Basil Malicsi: Emerging Fashion Designer

Jose Basil Malicsi has been on both ends of that spectrum at age 24.

At some point in his life, Basil became the poster boy for rebel kids everywhere, before he made the transition, to become an independent and emerging fashion designer in Los Angeles.

As a young Filipino professional and a graduate of CSU Long Beach, Basil has already earned his chops in the craft through different awards and citations for his past works.  He participated in the recently concluded LA Fashion Week.

During the annual glitzy event, Basil was featured under the “Emerging Designer” category under Sunset Gowers Studios during the LA Fashion Weekend.  There, he showcased his Spring/Summer 2013 collection in a show which he planned and produced in only five days, and under a tight budget.

The Asian Journal (AJ) was able to get in touch with Basil (BM) for a short interview about his inspiration for his fashion sense, his tumultuous teen years, and his eventual redemption as an emerging fashion designer in Los Angeles.

AJ: Can you tell us more about your Filipino migrant story?

BM: I came here to the US when I was 18. It was December 28, 2006.  I was born and raised in the small town of Los Baños, Laguna. When I was 7, my family moved to Leyte, where we lived in front of the beach. That was an amazing time for us because we were all together and we got to travel around Visayas.

Things quickly changed when I was 15, my father left us for a different family, so may mother had to file for annulment.  That was a very rocky and emotional time for my entire family and me.  Luckily, I still managed to pick up the pieces.  When I graduated from high school, I managed to graduate with honors, bag the award for the “Excellence in Culture & Arts” from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and get into the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) for college.

When I got into UPLB, I was a Development Communication major, which was the same major that my mother took for her Master’s degree. It was such a pressure trying to live up to her legacy, as well as the dreams that she had for me. I became so frustrated with the whole Filipino idea that you have to follow your parents and become this over-achieving academic student, then get a job and get married.

I didn’t want to be in that cookie-cutter society so I just lost it. I rebelled against the notion and became a party boy. I became so addicted to partying and going out. It was fun, and it was what I needed in my life at that time. But it was a crazy phase of my life.

Finally, the opportunity came when our family friend offered for me to stay in California because I was spinning out of control and I wanted to be away from everyone.  He was the first person who believed in my talent and he helped me in my move to the US. So in 2006, I left the country and decided to pursue my dreams as a fashion designer. Six years later, here I am and I’m glad I made that move!

AJ: What about your first few years in the US? Did you face any difficulties?

BM: I would say that my first two years in the US were the most difficult. My first time registering for a class, I couldn’t register because it was all done online. And back in the Philippines, we did it manually, so I was nervous and frazzled. Other moments came when I was just exhausted with all the work with school and trying to make it in the industry that I just wanted to give up and go home.  But everytime I reached a breaking point, I was always able to pull through by telling myself that I have gone this far [and giving up is not an option].  The mantra for me was like, “Go big, or go home!”

AJ: What is your inspiration for your collections?

BM: We lived in Visca, Leyte for two years because of my mother’s work.  Our house was literally in front of the beach. So everyday, we would have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in our front porch that was overlooking the sea.  This laid back and fun lifestyle definitely inspired me and it continues to inspire me whenever I create my collections.  The nature, the vivid colors from the sea, the coral reefs, the beach, and the bright swimwear as well as the tapiz/sarongs that women wear in the beach is such an inspiration for me.  During that time, we were together as a family, and so when I’m designing, I always go back to that happy place that I had when I was a child.

I always believe that fashion should be fun and it should take us to places that we’ve never been. My design aesthetic and point-of-view has always been about flowy silhouettes, printed fabrics, play on patterns, and vivid colors that exude a feeling of fun and happiness – like joie de vivre!

AJ: Why fashion?

BM: I’ve always wanted to be in fashion ever since I was a kid. I woud always sketch and draw dresses for my friends. I didn’t know the correct term back then but somehow, I knew I wanted to design clothes, beautiful clothes. When I was 10, my grandfather gave me my first Vogue Magazine and I was addicted ever since! Vogue wasn’t too accessible in the Philippines, so back then, I would always go to the local town thrift store and read the back issues of Vogue or any fashion magazines that I could get my hands on.

The tipping point in my life that made me decide to move and switch to fashion was when my journalism professor told me that I should really pursue a career in fashion. It wasn’t the first time I heard of that advice, but he told me, “At the end of the day, you can’t blame your parents, your friends, or anybody for the decisions and the regrets that you’ll have in life. You can only blame yourself.”

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