Chris Jasler and Jail Jeans

By Jon Verzosa

The Fashion Trilogy featuring Chris Jasler, Aimee Velasco and Luke Jickain

Part One

Chris Jasler, fashion designer and entrepreneur


Throughout my one-hour interview with Jail Jean’s Chris Jasler, I adopted a kind of energy that most writers slip in every time they are faced with a character so magical that they would temporarily be ingested by its enormous chops and instantly die a trickery death just to be a victim for the time being.  I allowed myself to be engulfed gladly.  At the same time, I had to funnel my few remaining raison d’être if only to switch off my digital recorder when the allotted ten minutes was through so I can record more dialogue of the man whose art outdid and revised the definition of high fashion and whose menacing imagination gave birth to elaborate designs making Jail Jeans a matchless breed of clothing assembly and eerie shoes clinically made only for the daring.  Jasler’s post-modernism in technique is intricate and adversely sinister in nature.  It is also dark, neo-punk rock and sinfully studded.


Our energies matched  because Chris Jasler is ambiguous, passionate and headstrong.  I listened deftly to his thoroughness in stitching every tale that needs to be told and somehow realized that I am so much like him. Perhaps it is how we put music in everything  we do. Or perhaps we were twin brothers in our past lives.  Perhaps . . . he was really a witch and I was summoned to his office that very rainy afternoon to be his tyro.  Nonetheless, I sat there, as the driving rain drowned the whole of Mandaluyong, in his dimmed office [dungeon] that smelled of dampness and leather and watched his pouty mouth move hastily, hemming a shaman’s tale, the sound of scissors snip snapping and mounting towards his tongue , taking us both to Tarlac where it all began.


Jasler grew up in Conception, Tarlac, a town, he said, that is a melting pot of dialects, people and numinous principle.  He grew up with the sound of industrial scissors snip snapping day in and day out. He grew up learning the art of multiplicity.


A ‘Jail Jeans’ outfit that is both figurative and emotional



“My parents and my parents’ parents were hardcore master cutters.  Lumaki ako sa patahian at lumaking naglalaro sa patahian namin sa Concepcion.  I remember sitting at my father’s shoulders while he sewed jeans and such and drove my first car on the sewing machine pulley!” he began, with a meditative face, “I would sleep on a haystack full of telas and had the penchant for sewing machine oil even before I learned to perceive any other smell!” He continued, “I guess I have always been a normal kid and played sports since I can remember but I have to mention that even back then, I have always relied on my hunches particularly with my choices in life.  My friends would always say mahusay daw ang vision ko but I guess it has been innate ever since that I know what I want and one of them is to excel.  I am a dreamer and I see things coming my way, so, like a mystic, I make the cure even before it gets sick.  Madalas talaga ako makakita ng mga images sa isip ko and it happens the day after.  Most of the time, my instincts have been my cures and solutions.  And of course, I trust my instincts.”


Now at 34, married with three children, Chris Jasler is a celebrated designer of his own company, ‘Jail Jeans’ which is based in Singapore.  Before that, he was a high-end male mannequin who brewed his way to ramp and print modelling in the Philippines.  I had to say brewed because the modelling planet became a gateway to his astrophysical move to fashion designing.  It may have been a laborious process, but like a moth to a flame, he broke into the business’ flaming fire and burned the moth of trials that channelled two careers and made Jail Jeans an incomparable emblem in fashion tyranny.


Chris Jasler’s post-modernism in technique is intricate and adversely sinister in nature



“Before 2005, before I had modelling stints in Singapore, I was pretty much a part of the old-school modelling era.  Fashion shows back then were being held in malls particularly at the Glorietta.  I am very proud of what has transpired to the Philippine fashion industry throughout the years.  I guess we have levelled-up in a sense.  Fashion shows these days have bigger venues, shows have become ridiculously in-demand and great designers from all walks of life and genus is already being showcased.


In my case, however, the rakets were good and I was blessed but being a model is not all about forever.  After I did shows outside the country and completed my Business Administration degree at Philippine Christian University, I realized that I am not getting any younger and that I need to delve into something other than modelling.  And so I investigated and literally went on a soul search.  I was already designing back then but was not serious about it.  I was more enthused in modelling so most of my designs rotted on a folder.  Seriously, I couldn’t even draw!” he laughed at himself, stroked his tattooed arms and cracked his knuckles.  And then he told me the life-changing birth of Jail Jeans that oddly happened in Bangkok.


A Swarovski-imbedded ‘Jail’ shoes that is both hip and brave



“I was in a show in Bangkok and I wasn’t so full of myself like the usual.  My thoughts were scattered and I can probably say I was clinically depressed at the time.  Something that I did not understand to this day but there I was, walking around the sycophantic city of Bangkok trying to look for something.  Hindi ko alam kung ano nga ba hinahanap ko basta naglakad lakad ako at napadpad sa isang market.  And then I saw these bargained hand cuffs sa sidewalk and looked at it.  Back then, I simply found it an interesting object but somehow it shoved me back to the hotel, attached the handcuffs in one of my jeans and like a madman, started designing denims on sheets of paper.  I told myself, “Wala pang gumagawa nito – attaching handcuffs in pants – this is what I am looking for!”  For this reason, when I went back to the Philippines, I started designing more.  I also thought about a trade name that would be linked to handcuffs – hold-up, general, police, and jail – Jail? Why not? Jail Jeans.  So, there you go!  It was a pretty unpronounceable brand name when we started na parang ang hirap bigkasin pero as we went alonggumanda na din iyong tunog niya, diba?”  Jasler said teasingly.


