Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Evolution of Reese: Chatting with Reese Lansangan (Part 1)

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Pokémon evolution may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Reese Lansangan, but there couldn't be a metaphor more fitting to describe her transition– she’s had to go through a number of phases (in both her appearance and priorities) before transitioning into the fuchsia-haired, human Lisa Frank sticker people know her as today.

In the same way an Eevee can evolve into different Pokémon depending what it's exposed to, Reese has grown through experiences that honed her skills in her three main fields: fashion, art, and music. As a recent graduate of Fashion Design and Marketing (her 2nd degree!) at the School of Fashion and the Arts (SoFA), she is the embodiment of this generation's young creative. It's no wonder we chose her to be this month's Muse — she is the ultimate kawaii fashion designer, musician, graphic artist, photographer, and blogger. Among all these she is most popular for her personal blog,, where the chronicles of her quirky style, real-life experiences, and creative ventures have earned her an international following.

Reese talks about her three loves with a passion, evident in the way she breaks down her answers accordingly. We sat down to talk about her personal evolutionary stones, her experiences as a responsible (and totally awesome) adult, and more.

Hi Reese! So how are you? What have you been up to now that you've graduated?
Well, the most recent one that I did—one big one—was before graduation. I prepared my fashion show, my graduation collection, which was technically just six looks but it took forever for me to develop. Actually everyone, like all my classmates, we took forever to develop [our collections] 'cause we kept changing stuff and there were like, material constraints. So I graduated last March and now I'm working on re-branding our accessories store—I'm customizing more items—they haven't released them yet. So that's what I'm currently doing. Oh, and then freelance graphic design and fashion design. And music. So I'm still writing and I'm going to record solo stuff.

Which of your interests came first?
Well, fashion was last. Hmm...Feeling 'ko music, eh. Kasi kinukuwento sa 'kin ng family ko na when I was two-years old, I was singing full songs already. And then my dad used to train me in singing. Like, he would play guitar, and I would sing together with him and then we would perform for family and stuff. My dad's side, musical 'yung family nila so I really grew up in music, so to speak. My dad would always play music, kahit hindi siya ang nagpa-play, but he would literally play records. And I would listen to nursery rhymes and childrens' songs all day. Yun, feeling ko talaga the love for music came first. I used to sing before but I was shy. I didn't sing in public until I was in college already. So, basta I was really shy.

Art came right behind music. We have an art gallery, so we deal with a lot of art in our business, a family business. So even though [my] parents [aren't] artists, they have been art appreciators so they would always gift me markers or art sets. When I was grade four, they bought me an oil painting set. So parang, gagawa ako 'cause I was so excited. I felt like, “Oh it's just another painting thing.” But oil is difficult to work with and I didn't even have the consciousness na maisip na “Yeah, oil is hard.” So I made it hanggang Grade 4 ako, and then they framed everything even though it didn't really look amazing. As in, I wasn't a prodigy or anything—I was just a normal girl painting. But that encouragement really made me feel na “Oh, I can do this. I really enjoy this.” So art was really supported as a child.

Fashion came later. I've always liked fashion, pero siguro my desire to actually work on it came when I was in 2nd year. I was scouring editorials and stuff and then I got inspired because you can translate art into something you can wear.

Have you gotten into anything new ever since?
Well, no sports kasi I'm not gifted with athletic abilities or coordination. Anything new... feeling 'ko wala talaga eh. I just... feel that it's already too much. Music, art, and fashion are already too much for me, so I really need to re-focus and re-prioritize. Technically no new acquired skill or whatever.

I read in one of your older interviews that college was a way for you to start fresh. How did it help mold you into what you are now? Like, in what way did the experience hone your interests?
Definitely. 'Cos in high school I felt like there was no room to grow or stand out—that was my personal experience. It's so centered on rules and you're too focused on actual studying than doing other things so it was hard for me to excel in anything specifically in high school. I played guitar in high school, like, I would play for the choir in the mass and stuff but I wouldn't sing 'cause I was shy to let people know that I sang.

