Spectacular spikes, in a range of sumptuous shades, protrude from a small, rectangular box. Sharp but translucent, they are topped with tiny round beads and sit amid embellishments of a different style – ones that are contoured and layered one on top of the other, then placed precariously in between the spiked shapes, breaking all notions of pattern and consistency. The mood is both exotic and chaotic.
This a box clutch, made primarily from sustainable, recyclable materials, by Ken Samudio. The designer hails from the Philippines, and draws inspiration from the country’s coastal landscape and underwater life forms – particularly coral reefs.
“Most of my pieces are made from recycled plastics, and some are made from recycled water bottles. From my experience, the material that pollutes the water the most is plastic, so I wanted to use the same pollutant to represent what we’ve been destroying all this time,” Samudio explained during a recent visit to Dubai, which marked his Middle East debut.
While the ocean has played an important role in Samudio’s life, he is aware that many people haven’t ever been diving and haven’t had the chance to experience the majestic world that lies under the sea. “So, if they see my bags, maybe, just maybe, they’ll think twice before polluting the ocean.” Samudio claims that all the materials he uses are sustainable – even the interiors of his bags are created from recycled plastics that were originally used for plumbing tubes.
Samudio never had any formal training in fashion – in fact, he previously worked as a marine biologist, and dabbled in jewellery-making as a hobby. His eponymous brand achieved global recognition in 2014, when he represented the Philippines at the International Fashion Showcase during London Fashion Week, and was scouted by Vogue Italia's Sara Maino. Today, he works with a team of 12 to create his pieces, which are all produced in the Philippines.
Samudio’s latest autumn/winter collection features his signature coral-reef emulations in dark green and purple hues. “They are not your usual coral-reef colours,” he says. “It’s the story of beautiful coral reefs, devastated by an oil spill.”
While Samudio’s collections are mainly influenced by the sea, he won’t be closing any doors. “I have always been inspired by nature, colour and texture, so I think those elements will always be present in my collections, but it may not be about being underwater every time, because you know, we live on land,” he says, before hinting that his upcoming work will feature animal prints, bedazzled with his distinctive beading techniques.
Ken Samudio's clutches and jewellery pieces are available exclusively at Art Space Dubai.
Read this and other stories in Luxury magazine, out with The National on Thursday, May 12.