It was only two years ago when Carl Jan Cruz, craving for further self-actualization, packed his bags and left London–the fashion world’s edgier capital–to design in Manila.

Close yet away from the city’s business districts, there’s an element of solitude in his Manila studio (also a showroom by appointment). Three sides of the penthouse studio are in glass, bathing it with filtered sunlight. Wood furnishings, potted plants, and floral cotton blankets lend Cruz’s studio a feeling of home.

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Cruz describes his work as being autobiographical in nature, so the lines between work and play are blurred. The seclusion and wealth of space enable him to hone his sense of reductionism and explore, from new silhouettes to developing his own textiles and finishes. For his latest collection, 31-42 (pertaining to the number of pieces he has made to state its seasonless permanence), it’s lightweight pique, rib cottons, denim, and canvases, then manipulating the fabric’s surface.

Cruz is a self-professed hoarder. The evidence is an archive, a library of images and textures, from fabrics to floor-to-ceiling shelves of magazines and books–all memories and future references. One example is how he comes up with each collection’s color palette, making the images tangible as a palette by collaging and smudging them on Photoshop until he arrives at a mosaic.

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Apart from the usual sketches and measurements, his 31-42 collection mood boards, facing his working table in the center of the room, bear the likes of clipped photos of insouciant youth hanging out on a rooftop at sunrise and young rural Filipinas strolling. A majority of his pieces are hung on racks not by chronological order but by color, arranged like a spectrum, from muted nostalgic floral blanket prints rendered on canvas to the bluest blue jeans and camel coats. In the blue rack is the blanket coat worn by musician FKA Twigs in 2015.

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Right by the window is his workspace: a sewing machine, swatches of fabrics he recently developed laid on a cutting table. Sliding doors on the sides open up to a balcony. Collection 31-42 is a study in movement learned from clothes hung out to dry, and one can picture him draping the fabrics on the clotheslines. There are no visual walls up, there is no division between inspiration and execution in the open layout. Being inside Cruz’s studio is to physically tread parts of his creative process. Because he transacts with international buyers and press with digital and logistical savvy, he quips, though jokingly, that he practically never leaves. –Marbbie Tagabucba

Carl Jan Cruz’s studio is in Taguig, Metro Manila. Visit for more information.

Photos by JL Javier

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