5 Filipino designers championing Pinoy culture and craft | Inquirer USA

5 Filipino designers championing Pinoy culture and craft

These homegrown talents are pushing the boundaries of what Filipino design can be
/ 11:08 AM September 02, 2023

5 Filipino designers championing Pinoy culture and craft

Photos from Carl Jan Cruz, Gabbie Sarenas, and Ha.Mü

Filipino fashion design is more than just the butterfly-sleeved Filipiniana or the sheer exuberance of the barong—but they are classics for a reason, a representation of our culture, customs, and traditions. They, too, are a good starting point for designers to explore just how far we can take our traditional codes through innovation while still preserving their Filipino essence.

Here are five Filipino designers who are pushing the envelope of what Filipino fashion can be, one design at a time.


Carl Jan Cruz

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Innovation rooted in Filipino values and themes is what propels Carl Jan Cruz’s design. Each fabric is developed in his studio, recalling the comfort and ease of traditional garb equipped with the technicalities and finesse he learned from his time at the London College of Fashion and his stint at Phoebe Philo’s Céline.

Equal care and thought go into his main line of artisanal garments with its intricate hand sewing and fabric manipulation as well as his ready-to-wear line of pambahay and denim that makes dressing up (or down) a breeze.

Read also: Carl Jan Cruz’s conscious acts of creation


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Incorporating Indigenous fashion into daily casual wear is tricky. But when it’s done with a knowledge of what they were originally meant for and with a respect for ethnic traditions and customs, it forges a cultural conversation, much like how designer Len Cabili of Filip+Inna does it.

Raised in Iligan City, Mindanao, Cabili’s designs highlight craftsmanship like weaving, embroidery, and brasswork into wearable creations that pay homage to the rich history of the country’s Indigenous craft traditions.


Read also: This designer draws inspiration from Indigenous groups


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Out-of-the-box, big, and fun are three words that best describe Abraham Guardian and Mamuro Oki’s oeuvre at Ha.Mü. They are over-the-top creations that call attention to their wearer just as much to the clothes themselves.

Ha.Mü’s geometric silhouettes and unconventional mix of hard and soft fabrics create volume and texture that eccentric dressers love. Fret not, they also have ready-to-wear shirts and bottoms that still scream their maximalist ethos (ruffles! clashing patterns and colors!) while also allowing for a degree of “safety” for those who want to blend it just enough.

Read also: Ha.Mu’s diffusion brand creates too-cool-for-school uniforms

Joey Samson

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Minimalist with silent nods to exquisite small details is Joey Samson’s brand. Think sharp tailoring meets the softness of a well-structured dress in monochromatic whites and blacks.

Samson has created a name for himself as a go-to designer for Filipiniana and barong, thanks to his off-kilter treatment: splicing apart intricately embroidered piña and adding unexpected twists like pleating here and there, earning him the moniker “garment surgeon.”

Read also: What it means to be a designer, according to minimalist designer Joey Samson

Gabbie Sarenas

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A post shared by GABBIE SARENAS (@gabbiesarenasph)

Gabbie Sarenas is for the romantics. Her creations, often done in delicate piña and painstakingly hand embroidered with motifs like sampaguita, call to mind a softness and a calm characteristic of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo’s women in countryside tableaus.

Sarenas is a go-to designer for weddings and other special occasions that call for traditional and formal wear rethought in 21st century codes: minimalist and deconstructed yet distinctly Filipino tropical.

Read also: The reeducation of designer Gabbie Sarenas

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