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When tribal goes chic

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 15, 2020 4:00 pm Updated Dec 16, 2020 4:07 am

Ethnic clothing has definitely gone a long way, from tribal hills and vales to the urban setting. No longer just an attire for special occasions, it can be your everyday outfit now.

The stylizing of tribal weaves was made possible by young entrepreneurs who had the patriotic intent to make us love local, and love tribal, too, in the same way they do. They also felt good giving income opportunities to the native weavers. It is also about giving back.

Marga Nograles is one of those innovative and passionate createurs. Her Kaayo label is now a favorite among fashionable celebrities and career people.

 Apples Aberin in T’boli denim pants

Her latest collection is made in denim, weaves, lace, T’boli  hand beading and Maranao hand woven langkit.  

“This Kalipay collection  is a fun and chic assembly of more affordable pieces that you can mix and match for your Zoom meetings, easy open-air dinners out, trips to the beach or simply for lounging at home,” explains Marga.  “We have a hand-beaded T’boli top, a full three-tiered maxi dress — also hand beaded by the T’boli tribe — and mix-and-match reversible sets that you can use and wear in many ways.  This collection was born out of what we thought worked best during these times.  We sold a few samples to friends to get their suggestions and recommendations.”

Apples Aberin, former supermodel and now PR head of Unilever Philippines, says, “The one-of-a -kind shorts set with langkit hand-weaving detail is my ultimate favorite. It is reversible and quite flattering because of its silhouette.  I am looking to get it in another color so I can mix and match, too.  I also love the T’boli hand-beaded denim pants.  I feel every closet should have one.  It is denim, easy to wear and proudly Filipino made.”

 Odette Pumaren in a backless Mindanao mixed- print dress

Fashionista Odette Pumaren says, “It is so hard to choose just one favorite, but I guess at the top of my list is the hand-beaded T’boli tube dress.  It is something I can throw on without having to overthink and immediately look so effortlessly chic.  This piece can go from pambahay to beach wedding with just a change of accessories.”  

Pumaren also tells us that she hardly wears backless dresses because she felt they were too revealing,  “but this dress is snug enough and comfortable to wear — not just to the beach but anywhere.”

Marga says: “ With the opening of our showroom, we are happy to announce that we can now custom-make some of our most popular pieces again.  This collection uses our premium weaves and hand-woven fabric that we have collected these past few years.  These custom-made pieces are also fully hand-beaded and/or hand-embroidered by the tribes.” 

Retail maven Kai Lim says: “The dress with the mini terno sleeves is so Filipina chic.  I love that I now have the option to have this cut done in other weaves or even in plain fabric that  Kaayo can send to Mindanao for hand beading.” 

Former Lanao del Norte Congresswoman Aliah Dimaporo shares that she has always been and will always be a fan of Kaayo because “I love how the brand harmonizes both classy and playful designs and, with its functional yet fashionable pieces, Kaayo reflects me — a global citizen proud to be distinctly from Mindanao.”

 Aliah Dimaporo and Kai Lim in Kaayo Custom Collection

Marga explains: “Both collections celebrate why we are here and why we strive to continue on. Today and always, Kaayo will celebrate, honor and promote Mindanao indigenous artistry while giving sustainable livelihood to our indigenous tribes down South.  Jie Jie from Lake Sebu just recently told us that we have been a great help in feeding her family and her community.  We work with 80 beaders from six barangays in Lake Sebu and they have all been well.  They continue to remain positive and ever so grateful. 

“Over and above this, our collections also tell the story of giving back.  Since the start of the pandemic, we have been able to donate 4,500 food packs to the Davao frontliners, sent 3,500 PPE suits to the far-flung smaller hospitals, donated sacks of rice to around 300 families in need and we are now helping build roofs for some MovEd Foundation schools in Bicol.  We are also working to be able to donate Noche Buena packs to those that need it the most through Brand Aid — a group effort of private companies with Rise Against Hunger Philippines, and we are looking to do a number of Christmas outreach programs to spread the cheer for those who need it the most during the holiday season.  Today and every day we make a commitment to continue building creative collaborations with more like-minded groups to inspire kindness in however small way we can.

“We are grateful that our struggles as a social enterprise have been worth all the work of love and perseverance.  We are able to survive because of all of our supporters who trust and believe in what we do.  Padayon lang.  We will continue on.  One day at a time.”

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The new Kaayo showroom is located at the Magnolia Residences, ground floor of Tower A, N. Domingo Street corner Hemady. It is open from Mondays to Fridays and accepts custom-made orders and appointments every Wednesday.

Banner photo: Marga Nograles in T’boli hand-beaded tube dress