During college, parang feeling ko nobody knew me. I felt that I could redefine how people saw me—not being fake, but just like show other aspects of myself or something. So I tried to audition for AMP (Ateneo Musician's Pool), the music org in Ateneo. Hindi ako confident at all, and I knew it was hard to get in, but I tried and I got in. AMP helped me develop my music. Kasi, otherwise I wouldn't have performed in public on my own volition and I wouldn't have avenues to have gigs or I wouldn't have connections that would hear me. And also, we had some free time to practice, to make new songs, to make friends, to collaborate and stuff. So college was really important to me in terms of music... I was able to start from there.

Then for art and design—that was my course. Before I was torn whether to take up Vis. Comm. (Visual Communication) FA (Fine Arts) in UP or FA in Ateneo. 'Cause I liked the school [Ateneo], and then I liked the course in UP. But then I took up Fine Arts in Ateneo. Parang iyan yung pinaka-close to Vis. Comm., so that's what I took—Information Design—without really knowing that it's just graphic design. I wanted to be more hands-on. So I spent three years trying to get a grasp of what I was doing. I didn't have the skill early on, then I just developed it. College helped me re-focus in terms of art, like what kind of art I can do which is already graphic design and mixed media.

For fashion naman, yes, because I could dress up in any way I wanted to. I could color my hair in college. I could wear toys on my neck. I couldn't do that in high school 'cause we had a uniform and we were an exclusive girls' school. So basically all the constricting things in high school were broken in college, so to speak. So nag-wild na lang ako. Like, “Bahala na lang, I'm gonna get into whatever I want.”

What's it like being able to pursue all of your interests as an adult? You've been doing all of that since college, right?

Actually, it feels weird to be an adult because when you're in college, these are extra things aside from your academics so it feels so much more liberating to do them because they aren't required. I really enjoyed balancing my actual life and academic life. But then, now that I've graduated, there's a pressure to turn all these hobbies—all these things that I used to just do in between school—to turn them into an actual profitable thing. Which gives me a lot pressure, but I have to make a living out of what I love. Which technically shouldn't be a problem, but I don't like having to feel the pressure of earning money and stuff, so... Yun. It's scary, but I feel privileged that I have a supportive family that doesn't like, force me to get into a course I don't want or... Yeah, I just feel blessed that I can just do music and fashion. I can pursue these things even for my work.

Was there ever a time that you didn't want to do the things you love 'cos you became pressured to do them?
A lot of times I feel like I don't know where to go. Parang, “I have a lot of interests, and now what?” Parang ganoon, 'di ko na alam how to move forward from there. 'Kasi nga again with the pressure of having to make it a living or a sustainable thing. Sometimes I get burned out but thankfully, it never made me feel like I want to stop doing it altogether. I guess like, if I get sick of one thing for a certain period, then I go to another thing. For example, if I get sick of doing fashion because I've been working on it for so long, then I do music. Then if I get burned out with music, then I do something else. Ganyan. So I just switch and I try to stay focused on those three things I like: design, fashion, and music.

How would you compare teenaged-Reese to 23-year old Reese?
Um...hmm... Well, shit. That's a hard question. I think, not much different. Siguro, I'm a bit smarter, I'd like to think—about life, and I'm a bit more mature in the way I prioritize, in the way I deal with situations. Oh okay—in high school I really wanted to be a writer. That's what I was known for. I won a yearbook award na like—they nominate you, eh—parang “The Next Palanca Awardee.” That's how they knew meI was a writer. Somebody else won the “Next Popstar” [award], 'yung mga ganoon.

Until 4th year, I really wanted to be a writer. For the longest time, I wanted to be a journalist, and then I wanted to be a fiction writer, and then a short story writer. So that's all I knew. It was what fueled me. 'Yung music naman, I just did it on the side 'cause I didn't sing... I mean, I sang in private, but I didn't perform 'cause I was shy. So never ko naman na-consider na I would do music in the future. Now, I guess my goals are different.

