10 Filipinas Who Have Made A Mark On The Philippine Fashion Industry
We cast the spotlight on 10 women whose work is featured at the Katutubo Pop-up Market. All have made a mark on the Philippine fashion industry by putting a strong emphasis on elements and nuances that are uniquely Filipino. Inspired by patterns woven by indigenous tribes and provincial traditions, and made with locally-sourced materials, their clothing certainly puts a new spin on the words “Proudly Philippine-Made”
The act of donning the traditional baro’t saya when she joined the Patrones de Casa Manila in the ’80s led to a personal epiphany for the woman who has become one of the strongest advocates for heritage conservation in the country. Since then, she has championed the revival of the country’s national attire by raising awareness on traditional fabrics such as piña and local cotton.
Likewise, she has employed the talents of local artisans in her own work—a move that has ensured that traditional forms of weaving and embroidery are neither lost nor relegated to mere footnotes in the history of Philippine fashion.
Tesoro once stated, “If we lose what is integral to being Filipino—our dress, our food, our homes—then we lose who we are.” These simple words perfectly encapsulate the need to uphold our culture, heritage, and pride in our national identity.
Anne Marie Saguil
Sustainability—or, to be more exact, sustainable livelihood—is the core of Anne Marie Saguil’s brand Amarie which aims to uplift the lives of Filipino artisans by promoting their work to the world.
Saguil’s aesthetic for Amarie has island living in mind: relaxed fit, flowing silhouettes, eyecatching colours that capture the beauty of the islands. But, at the same time, the details also tell the story of women’s dedication to their craft: intricate calado embroidery, the kind normally used to embellish the barong Tagalog, is rendered in vivid, non-traditional hues, carefully stitched by hand in every garment.
In doing so, Saguil has not only created an appealing fusion between modern styles and traditional craftsmanship, but she has also made a difference in the lives of local artisans and elevated their craft to high art.
Delicate floral embroidery reminiscent of sampaguita blossoms is strewn over the tulle of a bridal veil, while carabaos romp through rice fields on chambray dresses. This playful, feminine, and uniquely Filipino aesthetic is a signature feature in the work of designer Gabbie Sarenas.
The SoFa Design Institute alumna aims to preserve traditional Filipino techniques and craftsmanship to create clothes that are perfect for modern young women who wish to express their pride in their heritage. But this noble aim is balanced by touches of whimsy in her work: silk jusi sleeves that would normally be seen on a formal terno, for example, serve as an unusual accent to a gingham dress inspired by the loose dusters worn by housewives. Indeed, the effect was so unusual, that artist Kim Oliveros depicted the dress in one of her pieces for ArtFair 2019—something that has enabled Sarenas’ work to transcend from fashion to art.
Making the jump from economics to haute couture may seem a mind-boggling stretch for some people, but those who know the work of designer Techie Hagedorn can attest that the woman’s passion for fashion has definitely paid off.
Hagedorn is the creative mind behind Alegre Resortwear, a clothing line that incorporates nuances of traditional Filipino clothing with breezy ease and effortless elegance. She has transformed the classic barong Tagalog into a series of colourful women’s blouses that can be worn in both corporate and casual environments. Traditional weaving and embroidery from Abra is made au courant in sleeveless tops and hip jackets that would not be out of place in the trendiest spots.
Inspired by women who are comfortable with their own bodies, Hagedorn plays up comfort in her work—and that is something that modern Filipino women are certainly happy with.
Tim Tam Ong
It all began with a love for beautiful things—one that was most probably born of the fact that her mother was into interior and furniture design, while her grandmothers helped develop a taste for the unusual and the expertly crafted. As a result, jewellery designer Tim Tam Ong creates startling, yet distinctively wearable beauty with a pronounced Filipino accent.
Heirloom, Ong’s critically acclaimed 2018 collection, pays homage to various icons of local tradition. Native games like luksong tinik or the sorbetero [ice cream man] plying his trade through city streets are reimagined as delicate pendants, while local flowers are transformed into earrings, bracelets, and intricate necklaces.
More than this, Ong is also a storyteller of sorts, one who keeps a tangible chronicle of culture through her work. In doing so, she is actively playing her part in safeguarding the richness of our heritage for the next generation.
Filipino women aren’t exactly hat wearers, but this hasn’t stopped designer, milliner, and corsetiere Mich Dulce from creating show-stopping chapeaux that have adorned famous heads such as those of award-winning singer Lady Gaga and actress Leighton Meester. Her quirky, somewhat outrageous sense of style has gained a following overseas, particularly among youthful fashionistas.
This award-winning designer embodies the modern Filipino woman in her work: strong, feisty, passionate, and unafraid of what the world may throw at her. Dulce plays up whimsical patterns and bold colours in her designs, bringing a touch of the sunny optimism that Filipinos are known for even in her collaborations with foreign designers.
Elegant, stylish, and certainly one of a kind: that is the way many people have described the unusual and stunning aesthetic of Marga Nograles.
The Davao native (and wife to Davao City congressman Karlo Nograles) is the designing mind of Kaayo, a brand that raises awareness regarding the traditional crafts of the T’boli, Mandayan, and Tangkalo tribes of Mindanao, as well as the use of native fabrics such as traditionally woven Mindanaoan silk and inaul.
While her brand does produce clothing and accessories, Kaayo is more than just a fashion statement for Nograles. For her, the name represents the very ethos of the brand: the kaayo—goodness in the Bisaya tongue—of taking pride in the work of one’s hands and in the colourful riches of local culture.
Mention her name, and exceptional knitwear comes to mind.
Since 1985, Lulu Tan-Gan has been considered the Philippine Queen of Knitwear thanks to an iconic line that redefined the position of knitted garments and accessories in the local fashion scene. Over the years, her work has played up local motifs and reimagined traditional garb for a new age.
But Tan-Gan’s work has gone beyond fashion and the mere creation of garments; indeed, she also plays a part in promoting indigenous Filipino design, as she draws inspiration from local fabrics and traditional crafts. However, she is quick to advise that anyone who seeks inspiration from the country’s tribal peoples needs to know sensitivity and understanding when dealing with them.
“Understanding the culture of indigenous peoples is important,” she has said. “Remember that, for them, it may be an invasion.
Bea Constantino & Carol Go
One look at the designing tandem behind Herman & Co, and one may think that the ladies would not be out of place in any of the world’s fashion capitals. While that is certainly true, Bea Constantino and Carol Go intend to put the unique colours and patterns of traditional Mindanao tribal designs onto the global stage.
Constantino started her fashion journey as a stylist—one who famously coaxed Paris Hilton into wearing only Filipino designers during her first visit to Manila—but, with fellow Mindanao native Go, is now changing the scene by applying traditional patterns such as the famed Pis Siyabit of the Tausugs onto modern clothing.
Named after Constantino’s great-great-grandfather, German sea captain Herman Leopold Schück, Herman & Co is a beautifully curated heritage clothing concept that ensures that brings the beauty of Southern Mindanao to the rest of the world.
- PhotographyMJ Suayan
- Art DirectionMonique Madsen
- WordsMarga Manlapig
- HairJohnson Estrella of MAC Cosmetics
- Make-UpJohnson Estrella of MAC Cosmetics