True enough, Jail Jeans did not just become an amiable-sounding brand name but also produced a good standing with its elaborate blueprint and the use of eccentric patterns and materials that made its spot in the recent Men’s Fashion Week in Singapore among other featured designers like Alexander McQueen, Hugo Boss and Canali, among others.  Denims with first-rate design and imbedded with one-of-a-kind textile, a pair of Jail jeans would cost P15,000 and the steepest one could get as high as P46,000. His over-elaborate shoes and boots can go as high as P25,000.  TV host and commentator Boy Abunda is a devotee of Jail Jeans’ clothes and shoes that every time we see him at ABS-CBN’s SNN (Showbiz News Ngayon) and The Buzz, we all know that he is wearing something from Chris Jasler.  He dotingly calls Jasler ‘the denim king’ and vows that his collection is the best in Asia.  Also very soon, Chris Jasler will dress up a TV host for Star World and various shows are coming up in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles between this year and early 2012.


Chris Jasler waving to a maddened crowd in Men’s Fashion Week Singapore 2011



“Imagine, my very first work station was my kids’ room back when I was starting.  Even before I had this office slash workplace in Mandaluyong, I was cutting, sewing and jazzing up fabrics in a kid’s room with all the help that I can get.  I began with three heads including myself doing the legwork round the clock and it’s funny how time flied.  Before I knew it, napapansin na pala mga ginagawa ko.


I would fly to Singapore for a modelling gig and then after that, show my stuff to foreign designers and buyers out there.  It was both exciting and daunting.  It took a lot of lakas ng loob and instincttalaga!  Then, ayon, kahit watak watak, walang brand o label, puro rough materials and finished products lang binibitbit ko sa Singapore para mapansin.  Luckily, after three years, ‘Jail Jeans’ na siya and now we have a store located at the 2nd floor of Mandarin Hotel in Singapore among other high-end signature stores.  I am so lucky to be a part of that pack.  And lucky to have been given the chance to demonstrate internationally the Pinoy talent,” he said giving me a high five that I readily met.  We’re almost the same age, so high fives were vital, more so because, indeed, Jail Jeans is one for the books in terms of Pinoy Pride.


“Is the Philippines ready for Jail Jeans?” I asked.


Oo naman!  You know what, Pinoys are so maporma.  The only thing is, no matter how brave our tastes can be we are also smart buyers.  As an artist, I deem to engage in recreation but the creative process and what it result to is integrity to its highest form.  What I create is my own, so like art, I can either be ignored or raved.  Artistic integrity means sticking to your grounds and feeding your inventive sixth sense. So, it is not about Pinoys being not ready for Jail Jeans, it is about the complexity of my designs that should be understood . . . and bought.” He bantered knowing that I understood how he won’t malign his flamboyance for mass appeal alone.  What can I say?  Jasler is a typical stubborn Aries.


“What is your biggest dream?” I asked out of nowhere, being clobbered gladly by Jail Jean’s premature success.


“I’d love to portray success by making ‘Jail Jeans’ an international brand that will house all the best designers in the Philippines!  You know what, we have the best designers here in the country but it is unfortunate that most of them are penniless.  It is a known fact that in this business, you’ve got to have money.  I was fortunate because I became a model and earned a few bucks and contacts, but believe me, there are great designers out there just waiting for ‘that’ big break.  This is why my greatest dream is to be a bigger company, so I can help out all the ill-fated but brilliant designers out there.  In fact, this is my business’ mission statement.  Now that will make me very happy.”


Towards the end of that very rainy afternoon, I began being idiosyncratic as I normally do every time a genius reduces the logic in me.  So, I asked, “What is your creative process?”


“I grew up believing and absorbing spiritualism seriously.  I can sense energies and can actually devour a person’s aura just by talking to them.  I may see the world differently but this is how I actually came to know myself.  All of us Pinoys have this side of supernaturalism within us, so I guess that is culture but for me, even in my designs, I see things around me that pencils in a precise form and takes shapeless ideas into a solid premise.  Like I look out, stare at a hanged clothe, yes, yung nakasampay, see a vision (or a ghost) of a girl walking by it and I would come up with a certain pattern that would materialize two hours later.  Sometimes I would look at a flower and a person from the past suddenly looms out either in or by the flower and by noon, I’d be slicing old garments and working with jewels to make a new one.  It is all very figurative and emotional but that’s how it works for me.  I also put a lot of trance music en route to the toiling stage. Lots of music! Like I said, it is all about finding the cure before it gets sick.  Having been pestered by these weird thoughts, even as a child, I somehow took those as warnings but made something out of them through handiwork kasi like life, art and music has to go on and on.”


“How would you want to be remembered?”  I asked my standard question.


He smiled and said, “Not as Chris Jasler but for my contribution in the field of fashion designing and for what I have done for Jail Jeans.”


The Writer with Jail Jeans’ Chris Jasler


And so I sat there, as the driving rain drowned the whole of Mandaluyong, in Chris Jasler’s dimmed office and finally bent the needlepoint of this shaman’s life in art, fashion, theology and love.  On my way home, I went back to his stories of Tarlac and their familial tailor shop that spun wool and carved fabric mindlessly all day which incredibly turned the boy into the man that he is now.


I smiled.

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