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Fashion (MA)

Leo John Caligan

A multidisciplinary designer whose work explores identity, culture, and self, Leo John Caligan was born in Iloilo, Philippines, and raised in Manchester, UK. While studying at the Royal College of Art, he has explored his identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and his experiences as a child in a third culture.

Leo John graduated from Manchester School of Art with a BA in Fashion, specialising in gender-neutral design, prints, embroidery, and leather craft (which he was introduced to through an exchange program when he studied at Zhejiang Fashion Institute of Technology in China). Leo John has a background in creative pattern cutting, product development and hand crafting leather accessories. As a designer, he has a deep understanding of materials working with materials such as piña which has significant meaning to him both culturally and ethically. This has informed his creative work with a distinctive style that combines traditional techniques with modern aesthetics.

In 2019, Leo John Caligan's graduate collection was featured at Graduate Fashion Week. He was also a finalist for the YKK Accessories Award where he showed his work in their London showroom. This led to an opportunity to showcase his work at the Positive Exhibition at London Fashion Week at 180 Strand in 2020. Additionally, his work for brands such as Katie Ann McGuigan and Wawwa Clothing, have enhanced his technical skills in design and production, which has helped him gain invaluable knowledge of the fashion industry.

Degree Details

School of DesignFashion (MA)HumanwearRCA2023 at Battersea and Kensington

RCA Battersea, Studio Building, Ground and First floors

A photo of myself playing with materials looking through a mirror and asking a questions of who are you in Filipino.

Some philosophers would have us believe in aesthetic objectivity. I profoundly disagree. To my mind, there’s no such thing as bad taste, just a bold experiment from which we can learn. This belief inspires my endearment of fashion and design, both as a subject as well as a craft, and forms the foundational stone of my approach to work. I believe beauty is subjective. I'm drawn to the challenge of creating something that appeals to a wide range of people, which is why I'm passionate about creating bespoke designs, pushing boundaries, and exploring creative ideas, because I believe that there's no wrong way to express yourself.

During my time at the Royal College of Art, I have gone through a journey of self-reflection - asking questions and finding answers as a Filipino gay man growing up in the UK. My work explores themes of displacement, marginalisation, the need to create a sense of belonging and how one's environment can influence oneself. My art is an outlet to connect with my roots and reflect on my experiences as a gay man of colour. This is shown through my narratives, drawings, make and material use.

Identity has always been the main focal point that influences many projects in my practice. My work aims to provide a different perspective and understanding of Filipino identity through my eyes and experiences of being a first-generation immigrant and the complexities of being in a place of cultural duality. Using materialism as a platform to tell untold stories about the Philippines and how I place myself within these narratives to bridge the gap between east and west. I strive to create work that celebrates my cultural identity while challenging the audience to think beyond the traditional boundaries of art, identity, and place. By engaging in these conversations, we can move towards greater understanding and acceptance of diversity. This will enable me to create meaningful connections between my audience and my work, inspiring empathy and understanding. I believe that understanding my roots and cultural identity is the key to my self-discovery. Challenge what is considered “normal” or “acceptable” in the global community and build a more inclusive and understanding world establishing a meaningful connection between individuals and communities. My work creates a space of understanding and acceptance, and break down the walls that divide us, by connecting us to our roots.

An explanation of what the word balk means.
An image of myself with a description of how the word balk doesn't resonate with me.
a body of research and starting point of my work this year.
self expression drawing out of charcoal
self expression drawing out of charcoal
Scan image of piña with photos of my great grand parents
playing with scanned images of piña
a series of hand carved leather.
An exploration of the piña through print and colour.
Piña as a sculptural piece.
Fabric draped onto chair with darts. Drape work on stand.
 Drape work on stand.
Bamboo chair sculpture with piña fabric running through the chair.
Bamboo chair sculpture with piña fabric running through the chair in front of a mirror.
Chair sculpture reflecting onto a mirror.
Close up image of the chair structure and piña.
Filipino gay saying as a banner draped onto a chair.
Painting process.
Sculptural process of shirt taking over space.
Scan images of Barong.
scan images of Barong.
Drape work on model with piña fabric and rattan shirt.
Rattan shirt on table.
drape work of rattan shirt on staircase
A translucent shirt made of pineapple fibre with rattan flowing through it, draped over a chair.
Piña and rattan Barong and trousers.
Rattan and piña shirt and trousers with banner of gay sayings.

Decelyn and Leonardo Caligan, Maylyn Capayan