Meet Filipino-American Shaun Samson, 31, London’s latest menswear sensation who is carving a strong, steady following for his authentic streetwear designed with a high fashion sensibility.
Sue-Wen Quek: Hi Shaun, where are you from originally?
Shaun Samson: My father is from Abucay, Bataan and my mother is from Manila. I was born and raised in California, but I have visited the Philippines on holiday a few times while growing up.
SWQ: What are your fondest memories from there?
SS: I remember going there once as a child and traveling to a hidden resort that we had to drive across a mountain and ride in a boat to get to. More recently, I’ve gone clubbing with a cousin and have found the nightlife in Manila comparable to going out in Los Angeles or Hong Kong – meaning it’s very current and something that anyone from any country can get into, which I think is great for holiday goers.
SWQ: You’re very much part of a generation shaping London menswear – what are you finding most exciting about it at the moment?
SS: I think a lot of people find security in tradition, but fashion is at its most exciting when there is something new and radical happening. More than ever society is opening up to fresh ideas about sexuality and acceptance so I’m most excited to see how menswear will be shaped in the next few years with the idea of gender always being pushed.
SWQ: Any menswear trends you’re interested in?
SS: I don’t do trends.
SWQ: Tell us about your last collection. What were you inspired by and why?
SS: For AW12 I’m referencing the social and anti-social aspects of growing up through sportswear. I was looking at sports jerseys and how youth in America have adopted those garments as a way of showing camaraderie with sports teams, but also a way of marking allegiance and territory, which can cause conflict. It’s that raw energy that I’m always looking to interpret with my collections. I was also looking at faux fur and other different forms of hair like goat hair and hair weave because I like how the material literally and figuratively softens all the hard reference points I was researching.
SWQ: What do you love most about being a designer?
SS: Making people question the norm.
SWQ: Do your Filipino roots ever inspire you, despite not having grown up there?
SS: My collections have been autobiographical in that I look to my youth and adolescence for reference points. I didn’t grow up in the Philippines, so I’m not going to debase the culture by referencing something I have no first hand knowledge of. I think growing up in a Filipino household in California is a lot different than actually growing up in the Philippines. However I’m always looking to the future and researching new materials and technologies, so if there is something in the rich culture of the Philippines that I can explore for a future collection then I’m game.
SWQ: I’m sure there is plenty to discover in the Philippines. What are you currently working on?
SS: I’ve just acquired a new studio space in East London so I’m spending the next few weeks making it look and feel right. I’m also traveling to California in a couple weeks to oversee the production of my AW collection with my production manager. My next show will be in January, so I’m starting research for that collection as well.
SWQ: Finally, some advice for aspiring designers in the Philippines?
SS: Shed yourself of any labels and anything will be possible.
SWQ: That reminds me of something you once told me about your grandparents.
SS: Yeah. Up until I finally finished my MA at Central Saint Martins, in 2011, my grandparents were like, “You still have time to become a doctor!” Their idea of design is akin to what dressmakers do in the Philippines and they think that that’s what I’m studying. But after seeing the NEWGEN MAN show, they changed their perspective of how far I can take my degree so they’ve since stopped telling me that.
- bySue-Wen Quek