From an early age, Jeremy Tan had a clear direction and passion for fashion design. Add a number of key experiences and Jeremy’s creative journey was ushered even further, thus turning him into a versatile artist that could work with a number of fabrics and styles.

To date, he started a label from scratch called Debella — a slow fashion brand that caters to plus-size women’s need for comfort and luxury. As a rising designer, we sat down and talked to Jeremy about his story and inspirations as this month’s Likhaan Featured Artist.

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Shop for Jeremy Tan’s Art

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Can you describe your creative journey so far?

My creative journey started with the love of denim. At a young age, I have been fascinated with how a fabric as tough as denim can be versatile; from the casual wear my tita wears going to the market to a terno my lola wears to her barangay meetings. So growing up, I got curious and interested in fashion so I started learning how to draw cut-outs just so I can sketch some outfits.

In Bicol, I had very limited resources to turn my ideas into tangible things. I remember asking for crayons, markers just to put color on my work. When I moved back to Manila, I felt like the universe was giving me all these possibilities and I even used my struggle in Bicol as added motivation to create something. And so, I did — I made my first sketch of a beautiful woman in a gown with all these beadings glued to it. I kept that drawing in my room until I was in my senior year.

Since then, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would be taking up fashion design. In fact, that distinct feeling when I walked through the university doors as a freshman still gives me butterflies.

…it made me feel like I was creating myself — the resilience to form based on the sketch, the strength to fixate the flow I visualized, the comfortability I felt when it fits just right.

— Jeremy Tan

I used denim as my fabric throughout because it made me feel like I was creating myself — the resilience to form based on the sketch, the strength to fixate the flow I visualized, the comfortability I felt when it fits just right. 

As a fully bearded masculine gay who is equally comfortable with my feminine side, I felt as if the uniqueness of wanting to work on a fabric that is often overlooked because it’s slightly difficult to work on, was meant for me and I created a few denim masterpieces — wedding dresses, couture gowns, torso-high pants. One of those had even landed me on the fashion page of Philippine Daily Inquirer!

But one excruciating moment intensified it all.

My dad passed right before my preparation for my graduation show. I changed my initial design, I changed my initial mood board — I changed everything and made it all for him. I titled my show IMU because that’s where he took his last breath. All my six pieces were his story, the last six of his life.

Years passed and my love for denim progressed to other fabrics. I started creating clothing from couture gowns to wedding gowns and from ready-to-wear to plus-size daily wear.

I am still cruising along my creative journey. There is still much to learn but I’m all for the adventure.

What’s your most important or indispensable art tool or supplies?

My sketch pad.

When do you feel most creative?

The creative juices start kicking when I’m at my wit’s end. 

How do you overcome creative blocks?

I give myself time to break down and cry my worries out; afterward, I’d feel refreshed ready for a new day.

Do you have any tips for other artists to stay productive/motivated?

It’s YOUR passion, not anyone else. Remember what got you going in the first place. 

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being a designer?

That feeling that what you’re doing is not good enough and convincing yourself that you are.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring or new designers, what would it be?

Do not let anyone dictate what you should be doing instead. Hold on to your dreams and passion.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Trust the process. We’ll get there and we’ll get closer to our dream.

Do you have any exciting new projects that you’re planning to launch soon?

I recently launched Debella MNL for plus size ready-to-wear, hoping to expand real soon!

Why did you decide to join Likhaan? What are some goals you’d like to achieve with the platform?

I decided to join Likhaan because it gives the artistic community the exposure they need — to show their creations and to fulfill their dreams.

There is still much to learn but I’m all for the adventure.

— Jeremy Tan