This story is part of “Serving You Style and Substance,” a video series where we get to know bold Filipino creatives with idiosyncratic styles through their influences and the narratives that they choose to explore.
BL (Boy’s Love) anime terno designs and virtual fashion aren’t just futuristic fantasies anymore. In fact, they already exist in New York-based artist and designer Keith Lafuente’s reality.
In our second episode of “Serving You Style and Substance,” we had a chat with Lafuente who, apart from creating exciting nostalgia-heavy looks, does drag performances as Mahal Kita at Brooklyn’s queer Asian dance party Bubble_T. We got to talk about BL tropes, the Sabokahan Unity of Lumad Women, and so much more.
Hungry for more? Here are snippets from our conversation that didn’t make it in the show.
Let’s talk about your outfit. What are you wearing right now?
I’m wearing this swirl top with these detachable anime-inspired sleeves and a Pokemon head scarf.
How would you describe your style?
My style is very personal. I tend to go back to childhood nostalgia a lot. I really love unique things that may not be precious to other people but hold meaning to me. I also love to wear things that my friends have made—to support the people around me in that way.
Which anime character’s wardrobe would you want to raid?
I would have to say Ragyo Kiryuin from “Kill La Kill.” She is just, hands down, beautiful.
What’s your favorite BL trope?
The fall and catch, where one character will be [falling backwards] and the other character will catch him. It’s so ridiculous and I love it.
We also saw your virtual collection with Joanna Lin. How was creating those garments different from designing IRL clothing?
The thing with IRL garments is that there are so many practical considerations. Money is a big one. Skill, access to resources, and physics [are also factors]. In virtual reality, there are so many things that you can do that are totally impossible and inaccessible in real life. I definitely do think that virtual fashion is the new frontier.
I was referencing Japanese archery clothing as well as Beijing opera designs, but also mixing it with the transparency and openness of Filipino clothing. The collection was done during the pandemic when everything was feeling very closed in. The show itself was based on the limitless feeling of nature. In that fantasy world, I could feel more free.
What’s your favorite Philippine myth?
It’s definitely the love story between Bulan and Sidapa even though its authenticity has been debated. I love that it’s queer. I connected to it on that level but it was so romantic. Sidapa was courting Bulan by sending flowers into the heavens and using [fireflies] to light Bulan’s way.
Which artist’s work excites you?
Filipino-Australian artist Justin Shoulder, who is also known as Phasmahammer. His work deals with the body and performance. I also work with similar themes but in a different way.
Which visual art piece do you wish you made yourself?
“Arenas” by Mike Kelley. Something about the work is so simple but it’s also very effective and emotional. Something about it just sits right with me. And I think that’s what the best art [does]. You can’t always put it into words but it makes you feel a certain way.