By Nicole De Los Reyes
Since childhood, Feanne has always been a visual storyteller.
Her earliest illustrations were mostly of animals with fantastic elements added in. She would often find herself drawing the same subjects over and over again: cats and unicorns caught in a dreamscape of rainbows and crystals, a flowering tree with small animals hiding in it, a pack of wolves hunting elk, etc. “I think the mix of the natural world and the fantastic/ esoteric has always been a recurring theme in my work,” she says.
Over the past few years, Feanne’s focus has shifted toward natural history, especially Philippine flora and fauna. Her current offerings of wearable art, in the form of kimonos, scarves, and tie sandals, feature the Philippine Eagle and local flora and fauna, such as egrets, monstera leaves, fighting cocks, and sunbirds. The Visayan Leopard Cat, an endangered wildcat species from the Panay and Negros islands, also figures in her illustrated patterns.
Through her art, she celebrates the natural biodiversity of the Philippines, drawing attention to the marvelous creatures that can be found in our forests and oceans. An echo of her interest in the fantastic and the esoteric still remains in the maximalist, florid style of her prints.
The decadence of her prints contrasts with her everyday look. Asked what a snapshot of her typical workday would look like, she replies: “Sitting on the floor, working on my tablet or laptop, wearing workout clothes, and surrounded by clutter! It’s very mundane and not at all photogenic.”
Working on art is very time-consuming for Feanne. It’s work that I do by myself at home,” she says. “If I’m not working at home, I’m doing errands or exercising, so comfortable sportswear is really my everyday go-to.” Her dressier items are reserved for more special occasions.
“When I go to events, I usually wear my own work, which is more often than not one of my kimonos,” she says. She tells us that her foray into fashion was a natural move since she always wanted to wear her own art.
There were others who seemed to share the same sentiment, with another designer even going to the extent of plagiarizing one of Feanne’s artworks and using it in a t-shirt design competition. The design won.
Since the experience, Feanne has become an advocate for intellectual property rights. Her social media regularly features educational statuses and advice on how to recognize, avoid, and handle plagiarism. With an uncanny ability to turn any negative situation into a positive, she also took the incident as encouragement to start working in fashion.
Through her art, she celebrates the natural biodiversity of the Philippines, drawing attention to the marvelous creatures that can be found in our forests and oceans.
“It wasn’t the first time that I thought of applying my art on fabric,” Feanne says. “But it did tell me that there was probably a market for my art to be used that way.”
The t-shirt incident wouldn’t be the last time that other designers passed off Feanne’s art as their own. Last December 2018, she took legal action against the UK-based fashion label Rixo after they began selling clothing with prints that had identical elements to her past work. She was able to reach a settlement that was satisfactory to both parties, resulting in a collaboration and Rixo publicly acknowledging that the designs they had used belonged to Feanne.
From these stories, one can ascertain that without a doubt there is a strong demand for Feanne’s wearable art in both local and international fashion scenes. Under her namesake label, she began transforming her artworks into fashion products and selling at selected events and at the art and fashion concept store Othello.
“I decided to use my own name for the brand because luckily, it’s unique enough that if you search on Google, you’ll easily find me,” she says. Her art is also available to order as wallpaper from the Italian company Tecnografica.
Still, Feanne shares that breaking into the industry wasn’t a straightforward path. “It took a lot of trialand-error to figure out production,” she says. “I just learned a lot of things as I went along, and it’s a continual process.”
She has great respect for fashion designers because of her experiences with the technical side of garment production, which involves different printing methods, finding suppliers, and perfecting the technique of designing for print. “I consider myself somewhat of an outsider in the fashion industry since I was not formally trained, so I don’t feel worthy of being called a fashion designer,” she says. “I’m more of a visual artist and print designer who happens to make kimonos and scarves printed with my artwork. I have collaborated with fashion designers and I really enjoy that since I can focus more on the print design and see my talented friends create beautiful things using my work.”
It’s also one reason she’s kept her own production small and slow. “I want to be careful about doing things properly,” she says. Over time, she’s been able to create a strong following through her original, consistent work.
“I’m not the only one doing this,” she says. “But I do think that illustrating my own prints does help to differentiate my brand. I try to focus working on my art and everything follows from that. I also try to make my pieces versatile. They tend to be reversible, they can be styled in different ways, and they’re not tied to any particular season, occasion, or age.”
Feanne is one of the artists that will be exhibiting and selling her work at the Greenbelt 5 Designers’ Holiday Bazaar this Nov. 15 until Dec. 15. Her reversible kimonos and coats will make unique and memorable gifts to keep your loved ones warm this Christmas.