From ‘edgy’ lace to draping–Lesley Mobo shows Manila what he’s got
If there’s one word that best describes the recent Colours Gala at the SM Mall of Asia’s Arena, it would have to be reinvention.
From the choice of venue and how organizers, led by Colours Gala chair Kaye Tinga and director Ariel Lozada, transformed it, to the featured designer, London-based Lesley Mobo, 35, everything about the event defied expectations and upended established notions of how a fashion event should be staged.
Mobo, who did a 45-piece collection, pulled off the evening’s biggest surprise by downplaying his tailoring skills in favor of layering and combining soft, diaphanous materials such as lace, tulle and chiffon to produce soft, ethereal-looking bohemian-inspired pieces. His gambit paid off.
Except for a few tailored, oversized and partly beaded coats and men’s jackets, his current collection was nowhere near the tailored and structured pieces he did in 2008 in a homecoming show for Ayala Mall’s “Bravo Filipino.”
“I used a mix of new and vintage lace such as French and Brodery Anglaise,” he said after the show. “My intention was to seamlessly combine new and vintage materials.”
As if all that layering and juxtaposition of textures weren’t enough, he made his pieces more interesting by incorporating strategic and figure-flattering ruffles, ruches, drapes, tiers and pleats. He managed to retain his sense of proportion, which can be quite difficult and tricky to achieve through all those layers.
To keep monotony at bay, many dresses had uneven hems, while certain key pieces were partially beaded and combined with a transparent, plastic-looking material, which turned out to be rubber.
The Mobo ‘style’
Mobo said doing soft feminine dresses has always been his “style,” even during his days as a young fashion student at Central Saint Martins in London. He also worked on soft materials during his stint as head designer of Jasmine de Milo, though they were nothing like the ones he showed.
“You can even ask my former classmates. This is really what I do. I started to pursue tailoring only because it was easier to make tailored pieces edgy. It’s quite difficult to make these kinds of clothes using lace edgy,” the Aklan native added.
Mobo has a sizable collection of various lace fabrics stashed away in London. He did all the pieces there, and had some of the dresses beaded in Aklan.
A beaded black coat worn by model Ria Bolivar, for instance, reminded everyone of how good Mobo is in fashioning head-turning tailored pieces. Tailoring, he said, will always be part of his fashion DNA.
“I used primarily seed beads for that particular piece. Some of the beadwork weren’t actually that expensive to do. My point there is to use and make do with what you have,” added Mobo, who also used a bit of Swarovski crystals.
Due perhaps to his chosen materials, majority of the pieces were in black, white and cream. Mobo gave his collection some color in the form of long dresses made of silk, tulle and jersey.
His layered tulle numbers, especially the green and white and pink, not only flattered their wearers. They were also fine examples of proportion, layering and control.
“Although I began my career designing soft pieces, I’ve never made an entire collection using lace and various soft materials,” Mobo shared. “I was really scared and at my wits’ end when I arrived. I felt relieved only when the models started fitting the clothes. That was when I knew that the collection somehow worked.”
Intact street cred
The designer also came out of this latest exercise with his street cred still intact. Despite his use of traditional techniques and dainty materials, the pieces retained their street vibe, a Mobo trademark evident in his earlier works.
“The young, edgy feel will always be there,” he said. “I like the idea of presenting things in a more casual manner. I feel that couture is becoming too serious. Why would you purposely make young people look old?”
He dispelled notions that these pieces are a prelude to his entry as creative director of Ghost, a venerable British ready-to-wear brand. The show was preceded by a short film featuring a naked female model, who later also appeared like the legendary “white lady” of Balete Drive in one of Mobo’s lace dresses.
“Although they seem to look like a prelude to Ghost,” he said, “They’re not. I don’t want to talk about Ghost because I haven’t started yet. This collection is for my label Mobo and exclusively for this gala and Philippine Fashion Week.”
The only low point in the show was his men’s wear, which consisted mostly of padded jackets, vests and black leggings. Much like the British quartet Blake, the evening’s featured performers, the segment functioned more as an intermission number.
“That was more of a pause because it was quite a big gala. The real story would always be about the women’s wear because I design mainly for women,” Mobo said.
But the bigger story was how Mobo was able to combine all those girly materials, treatments and techniques without losing the ad hoc quality of his clothes and without producing a collection worthy of a Santacruzan. It takes someone with imagination, discipline, experience and daring to do what he did.