Early college, I realized that maybe I could do music, but I never imagined that I would do a single gig ever. When I did a gig, it was just surreal looking back and seeing that the things I considered my dreams before were happening. Before, nung 2nd year college ako, I really wanted to study fashion, and I wanted to make a collection and it felt so impossible, and now I've done it. Yun lang, I guess I'm more thankful 'cause it's being given to me. Parang, it's too much, but it's being given to me. I guess in aspirations it's different 'cause I used to want to become a writer. Now I can still write, but through music.

That's so cool! So if you could talk to teenaged-Reese, what would you say?
“The best things are yet to come.” Even now, I can say that to my own self. Like, I'm imagining my older self could say that to my current self. 'Cause as long as you're not yet dead, it's always a new thing every day. 'Yung things na na-achieve mo now, marami pang mas meaninful na darating. Siguro I would say enjoy your youth more. This is a bad example, but I would've wanted to rebel more sana. Like if I could go back in timenot naman rebel in like a “I'm a bad girl” way. Just ano lang, be more assertive. 'Cause before, I wasn't allowed to go out that much. If I would have gimmicks, I'd have a yaya with me. It was kind of bad, but I just took it para makalabas na lang ako whatever. I didn't try to assert my independence, or I didn't really do anything to assure my mom that I'd be safe. So feeling ko, I'd tell my teenage self to be more like a teenager. 'Cause I spent a lot of time being at home and writing about being at home in my blog. I should've enjoyed my youth more siguro. But it's okay, I mean, it's no big deal. Looking back...andami na kasing nagagawa ngayon ng teenagers so when I revisit my teenage years... Ano bang ginawa ko noon? Nag-YM (Yahoo Messenger) lang ako, ganun.

You mentioned how you were blogging when you were a teenager. You started with a fashion blog primarily...
No. Um... I started as a traditional blogger, an online diarist. I started quite early. Siguro mga Grade 6 or 1st year high school ako then. 'Cos my older cousin na six years apart kami—we would always stay over at her place during the weekends, so I would see everything. She's always been my idol before pa and she had her own website and stuff so I tried to emulate her by having a blog. So I thought a blog would be perfect kasi sometimes my thoughts are too fast to catch up with my writing so I thought that typing would be a good avenue for me to be able to keep track of everything I'm thinking of. So, 'iyon. It was like a diary, like “Dear blog, today was especially hot. Cheering practice was so boring,” 'yung mga ganoon, very mundane high school stuff. Then I would also complain about not being allowed to go out. So that's how I started. Very diary-type of blogging. And no pictures. As in, text lang talaga. Surprisingly, a lot of friends supported me—they would look forward to my blog entries. This went on until 2nd year college.

Noong college ako, it got more interesting. I experimented with forms, formats. Like, I would write an outline form of blog entry, and I would write open letters to my pimple and stuff. And I really enjoyed doing that, 'cause before I still had the enthusiasm to write. It's not like I lost it naman completely but parang nahihirapan na ako lately to actually sit down and write. Before, it was natural. When I got home from school, I would write about it, and kahit wala masiyadong nangyari noon, I could still make it like an interesting narration. And then I started seeing mga fashion blogs. Actually, one of the first na nabasa ko si Tavi [Gevinson]...Tavi and Arabelle Sicardi and Lauren from Fops and Dandies—she's really an old blogger, na wala na siya ngayon. But Tavi...naabutan ko talaga siya when she was literally starting. As in, napaka- lo fi ng pictures tapos... basta, when I would get home, I would really...her blog was the first one I'd check. And then si Diana [Rikasari], this Indonesian girl, and then si Arabelle. So ritwal iyan. 

But it wasn't a known thing in the Philippines—fashion blogging then wasn't a normal thing. So I tried for a bit tapos parang na-feel ko na bakit ako nag-ppost ng outfit shots. It's so conceited of me—who would be interested in my t-shirt for the day? It felt so silly, so I stopped. I tried again when fashion blogging became more accepted.

Shit, may question ba? Nawala na ako. Hindi ko na alam ang sinasagot ko (laughs).

