Arcy Gayatin: 37 years in retrospect

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Photos courtesy of Clint Holton Potestas

by Myril Eloise Enolpe

“Arcy Gayatin: Fabrics of Change” is a retrospective exhibit curated by Cebu-based fashion specialist Clint Holton Potestas in celebration of the esteemed fashion designer’s 37 years in the industry.

              When Gayatin went into retirement early this year, it caught many fashionistas by surprise. After all, she has never gone out of style and continues to impress fashion lovers from all over.

              This exhibit is a testament to Arcy Gayatin’s timeless aesthetic conveyed in her elegant creations, and her craftsmanship in fabric manipulation.

              Potestas shares with us key details behind the scenes.

What prompted you to come up with this exhibit?

              Over the years as a fashion editor, I have developed this affinity for local fashion designers: to vanguard their legacy. So when she announced in January 2021 that she has retired, I felt there was a need for me to initiate an exhibition to pay tribute to her years in fashion.

              Also, Jul Oliva, an interior and fashion designer who taught Fashion Design at UP-Cebu asked me to co-teach last semester. I thought it would be a good opportunity for the students to study Arcy’s design process and render outputs inspired by her at the end of the semester to be displayed at the Front Gallery. Definitely, design students and the next generation of designers should know about Arcy’s legacy.

              On a personal note, she was my mother’s designer for more than 10 years. I, too, own clothes that she made.

“Arcy Gayatin: Fabrics of Change” — what’s the concept behind the title?

              What is notable in Arcy’s designs is her skillful fabrication. She knew how to exhaust the capacity of the fabric. She could change its behavior. She could change its colors.  According to her, she has to create her own and treat them from her point of view because Cebu has limited access to materials.

Why do you think Ms. Gayatin’s works are worthy of an exhibit?

              Because she has mastered “Simplicity.” I spoke to her on the phone last weekend, and she told me that beauty for her doesn’t have to shout. What you can see at the exhibition are silhouettes that are very simple, wearable but have handcrafted details. With this exhibition, we have the chance to look at her creations up-close.

              She is a designer who made clothes that are REALLY clothes. As a journalist, I have covered a lot of fashion shows in Cebu and in Manila, but nothing could ever excite me the way she sent her collections on the runway.

What are your favorite features in this exhibit?

              Draping. Of all the fabric manipulation Arcy did, I like how she created narratives through repetitive patterns. Another is the de-graining—shredding off some fabric weaves to achieve a “gauzy” effect.

              The curation is divided into four elements of design to highlight and communicate well her craftsmanship: 1) Texture: Lace Collage, 2) Harmony: Appliqués and decorations, 3) Rhythm: Draping, and 4) Balance: Fabric de-graining.

What’s the greatest challenge in putting it all together?

              Collecting the dresses from the archives. I wanted to have mostly from the 80s through the early 2000s, but some of them may have been sold to clients in Cebu and Manila, difficult to trace.

              Plus, Arcy is still in Chicago in the US, so we constantly communicated online. But despite the distance, she is very diligent and conscious of deadlines.

How’s your overall experience as the curator?

              It’s fulfilling. I think I was able to communicate Arcy Gayatin’s point of view over the last 37 years in fashion.  She was very respectful of my vision. I felt her trust.

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              Gayatin posted on her social media account: “…Thank you, Clint, for thinking me worthy, for working so hard to make this happen, and for curating it all so perfectly. What a gift this gesture is and what a blessing it’s been to have you not only appreciate my work but also truly understand it.”

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              “Arcy Gayatin: Fabrics of Change” remains open at The Gallery of Ayala Center Cebu until August 8, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Select creations of Arcy Gayatin are on display together with the creations of UP Cebu design students.

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