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‘Wear whatever you want’: Western Sydney designer on breaking gender stereotypes in fashion

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Armando Crisostomo

Armando (left) on his colourful designs: 'Men shouldn’t be scared to wear whatever they want. Men shouldn’t be judged by colours of clothes they wear.' Source: Supplied by Armando Crisostomo


Published 4 June 2022 at 7:54pm
By Annalyn Violata
Source: SBS

Western Sydney designer Armando Crisostomo proudly speaks of his being Filipino through his designs as he tries to break gender stereotypes with his bright, unisex clothing line.


Published 4 June 2022 at 7:54pm
By Annalyn Violata
Source: SBS


Highlights
  • Armando Crisostomo's passion for fashion has led him to create his own genderless colourful clothing line.
  • His bright designs aim to empower men to freely choose what they wear without fear, judgment or pressure to conform to society's gender expectations.
  • Fashion is a huge industry in Australia, contributing over $27.2 billion to the nation’s economy in 2020-2021 alone.
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‘Wear whatever you want’: Western Sydney designer on breaking gender stereotypes in fashion image

Ipinagmamalaking iwinawagay ng designer mula kanlurang Sydney na si Armando Crisostomo ang kanyang pagka-Pilipino sa kanyang mga disensyo habang itinataguyod nito ang mga kalalakihan.

SBS Filipino

04/06/202218:23


Armando Crisostomo
'I thought that I should make a brand that will empower all men and that they should not be afraid to wear clothes that they want. They should dress Source: Supplied by Armando Crisostomo


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Passion for fashion

"I didn’t really tell [my parents] that I'm interested in fashion design. I've enrolled and they only found out I was studying design a few weeks after classes started," shares the Western Sydney fashion designer.

Armando Crisostomo took four different courses before he finally realised his lifelong and true passion - fashion design.

He first took nursing because of his parents' influence and with two older sisters who are both nurses and a few cousins working in the nursing industry.

"I tried to apply for graphic design but I didn’t get it, then I got into nursing. I followed what my parents wanted me to do but I didn’t really like it. I only had one year left then I decided I'd quit and I just did it. I studied business for 6 months and didn’t really like it. Finally, I did something I like which is fashion design," Armando fondly recalls.

For many Filipino families, it's common for parents to encourage or even push their children to take on a degree they think is either in demand or will provide a decent salary, such as nursing. Armando was initially true for Armando until he finds the courage to go with fashion designing.

“For our [Filipino] culture, it’s very important to study and finish something. That’s why I’m so happy that I was able to finish [fashion design]. My heart is full that I have done something for myself.”

Armando completed his Bachelor of Branded Fashion in 2018. Since then he had been featured in Vogue Australia and on PEDESTRIAN.TV. He was also one of the designers for the national costumes for Miss Earth Australia 2020/2021 and has been part of a few local fashion shows in Sydney.

Armando Crisostomo
'Crop tops, colourful dresses - they bring me joy. It feels like I’m back home doing colourful things.' Source: Stephen Phan (right photo)/Supplied by Armando Crisostomo


Proudly Filipino, empowering men

"I want to inspire men to wear whatever colour they want," says Armando.

“Men shouldn’t be scared to wear whatever they want. Men shouldn’t be judged by the silhouette or colours of clothes they wear."

Armando established his self-titled clothing line with the purpose of empowering men to "freely choose what they wear without fear or judgment to conform to society's gender expectations".

"For other people, if you're a man and you wear something that is colourful or something that is full of accessories, people will judge; people will think differently of you."

"I thought that I should make a brand that will empower all men and that they should not be afraid to wear clothes that they want."

One of the biggest factors that set Armando's line apart is its styles and unisex designs and colours that set aside gender boundaries. 

"I do crop tops, colourful clothing for men – it brings me joy. It feels like I’m back home doing colourful things."

"Men can wear whatever makes them comfortable as it is really up to you or your personality."

In addition to his bright designs, his Filipino background is also highlighted in Armando's works.

"During the pandemic, we couldn’t go back to the Philippines. That's why my clothes and designs were inspired by the Philippines."

His Filipino identity is a big part of Armando's designs. Derived from the unique traditions and costumes from various regions in the Philippines, such as the banderitas (mini flags) during festivals and the traditional Igorot costumes.
Armando Crisostomo
Armando features Filipino-inspired colours and prints on his designs, including prints of Philippine street foods (right photo) and Igorot costume-inspired clo Source: Stephen Phan as supplied by Armando Crisostomo


Armando's designs are uniquely Filipino. He incorporated Filipino icons like the jeepney and the popular Pinoy street food, balut (duck egg with embryo).

"Because we couldn't travel back to the Philippines, I thought why not bring the Filipino foods here and have them printed on my clothes."

“I also collaborated with some Filipino graphic designers when I did these street food prints. In a way, I can also promote other Filipino artists through my clothing."

Supporting local artists

The Philippine-born designer is one of the featured designers for the Western Sydney Fashion Festival this June 4 at the Blacktown Arts Centre in New South Wales.

The event features works and designs by local designers. Armando describes it as a celebration of the rich and diverse culture of Western Sydney.
Armando Crisostomo
Armando's design pieces are on display at the Fairfield City Museum & Gallery as part of the 'Who Are You Wearing' Exhibition that supports local Source: Liza Moscatelli/Fairfield City Museum & Gallery


His collection is also on display at the Fairfield City Museum & Gallery as part of the “Who Are You Wearing” Exhibition, which will run from April 29 to September 24, 2022.

For local designers like Armando, shows and exhibitions like those mentioned are big support for them as they are able to showcase their works to the community.

Fashion is a huge industry in Australia, contributing more than $27.2 billion to the country's economy in 2020-2021 alone, according to a report from the Australian Fashion Council last year.

Each year, Australians buy an average of 27kg of new clothes. A big part of these (23 kg) goes to waste.

Armando's advice: "We can wear our clothes over and over again, we just have to learn how to mix and match" so we can help reduce the number of clothes wasted every year.

“Don’t be scared repeating your clothes. There’s nothing wrong with it. Just learn to do different styles.”

For fellow designers, Armando says "we just have to be knowledgeable about what kind of fabric we are going to use and that we choose to be sustainable.”

Nearly 800,000 tonnes of clothes are wasted every year in Australia and if only we learn to re-style and mix & match the clothes that we have we'll be able to contribute to the fashion industry's sustainability.




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