Oh no, it's okay. What was the name of your blog?
Madami, andami talaga. One time I had a Franny and Zooey-named blog. My first one was “I Just Can't Shut Up,” and then “Reese vs. the World” or something. But yeah, I deleted some stuff. I think the Reese vs. the World one is still up.

Now people are gonna look for it (laughs).
Ahh no!! It's so embarrassing. The Multiply one—I used to blog in Multiply—“Reese Hates Math” and those were the funny ones, eh. But now, Multiply is dead so you can't really access it anymore but I saved all my entries in my personal laptop. I dunno, I found myself funny before. Haha!

Did you have a journal at that time too?
Like a written journal? Yeah, I'd always have a notebook, but I wouldn't write in it as much as I would write on my blog—noon. Now, it's like a reverse. 'Cos in my blog now, parang there's less drama stuff. It's kinda off, 'cos I'm medyo funny when I write in my blog like, I'm light and stuff. Sometimes I'm serious, but most of the time it's light. So parang ang hirap lagyan ng mga “Ohh heartbreak” or whatever. So I have a separate blog for that. I have a LiveJournal which is like, private. Some [entries] are public, but most of them are private. So that's where the drama stuff goes into.

So you went from an online journal type blog to a fashion blog called “Dressed Up Days...
Yeah, Dressed Up Days. Yeah, I tried it out lang talaga. Yeah, parang I tried it out lang na...ito na talaga: “This is it, I'm really gonna post outfits and I'm gonna commit to it.” So I did that, and I really committed to it. I was a faithful updater na, kahit hindi naman ganoong kaganda yung outfit...okay, I'll just post it, whatever. And then I got readers from there pa rin. But actually, I've been so lazy in updating. There's so many things going on na parang ugh, there's too many photos to edit, and there's just too much stuff to write about that I neglect uploading now but how I wish I could get back to the daily blogging routine. But then I've stopped doing daily outfit posts 'cos I still feel until now that it's a bit self-indulgent. I dunno, now I feel awkward taking pictures... Ewan ko. Nag-iba lang and mindset ko.

I still take [outfit] pictures but I don't do it every day. Mostly I write about travel stuff na. I think people are getting bored, but whatever. It's my blog. And then I occasionally do dissections. Like, cultural dissections, design dissections. Yeah, like fun stuff—stuff I find interesting. Travels, art journals, collages, or songs. Lately yung ganoon. So from an online journal, I started posting outfits, and then I started narrating my day through the outfits. That's how I transitioned. So it was a completely different URL—a different theme, so to speak.

Tell us about the debut of
The site? I think I opened it [in] 2011. Which reminds me—I have to pay for my hosting plan, it's due. But I opened it in 2011 when I was in SoFA. I wanted a professional site already. Because before, I was just hosted in Blogspot (presently Blogger), and then I just bought a domain, but I was still in Blogspot. So I wanted a name also that was consistent with my usernames. So reeseypeasy. I made it a point na magco-collage ako as a form of design on my blog 'cos that's the type of art that I like doing and it was much cleaner, and I liked bigger photos for that blog so I had it coded na bigger photos. So it was released in 2011—I transferred from Blogspot to Wordpress. When it was new, I updated a lot because it was refreshing like “Oh, it's a new look and stuff.” But then, yeah, tinamad [ako] eventually. I think it was important for me to have a website na iba sa blogspot ko before. Because the blogspot felt—I dunno, parang nare-restrict ako doon. In reeseypeasy, I can be as personal as I want and I can show of my other interests kasi I have the different tabs for music, art, design, travel. So there.

