comes, from my perspective at least, with a responsibility. What you put out there and what you communicate with it; what ideas are you promoting? Which communities are you supporting and how? Specially in fashion, we can reflect the Zeitgeist critically and push the dialogue towards progress. It may seems banal at times but I think using our freedom of expression can eventually create change, make people realize what unexplored world is out there and slowly make them accept new ideas.
Fashion is storytelling, but it also reflects social changes! How do you live this difficult moment for the whole world?
I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been all over the place the last couple months, but I tried using this time to pause and reflect about my work, about my struggles as a latino designer in Europe as well as my privilege. I am trying to focus on the next stories I want to tell and trying to find ways to uplift my community through my work. There are days where I feel I’ve done a lot, others where I’ve think I haven’t done enough. But all these emotions fuel my creative process in a way and weirdly enough I’ve been able to connect with other creatives deeply and in a significant way during this time.
What is the philosophy of your work?
This is a bit of a loaded question for me. And I guess it’s hard for me to put a philosophy down in words, since sometimes the line between me and my work is so fine and ever-changing. If I can point something out about my work is that I need it to be sincere... for me its important to somehow connect with other queer people through my work, there’s a true spark of joy in me when my community can see themselves in my collections. At the same time my work has to be true for me as well... I speak though my work about my
personal experiences, my upbringing and the whole process brings something very cathartic to me...
I wonder if the focus shoot be less on fashion though and more on creativity in general? Thoughts?
Creativity is the core of any artistic expression but I think the concept and creative process itself get catalogued as being something fully intangible and abstract. It is true that the creative expression takes a an emotional form but it also requires a very specific logical and sometimes even systematic way of thinking and a deep analytical ability to transform that first spark of creativity. Also, creativity goes beyond the creative work itself, it is a way to observe the world and react to it, the skill to develop different ways of thinking to different environments.