Ehrran Montoya on merging fashion with art

Published September 2, 2021, 5:37 PM

by John Legaspi

The 26-year-old artist and fashion designer walks us through his world of style and vintage illustrations

Art is still alive even during times of a global health crisis. It may be a challenge for many artists to thrive as museums, galleries, and other institutions are pushed to close their doors, but their art is still, without a doubt, essential these days in uplifting the nation and in giving every a sense of hope.

Ehrran Montoya

That’s true for artist and fashion designer Ehrran Montoya. After the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses last year, he turned his solo exhibition “Remediare: After The Media” into a benefit for the victims in Morong, Rizal. And his creative journey during the pandemic didn’t stop here.

Ehrran then wowed netizens with his fashion and artistic works. In July, he provided the perfect campy pop star looks for actor Vice Ganda. He illustrated fashion industry giants on canvas for The Grey Space gallery. His latest is an array of sea creatures-inspired couture pieces for drag artist Lady P Galore.

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, the 26-year-old artist gives a glimpse of his pandemic “wonderworld,” where art and fashion collide and there is no shortage of inspiration and creativity.

First off, how was pandemic life for you?

This pandemic led me to many amazing opportunities despite having limited resources. I was able to focus on creating artworks and couture pieces while at home. I’m still trying to make a living through art and fashion. I live away from my family in the province of Morong, Rizal and I stay here in my condo at Quezon City with my partner. I have two staff who help me in creating the beadwork and finishing of gowns and I paint at the same time. Luckily, I still get to have clients from my couture business in spite of not having events here in our country. Most of my clients are from the US so it’s really a big help to continue my made-to-order pieces.

What inspired you to pursue fashion designing?

When I was in high school, I always admired the lavish scenes of the fashion world and the creativity that surrounds it. I’ve been a fan of “America’s Next Top Model (ANTM)”, and during that time I get to watch a glimpse of how the fashion industry works . I saw Michael Cinco in an episode of “ANTM Cycle 16” and Anne Curtis modelling for Francis Libiran’s episode, who I got the chance to work as his creative director/associate fashion designer for five years after seeing that.

I have also been a fan of Lady Gaga since 2009 and her elevated fashion inspired me a lot. That’s the time when designers like Alexander McQueen, Frank Fernandez, Jean Paul Gaultier, Armani Privé, and many international fashion designers were creating looks for Gaga. It was such an inspiring moment to see creations that are avant-garde and over the top.

Ehrran’s design process on paper

Apart from crafting beautiful pieces, you are also known for your artworks. Were you inclined with the arts first before fashion (though, fashion is art, too)?

Yes, It was art first. It was such a blessing to have both the vision and talent to express my creativity. I’ve always wanted to showcase fashion through art. I started to create fashion Illustrations when I was in college, that’s the only thing that I can lean on, just to create something out of my head.

How would you describe your aesthetic as a designer and an artist?

My aesthetic as a designer is in between avant-garde and the classic approach. It’s glamor, high fashion yet wearable. My pieces are mostly in classic silhouettes with artistic approach on the sculptural draping, fabric manipulations, textures, and play of hues in beadwork. The details and patterns are always inspired by nature. I always believe that you can never go wrong when you take nature as inspiration.

As an artist, I’m more on the artistic visuals of fashion editorials, it’s either monochromatic or colorful. My illustrations are inspired by vintage fashion sketches and my strokes are more expressionist like designer illustrations. I always use newspapers as a canvas to maintain the typographic background that makes it more New York style. I can say that my aesthetic as an artist is more classic-vintage glam with fusion of post modernism and expressionism.

A piece from his “Mantis” collection

What’s your design process? Where do you usually get your inspiration?

It’s always best when you design base from your artistic approach rather than copying designs from others. I restrain myself from looking at pegs because it blocks my creativity. So I always start from looking for photos of nature, anything about nature; whether in land, sea, textures of corals, formation of fungus, patterns of soils, etc. I look for a unique visual with an unusual combination of colors, pattern formations, textures, and from that it’s easy to conceptualize the entire look.

First, I sketch a model, including the face and figure of whoever will wear it so I can easily see which one to emphasize or hide. Then I plan which silhouette to use. I render the tone of the base, this will determine which color to use in planning for the construction. I sketch the detailed patterns and beadwork based on the inspiration. With this process, it’s easy to assess which materials and fabrics to use.

Koi fish-inspired piece for Lady P Galore

My next process after designing is creating “flats.” This is when you sketch the construction of the base to determine the yardage count and which fabrics to use. Doing this makes it really easy rather than buying on the spot. Always do flats (base instruction) and list of materials before proceeding with construction to avoid delays. All materials should be complete from the very beginning. I always make sure that the yardage count is enough and not over yardage. But whenever this happens, I always use the scraps as part of the details either as flowerettes or part of the texture.

With the rendered design sketch, base instructions (flats), and list of materials, that’s where the creating process begins. Once the construction is done, that’s the time for the layout of details, next is tucking and final is the beadwork.

Do you have fashion personalities and artists you look up to?

I really admire the people behind Vogue, the likes of Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, and André Leon Talley. My designer heroes are Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Iris Van Herpen, and Elsa Schiaparelli. The artists I look up to are David Downton, Karl Lagerfeld, and Gustav Klimt.

His Klimt -inspired couture

Is your creative process different when you work on your designs compared to when you do your artworks?

It’s the same. I got the drafting process before painting from my design process as it really is more organized. Sketching on a piece of paper before I paint really helps in creating visuals rather than doing it on the spot. The drafts help me to avoid mistakes as it directs me on the amount of elements and proportions for the main canvas making it perfect once applied.

What can our readers expect from you next? Where can they see more of your work?

I have one muse for Miss World Philippines, Mikaela Leonardo of Parañaque who will be wearing me for the evening gown on the coronation night. I am also starting to create a capsule collection to be released in an international fashion magazine with the help of Vincent Gotti. They can also expect an upcoming solo art exhibit at Vintana PH this coming October, it will be my second.

What is fashion for you and where do you see it going in our post-pandemic world?

Fashion for me is an element of art. It’s like a sculpture that you can wear. It’s a product that celebrates uniqueness, creativity, talent, and personality. It is a statement. Fashion can tell you what’s happening in the world with a strong image and I believe that in spite of everyone being locked inside our homes, we can continue to create more amazing pieces.

Creativity comes within us and we have the power to create anything we want if we just believe in ourselves. Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can. Looking at the striving creatives right now, with all the burning passion to succeed and create, this pandemic will lead to a renaissance.

See more of Ehrran’s works on Instagram.