In Memoriam to the Leader of the Tribe

4:00 PM

james canete, cebu fashion designers, young designers of cebu

Today, a rather unexpected "On this Day" throwback post popped up on my Facebook feed: a "what I wore" photo of me back in 2013, blonde hair and all, sporting a leather-finish bomber jacket with a funky accent necklace. At first glance, this said bomber jacket looks just like any other trendy item that could easily blend into any high-street boutique; but upon closer inspection, bears a signature one-off element: a hand-sketched illustration of a tribal prince, immaculately drawn and printed onto the canvas. "Naa nako'y kapartner na printing press ani, para ma mass produce na ni nako" (I have negotiated with a printer to help me mass produce this jacket soon), the designer proudly told me during the meeting where I bought this jacket and offered to carry his upcoming RTW line in the store I used to help run. That was also the first time we actually got to know each other a little better, him whose work I've long admired from afar (though he has been a longtime collaborator for a lot of my industry friends). We struck a deal, and he promised he would return soon with actual stock to display. Life seemed good.

That didn't really transpire, unfortunately. Just a few short weeks after our meeting, I woke up to the tragic news that James Canete - esteemed young fashion designer, make-up artist, photographer, and a man of many other skill sets -  has succumbed to an illness and passed away at 23.

Though I've had these outfit photos for the past two years, I realize now that this would be the first time I would actually post them on the blog.

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choies origami skirt, how to style a bomber jacket, leather bomber jacket
the chillage cebu, chic in the tropics, detroit fashion

Wearing a James Canete custom printed bomber jacket | accessories from The Chillage - Cebu, tank from Morgan, Choies skirt and Stella Luna heels 

I took these outfit photos literally a few days before I found out he passed; and I didn't know if it would even be appropriate, let alone know what to say at a time of such a great loss for the local Cebu fashion industry and for the people in his life. James and I never had the opportunity to collaborate prior to our meeting, but he was a dear, dear friend and colleague to a lot of my own personal friends, and losing him was incredibly tough. When someone as young, as promising and as hardworking as James passes away at such a devastatingly young age, it certainly begs for a lot of questions, a lot of why's, and an introspection into who we are and what we're doing with our own lives. 

Any random observer who saw James knew that he lived a life of a great example: he had the unbeatable combination of raw talent, tenacity, passion for his craft, and a great work ethic. In a world where a lot of creatives and bold minds fear being ostracized or criticized, James went bolder and bolder every time and defied convention.  He invested in his passion, worked for what drives him, and lived to create. And that, to me, is the very definition of being the leader of the tribe.  

Whenever I see this jacket in my closet (I brought it with me to the US),I can't help but think of James' short but meaningful creative life. Hope you're doing well up there, James. :)

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