How would you describe your style as an artist (both musically and visually)?
Hmm... Well it's very true to what you see physically, I guess. 'Cos I'm very colorful and mismatched and my songs are colorful in language most of the time—I use a lot of words when writing songs—and I tend to be very playful in most songs that I write. And funny. I try to tackle things that aren't a common topic. Like for example, [in] Where Did All The Nice Guys Go?—nobody really talks about their longing for nice guys in society—parang it's all heartbreak and stuff. So I want to bring something new to the table all the time when I write songs. I have a new song actually which I haven't released yet 'cos I haven't really polished it yet, but it's called FOMO (Don't Have Fun Without Me)—Fear of Missing Out. It's a wordy song about having serious stuff to do and being busy checking Facebook and still feeling jealous about missing out and stuff. And then in the end, I say that social media feels like a tangible trophy [for] people—it's where you share your best moments. But then you know, it's removed from reality sometimes because it's all the best things you can see. Like, all the ugly ones like when you fail and when you cry—you don't really post it on Instagram. So yeah, for my songs—they're a bit unconventional, and I try to talk about things that aren't commonly discussed. And for aesthetics, it's also weird and colorful. Usually like a maximalist kind of thing. I like cramming things into whatever. I never know when enough is enough. Yung “Simplicity is beauty,” hindi ko yan motto. Basta ganoon. Pile it up. Pile it all up.

I like referencing things in my work. When I did my [graduation] fashion show, I did so much research. As in, I read so many things, I downloaded so many PDFs, so many movies and series and documentaries about astronauts and space exploration. And I really tried to cram nuggets of facts in the clothes—even though hindi nila makikita, it's like a detail that I only know. 

This is unreleased, so it's a privilege (laughs). This outfit, the hem [of the outfit] is the actual inside of the spacesuit. When you look at it, it's the actual stitching. But nobody knows that—it just looks like any other whatever thing. And then for this one (shows us another picture)–hindi kita eh, pero sa likod may embroidery. And this one naman (shows another picture and points to patches sewn on sleeve) [Editor's Note: This picture was recently released on Vogue Italia], these are the materials, the layers of the spacesuit—it's 21 layers initially so I put the [names of the] most common ones there. And then I made a logo, a fictional logo of my fictional space exploration company. 'Cos I dream that civilians will be able to travel to space. I also made a bag out of [the logo]. I designed it, then I had it embroidered. Then I attached it by hand to the bag. So it's named Civilian Aeronautics Agency. Diba it only shows for like, five seconds and nobody knows at all kung 'bat may bag or “What's the reason behind it?” or “Ano yung logo na 'yan?” But I really thought about it.
Reese's fictional company: Civilian Aeronautics Administration
Embroidery at the back of the jacket

So that's how I work—even if nobody knows, I was able to insert something that makes me satisfied already. Basically it matches up with how you see me physically so—crazy, and a bit mismatched, and not perfect.

So you mean you really get your inspiration from different places? Do you have any fixed inspirations?
If it's a fixed inspiration, it would be pop culture. Almost always pop culture or science. I'd always look back on my childhood—what toys I used to play [with], what games I used to play. The thing about childhood is you share it with so many people and it's kinda universal in a way. So when you do put it [your work] out, a lot of people will be able to relate to it. So I always like referencing my childhood and my nostalgia feels into my work. Science also, because that fascinates me a lot. Space siguro is a recurring theme also. I once made like the start of a space zine which I didn't finish, and I did A Song About Space, and then this collection. Japan also is something I always reference. Siguro the way I dress is parang Tokyo—I always take inspiration from Tokyo street style. My first collection for SoFA was about Japan also. So yan yung mga constant: Japan, Asian influences, pop culture, nostalgia, at space.

Inspired yet? We know that you've probably got a bunch of Reese-related tabs on your browser right now, but don't fret—we've got more! Check back next Saturday for the second (sabaw) part of our chat!

This interview is part of a monthly segment that we'll be having on The Thing where we feature awesome girls/teenagers/young adults. If you want us to feature anyone you know, please email us with MUSE OF THE MONTH NOMINATION in the subject field. In the body, please include a brief explanation (10 sentences max.) of why we should pick the person, your relation to the person, and attach a picture of the two of you (may be separate or together). Thanks!

Article by Gaby
Photos of Reese by Arielle and Cine
Photos of Space and the Human Race collection courtesy of Reese
Special thanks to My Breathing Space and Sweet Ecstasy at Cubao Expo


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