The Fashion Show
By Alyssa Davis
Briefly introduced to the public eye, James-Paul Ancheta can be recognized as second runner up on Bravo’s ‘The Fashion Show’. The fashion-based reality series hosted by internationally acclaimed designer Isaac Mizrahi and four-time Grammy Award-winning performer Kelly Rowland only slightly revealed the stunning talent of this rising fashion figure. Pleased to reach out to current fans of the show and fellow followers of fashion, James-Paul contributes his opinions and experience on fashion design and the industry to Polished. Growing up in the Philippines, living in LA, and studying in London, James-Paul gives us a taste of his widely diverse world that was not covered on the show.
Alyssa Davis: What inspired you to get into fashion design?
Women and democracy. Throughout my lifetime, I have witnessed great women who persevered and really challenged the traditional roles that society had imposed on them. Within the challenge for women was their right to equality and respect of capability. I grew up within a nation that was under martial law and saw housewife Corazon Aquino, rise into power and regain the freedom of democracy that had been stolen from my people and did it through the means of an individual’s right for democracy. I remember as a child, when the streets were covered in the color yellow and people wore yellow shirts with Benigno Aquino’s face printed on. That color had meaning. That face had meaning. And it was worn by many as a tool to regain freedom by the people. I thought how powerful fashion was as a tool to bring forth what was in the hearts and minds of the oppressed and materialize it through what we wear. Fashion has a symbol and it should reflect on how we dress.
AD: How does the certain uniqueness of a designer help them move forward, not only on reality television shows, but overall within the fashion industry?
After completing my foundations in fashion merchandising, I worked a side job in fashion show production for Los Angeles Fashion week under IMG. Not only did I become an expert in running and managing fashion shows but I learned so much from the designers that I had encountered and saw what it takes to make a show memorable.
Most of the designer’s at Los Angeles Fashion Week created clothes that could be found at a mall and did not capture the aspirations of fashion that will sell in the industry. They may be the trendiest, but they are forgettable. It’s like they are building sand castles; they won’t be there for long. There was one designer at Los Angeles Fashion Week that really stood out and essentially it was the only show Anna Wintour ever attended. It was really about the elusive enigma of fashion that has to be with a designer. Working on the LA shows got me other opportunities to see other designers and what they were all doing. It felt like everyone was doing the same thing and saying the same marketing catch phrases. After a while it became redundant.
I also got to work in the casting process of the Project Runway Season 2 and saw Nick Verreros and friend Raymundo Balthazar audition. I saw different designers, I heard all their dreams, successes, failures, and through that I saw only a few who were gems that had something to offer the industry. The majority of who auditioned had the same answers, the same stuff; it felt like playing a sound bite repeatedly in different frequencies of sound. It taught me to find my real voice and contemplate why I wanted to be a fashion designer. It was a total revelation.
AD: I’m aware that you have studied fashion overseas. How have you benefited from the experience abroad and from the universities, themselves?
Well, I decided to pursue two of my Bachelor’s in England, from London Southbank University and AIU-London. All of the professors I worked with had previously worked under designers such as Alexander McQueen, Pucci, Balenciaga and Vivienne Westwood. Most of the professors had their own companies as well, so they had transferred their knowledge and experiences onto their students. I worked for Chiltern Street Studios in London, a buying company for department stores, and so I learned what sells. I also became aware of the different demographics and markets for various retail stores. It is important to realize these aspects vary with location.
AD: In the past, have you trained or apprenticed with another designer? How was that?
When I interned under Vivienne Westwood Studios, I learned to grow as a fashion designer. Westwood was avant garde, couture and very fashion forward in all aspects of making clothes. I learned how to funnel the high creative ideas into a fashion business system that makes money. Since she had different labels, there were different requirements and I did that working on the Japanese Red Label.
AD: What type of woman do you most often design for?
My clothes represent an independent and progressive woman. I do not believe that fashion corporations have the right to dictate what makes us valuable through branding and marketing ideals.
AD: Describe your philosophy about the art of fashion.
Fashion is a belief. It is intangible and has many facets. It is hard to capture fashion into a material; it is unattainable and only aspiration, which is why people are always chasing fashion. Fashion as art, I think, is our interaction with it. It’s how we lure fashion to be with us.
AD: What about fashion as a business?
Fashion as a business is highly complicated. As a business, it should always stimulate a purchase.
A designer must learn how to delegate work and ideas into a fashion house. Vivienne Westwood , Chanel, and designers who are in the couture business are successful because they have a great system in which they could make a profit by using the aspiration their brands carry and trickling it down through their many labels.
AD: What do you think the future of fashion will be like?
I think American fashion will remain the same for a while. In the past, fashion has changed with the influence and invention of Urban and many sub-culture movements that many clothing companies in America were based on. Now we have to go back to supporting our independent American businesses and help them to grow and develop.
Currently, Europe has been the consistent society that has been making it’s designers successful in innovating and influencing the rest of the world. They have government programs, councils, and corporate sponsorships that allow and encourage the industry to grow. We have to move away from the hype and the influence of the media, and believe in our own style because that is what created American fashion.
America should be very proactive in this because young designers of Europe, especially England, are much more competitive. They have new things all the time and they are all individually different. I witnessed a fashion designer who de
signed a program to create clothing based on algorithms, some by using the influence of paper.
Likewise, we must have something beyond the primitive way of creating fashion. We have to be ourselves, the innovative, and never afraid of change the confident Americans that the world knows.
AD: In what way did you benefit from competing on ‘The Fashion Show’?
It is hard to say, but I am not going to wait for it.
AD: What are you working on now?
I am working on research on how to develop the shape of the common clothes we all wear. It is exciting. I am also talking with other designers in England in creating a sub-brand with their labels. I am very excited about that one. I have been talking about the project for such a long time; I met him when he transferred from Christian Dior.
AD: What do you have to say to the next generation, particularly to those hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Shop for the right fashion school. You don’t want to mention your school to dictate your learned skill. You should always depend on your skills and your talent, not how wonderful the school is…
Ask yourself what you want to contribute to the fashion industry. Listen to Vivienne Westwood, She is a fashion mystic; she made me find my fashion soul.
Read! Read! Read! Reading leads to discovery, and there are always new ideas about the things you know and it also changes every time.
Talk about what you have done, not what you are going to do. Have an aim in life. The thing that you have learned in school is about the past and it has been done before. Now what are you going to do for your future? Read Paul Arden’s books and go on YouTube to listen to Randy Pausch’s lecture. Have an open spirit, open mind. Always be inspired by everything. If you are in school, you should be an intern as well. Learn how things work and do it differently. Challenge the things you know!