In her first breakup letter, Gabbie Sarenas reveals all things Off The Record—secrets, musings, and hopes
This is an excerpt from MEGA’s February 2023 issue
“I’m not in love.” As the lights dim and the quiet takes over, this line from the 1975 song by 10cc are the first four words that echoed through the walls of the Finale Art File gallery—the place where designer Gabbie Sarenas chose to finally confront what she would never say out loud, what she kept boxed in the confines of her own mind.
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Unofficially, Sarenas’ fashion journey started when she was in high school, simply because she loved clothes. There was a famous Spanish brand back in 2003 that she found very high-end and chic, so she would save money to buy from the store. “Back then, you could buy a halter top for PHP 900,” Sarenas shares. In her fourth year, she asked a seamstress to make the tube polka dot balloon dress she designed. Although the piece isn’t with her anymore, it’s still something she’d wear today.
“When you go to fashion, it’s not exactly a stable job or professionalized,” says Sarenas. “So, eventually, I still went to fashion school in 2008. I graduated and worked under Hindy Weber. And then I went to Paris and did my brand. When I was starting it, I was actually just saving up money for a summer course in Paris. I’m okay with what’s enough to pay for my tuition fee.”
If Sarenas were to release any piece, it always has to be out of the ordinary. She dives deep into research on what Filipino fashion is to begin with. “What are we known for?” she would ask herself, saying that the ones she would usually see on the runway are scuba knit and neoprene. And so the real question she was posed with is this: How can she present Filipino fashion?
A year prior to that, Sarenas’ professor asked her to create a Filipino costume, in which the designer would argue that she was there to study Parisian techniques. It was four weeks in L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne—the very school where world-renowned fashion designers Yves Saint Laurent and Issey Miyake studied. There was a time when she had difficulty with a particular sleeve and her professor would say, “Do you know why this is so easy for us? It’s a technique that has been passed on from generation to generation.”
“I didn’t get it at that time,” Sarenas admits. “But then after a year, I realized that, ‘Oo nga, no?’ It’s a technique that has been passed on. It’s natural to them. So, I was thinking, what comes naturally for us Filipinos? What are we known for? And then came the pinya.”
Sarenas has always been fond of the pinya fabric. She used it for her terno piece in a competition by the Fashion Design Council of the Philippines in 2014. But she knew that there had to be more to pinya than just being formal and dated. And so a new goal formed: it has to be presented like a story book.
“You’re telling the introduction and reintroduction of culture, through fabrication, embroidery, and your story,” Sarenas says. “Ever since, I like things that are handmade. Even in my graduation collection, there [were] a lot of things that [were] handmade, such as the beadwork. So, okay, nandoon na tayo. This is the goal. But how are you going to make that apart from pinya?”
Find out the contents of Gabbie’s first breakup letter in MEGA’s February 2023 issue, now available on Readly, Magzter, Press Reader and Zinio.
Photography DENNIS SULIT
Models JO ANN BITAGCOL and PARK SEONG JIN
Director and Stylist MELVIN MOJICA
Dresser CARLOS ERQUIAGA
Makeup PAM ROBES
Hair TONI AND GUY
Production Manager JACOB KHO
Producation Coordinator DARYL RECIÑA
Production Assistant MYRA ADVINCULA
Lighting Director JOHNSY REYES
Lights and Sounds AUDIOCHECK