We sought to combine our love for cinema, music videos, fashion, and sustainability in one fell swoop: a fashion film, the future of runway.
The idea had been growing quietly within us for awhile. We'd wake with a lingering taste in the mouth; a dream driven insanity. We felt the need to stop being contained by traditional runway collections.
If Toqa's vision is to expand the island identity by way of sustainable high fashion, then we were gripped by a fervor, a fever; a concept for a collection to combine community, costuming, and cinema — that possessed us in secret and intensity for an entire year before we roused others to its reality.
In October 2019 we worked with El Nido Resorts and Ten Knots Development Corporation to create Moodyisle.
The medium of a traditional fashion show seemed prohibitive. There are, of course, examples of expertly executed works, but our interests are vested in an interdisciplinary experience. We sought to combine our love for film, music, fashion, sustainability and celebration in one fell swoop. Moreover, we're continually frustrated by contemporary high fashion's superficial mimicry of the tropics.
We thought: why try and inevitably fail to replicate a place? Why not take our audience to the island itself? And why not do so in a way that centers sustainable ecotourism in the process?
Our frustration with contemporary high fashion is this: fashion shows are wonderful, but done live — as we have numerous times — are replete with mistakes, and only accessible to the 300 or so VIP attendees. Shows are telegraphed to the rest of the world through instagram stories and videos that don't do the moment justice; as perfectionists in our craft we find this to be exclusionary and counter to Toqa’s ideal.
We dreamt of a perfect runway; of a front row seat for anyone who wanted it.
Ten Knots and El Nido Resorts reside at the apex of sustainable ecotourism and luxury: for over 40 years they've run as entirely self contained ecosystems comprising water treatment plants, renewable energy, onsite farms, local produce, conservation, & a holistic education in sustainability for all of their constituents.
There's an energy that runs through the air in El Nido. You can see it when you stop any island employee, ask them about the place. It vibrates. Permeates their speech, imbues it with a care that can come only from knowing the nuance of nature. It is of a careful cultivation, an idyll symbiosis of persons and place.
Underwriting our Sport Resort aesthetic is a deep appreciation for community and collaboration as a source of genuine tropical production, With our boys at Tarzeer Pictures we spoke to every available employee on every El Nido island. We cast from games and marine sportsmen, housekeepers, environmental officers, bangkeros (boatmen), butchers, and landscapers.
Dinesh quizzed: “what are your special talents? How do you spend your free time on the island? What do you enjoy about El Nido?” And, from their responses, we crafted a narrative, a set of characters, an entire world.
Each of El Nido's islands is of its own charm; venerable and beautiful things; but it was on Lagen that we felt something dancing into existence.
We sought out specific locations (a sandbar, for our runway; a muddy mangrove; caves big and small) but it was the inclusion of the staff basketball court, and other details which comprised the texture of our casts' daily life, that allowed us to build a more real and vibrant universe. Just as our El Nido collaborators stewarded us through their environment, it was their local knowledge that grounded our aesthetic ideas in the landscape of reality.
For one, we conceived of a sort of mermaid lagoon, a safe space for beautiful & curious creatures, in the Moodyisle universe. We dubbed it the “Posh Cave” — and our actors— so elegant and emotive in their balletic gesture — inspired El Nido Resorts to permanently name it so. We contacted our favorite musician, Jimmy Whoo, to find the right pitch of song. We played his then-unreleased album, Basic Instinct, on repeat in the studio. We thought: how to telegraph a synaesthesia of sound, place, and feeling?
We designed concurrently. Our process is an immersive one: after seeing coral bleaching during a swim (corals, warmed past the point of a livable temperature, turn a ghostly white and perish), we found a bleaching motif had seeped into our vocabulary of textile manipulations.
When trying to name a shirt, we recognized it had the same sheathing effect as scales on a Palawan Pangolin; hence, the “Pangolin Tank”. Our obsession with rock climbing lead to the development of the 3-piece Boulder Bag; we made them in the colorways of bright orange "lifevest” and fleece lined, NatGeo yellow "waterproof”.
There is an homage to the wildness we find in the city in the most technically challenging part of the film: the Rave Cave. We shot our protagonist, Paul, icon of the Manila underground, dancing in 16 full looks, jump-cut to the beat. It was a nod - a collection within our collection - to the club culture that first welcomed us to Manila.
We filmed it in a manic span of 4 hours, racing back and forth between the cave and the green room, pulsing, chanting, keeping to the frenzied, rhythm of sweat and ecstasy.
In the way that in dreams there recurs a cyclical strangeness, we found that characters from our personal Manila lives had to appear in our Moodyisle narrative space. If our universe were to reflect the reality of our contemporary tropics, it had to contain essential elements of our person, both from inside city and on island.
We saw Karen (Miz of Marikina shoe fame), Dinesh (our very own Grace Jones-cum-gallerist), Miguel (heartthrob of the brothers Hernandez), and Paul (whose dance moves and club looks had incited fever and attendant symptoms in us the moment we first stepped into XX:XX) blur, with the faint aura of hallucination, into our surreality.
We had suffered fatigue, euphoria, hot flashes, chills: each sensation crashing into the next at every turn of the project. We were shipwrecked, on an isle of our own ambition.
Imagine holding your breath for a whole year. But we were possessed, a quietly crazed look in the eye: Moodyisle deserved this secret, and this show. It is a testament to the willpower of the Tarzeer boys, our stars, the El Nido and Ten Knots team — that we navigated those months with a silent determination and familial trust in one another.
On Feb 29 2020, in a gallery setting, we debuted our short film instead of the expected live runway. Bellas Artes was packed with hundreds more people than it had ever contained; moving, vibing in a collective choreography. Energy and anticipation hung in the air like tropical humidity. It was the last breathing, crowded image we have of our Toqa family, and might be, for a long while still.
It was perfect; and then, it was done.
It was just under two weeks before the virus locked down Manila, and the rest of the world soon followed suit.
We had all our imagery at the ready, but it felt somewhat misplaced, and the thought of launching in the pandemic's first grips left us cold.
We waited. Another deep inhale. The world collapsed time into itself. We paused everything, focused on upgrading our facemasks, promised to do the best we could to support our families near and far, Out in El Nido, ecotourism had been dealt a heavy blow, and we channeled what cash we could from our mask initiative into small buoyancies for our partners (foodpacks, medicine, baby products).
Finally, in what feels like the third summer of quarantine, we come up for air.
There was no particular logic governing the route we chose, and more than a hint of lunacy: our compass was internal, instinctual. The world, turned strange and unusually vivid. Slowly, we wake from this heat haze, survive the fever dream, emerge anew - Sport Resort's newest spirit.
Welcome to Moodyisle.