On Sunday 18th September, I had the privilege to interview John Herrera, A brilliant and innovative designer from the Philippines. His neoprene designs are lightweight, warm, comfortable and doesn’t harm any animals! He’s such a kind-hearted man and he was a pleasure to interview!
Victoryforu : Why have you chosen Oxford Fashion Studio to showcase your amazing designs?
John Herrera : My London journey began two years ago when I was selected along with 5 Filipino designers to participate in the International Fashion Showcase 2015 ( Feb, Brewer St. Carpark Soho). There more than a hundred designers from 30 countries got to showcase their work for the first time to the UK press. With the collective energy of the other designers like myself blended with the artful and subversive vibe of this city, I knew I was transfigured. Last year, I got an invitation from Tiffany Saunders by email to join OFS, after researching on her platform online and seeing how committed they are to their vision, I applied to be a part of this season’s line up.
V: What was the inspiration behind this collection?
JH : The collection in entitle “Amaya” inspired by a very infamous warrior leader of a tribe from pre- colonial Philippines. I wanted to bring her to the 21st century and imagine her on the streets of London. She was the warrior of the kingdom that found a lot of gold in the Philippines, this was before the Spanish came over. The first thing I decided to use is the cowhide leather. I come from the shoe capital over the Philippines, it’s called Marikina, all of the shoes are produced there. It took a while to meld the design of the shoes with the outerwear, as I really love designing outerwear, like trench coats and evening cocktail dresses. Then it just took on its own form, the armor inspiration went in, my love for elaborate pattern making and my love for 3D design. I have mastered the female figure and I am trying to create new silhouettes. I hope that was evident in the show because that is exactly what I was trying to get across.
V : Why did you decide to use neoprene as appose to leather or denim?
JH : I just love neoprene. It’s better than denim for me. It’s nicer to look at, to feel. It’s better in pictures than wool and cashmere because it’s smooth and it just looks slick and, I think, people look taller in it too. I am inspired by this new fabric that is inspired by scuba diving outfits and places like Japan have been developing it for years and it’s just so new than what we are used to seeing. It’s super lightweight which makes it easy to travel with, you don’t have to iron them either. When I wear it, it is like it is hugging me and if I can give that experience to a lot of people, then why not. A lot of Vegans have been buying my clothes because it’s difficult to believe that a warm coat can be made without harming animals but now it is possible with neoprene. It is not a market that I targetted from the beginning but now that I have their ears, I will be leaning more to designing clothes that are more animal-friendly.
V : And why the Gold? I thought the neoprene added a very futuristic vibe to the outfits and then the shinier parts of the Gold added a more classic, royal look to it.
JH : I think I used it for exactly the contrast that you just said. I think that was really my aim and my thinking at the time. A lot of designers design to please others, whereas I design to please my own eyes, my senses. I love the difference in feeling from the shiny gold to the neoprene. It’s quite the sensation. I am a designer who loves very very simple inspirations and philosophy, I just follow my senses because if it pleases me, it’s bound to please other people.
V : I love that way of thinking, What is your brand ethos?
JH : I have built my brand based on the concept of service. Whenever I design, I think of the woman wearing the pieces and where she’s going to wear them. I work with female staff who believes in this vision too. I believe in constant evolution, lately I have found myself transitioning into a vegetarian and this philosophy of being kind to animals will definitely spill to my designs. This will be the last time my brand is working with real leather.
V : Who’s the target audience for this collection?
JH : Independent women who think for themselves, women who are empowered.
V : What have you designed prior to this collection?
JH : In my 12-year career, in the Philippines, I have designed over 20 capsule collections. You can look them up in the “blog” of my website : johnherreracouture.com
V : What made you into the designer that you are today?
JH : As a young boy I have always reworked my clothes. My mother wouldn’t teach me to sew so I taught myself. I don’t remember a time when I was doing it in some small capacity.
V : What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?
JH : Mostly conversing with fabrics. A decade in, I still find this part very challenging.
V : What other designers do you aspire to be as successful as?
JH : I love the Brits: Westwood, McQueen, Galliano, McCartney. And the Japanese: Kawakubo, Miyake, Watanabe. These artists blew my mind when I was a fashion student.
V : If you could put your designs on any celebrity, which would you choose?
JH : Sarah Jessica Parker, Daphne Guinness, Iris Apfel.
V : When you are asked, “What is Fashion?” What is the first thing that comes to mind?
JH : Fashion is the art of self-expression through clothing.
V : What is your go-to outfit/ What is your signature style?
JH : Black makes me feel safe.
V : What is the motivation/inspiration behind your Fashion Career?
JH : Everything I know in life I learned through fashion. Clothes have been a major part of the fiber of human existence. I believe in its power. To heal, to change one’s life.
V : If you were to start your life over again, would you change anything?
JH : Nope.
V : What advice would you give to an up and coming designer?
JH : Just keep at it. We all have our place in the sun.
V : What is next for you and your brand?
JH : Sustainable clothing. Kind to animals and kind to the planet.
V : Is there anything you would like to say to Oxford Fashion Studio?
JH : Thank you for everything and see you guys next season.
Thank you so much to John Herrera for this interview. It was a privileged to meet you and I hope Victoryforu Viewers will check out his website Here!