Any designer would agree: Fashion is an art form.
But for visual artist and designer Mark Taojo, it isn’t just a declaration countered at naysayers but something taken a bit more literally.
“Art led me here,” says the Davao-born creative on how he found his path to fashion. His story didn’t start with clothes but with a traditional canvas. Three years ago, Mark was recruited by a local gallery for a residency program, as an artist whose sketches and paintings have been displayed on gallery walls. Now, he also spearheads Weary Studios, a fashion project housing his repurposed painted garments.
“It started as a hobby. I couldn’t afford to buy band merch, so I just made my own,” Mark says. “I started to explore printing with stencils, hand-painted graphics on shirts and the silk-screen process.”
“When I arrived in Manila and the pandemic came about, I thought about making a custom collection. I thrifted denim jackets and recycled old clothes from my closet and started painting on them,” he continues.
Weary Studios released its first collection in August last year, while the second collection “Gloom” dropped in December. The common thread between them is the canvas of choice—old garments discarded in thrift stores, now made anew by the artist’s hand.
For this week’s Seen on Scout, we talked to Mark about his visual work, repurposed fashion, and the fine art of juggling both.
Fashion is wearable art, and as a visual artist, it seems even truer in your case. Is it easy to jump from one medium to another, from canvas to clothes?
I get to use my skills from both mediums on each other. I paint and draw on my clothes, and I’ve even used prints in my paintings, too.
In my opinion, there isn’t any big difference between both mediums. Personally, I’m able to express myself in both. I mostly do self-portraits when I paint, and fashion is an art form that shows who I am too, just like my self-portraits.
What are your go-to tools when it comes to recreating clothes? Can you walk us through your process?
Usually, I have a single word for a concept like my second collection “Gloom.” I go straight to thrift shops and start curating from there. I lay everything down and start matching colors and patterns. I cut them and merge them into one, then that’s the time I’ll begin thinking of visuals that’ll suit the “Gloom” concept. It’s a very in-the-moment process—I go straight to the garment and just do what I feel at the moment.
What is the most fascinating part about repurposing garments into new creations?
It’s the recycling itself. There is so much waste in fast fashion that we can’t even comprehend. Through repurposing garments, I get to waste less and I get to express myself in clothing, too.
Clothes are not just garments wrapped around our bodies—it’s self-expression, too.
Where do you get inspiration when recreating clothes?
I surround myself with documentaries about designers or just follow them on their socials for inspiration. My go-to designers are Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens and Rei Kawakubo. When you stick to an aesthetic, it gets easier to create clothes. In my case, I love black, uneven, bold and striking cuts.
What do you want people to feel when wearing your designs?
My tagline is “Wear who you are.” I make clothes for people to realize that self-appreciation and exploration are the keys to confidence. Clothes are not just garments wrapped around our bodies—it’s self-expression, too.
Where do you see Weary Studios and your art heading in the future?
In the future, I might merge my art and fashion fully. I could join art exhibits with paintings of my clothes or with the clothes themselves, or see my designs on the runway. I’m hoping for more collaborations with personalities or brands that I look up to, so I can spread my vision and inspire more creators to keep creating.
But right now, I’m just enjoying every piece I make. The possibilities are endless when you like what you do.
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This story is part of our #SeenOnScout series, which puts the spotlight on young creatives and their body of work. Join the Scout Family & Friends Facebook group right here, and share your work with us in the group or through using #SeenOnScout on Twitter and Instagram.
Photos courtesy of Mark Taojo