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Fashion master Paul Cabral presents his dream show — his very first

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 21, 2024 5:00 am

Paul Cabral is ready for his first show.

What? The much respected Paul Cabral, who has made his distinct mark in the past decades and who has dressed presidents, first ladies, influential personalities, and elegant women, is taking a bow on the fashion stage only now?

Has he been too busy focusing on his craft—quite a demanding task considering his trademark delicate details and his even more trademark fit and precision? 

“I am actually a shy person,” says Paul one afternoon in his atelier, a high-ceilinged house with pillars reminiscent of the glamourous ’50s and ’60s, in a once genteel neighborhood where high-rises are sprouting fast.

Top creative: Cabral, now a pillar in the fashion industry, with his creations.

“Actually my shyness has made some people think I am a snob,” Cabral explains.

Humility is the better trait to attribute to him. Plus self-confidence and professionalism, and you have the real Paul Cabral.

He has designed for presidents, first ladies and women of distinction. Now Cabral envisions creations that are relevant to the younger generation.  

He has famously made clothes for President Cory Aquino, President Joseph Estrada, First Lady Loi Ejercito and President Noynoy Aquino. During the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit held in Manila in 2015, Cabral made barongs for all 21 world leaders and attires for 15 First Ladies.

Cabral is now designing for First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos. The powder blue gown he made for her, using piña calado with heavy embroidery, made the British press cite the Philippine First Lady among the best-dressed who attended King Charles’ coronation in London.

President Bongbong Marcos and First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos in London: The British press gave a nod to how Liza was dressed during the coronation of King Charles. Cabral put embroidery on piña calado in powder blue.

“Mrs. Liza Marcos is very easy to work with. She doesn’t want to give you inconvenience when it comes to designing and fitting,” explains Cabral. “She likes to dress appropriately befitting the theme and occasion.”

“No, I am not the exclusive designer of the First Lady,” he clarifies. “The nice thing is that she has this inclusive policy of letting designers from north to south—and from all ages—design for her. She also encourages the creatives in the fashion industry to use Philippine fabrics.”

Cabral’s show at the beautiful, historic pre-war Laperal Mansion (formerly called Arlegui Guest House, it was the choice of residence of both Presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos) on Tuesday, Feb. 27, will actually be his dream show.

Master designer Paul Cabral at work: He envisions clothes that are so timeless, women will still want to wear them 10 years from now. But “a modern flair is needed for our Filipiniana.” He hopes the piña can be developed into something sturdier and more manageable.

“Every piece I made is somehow infused with piña, but in colors beige, black, yellow, red.”

Some of the fabrics he is using were inherited from the late Joe Salazar, one of his mentors. Cabral also meticulously specified the designs of accessories, which were made by Arnel Papa. The shoes by Doreen Odvina, which the models will wear, follow Cabral’s design specifics. Fashion direction is by JR Arce. Makeup will be done by the great veteran Patrick Rosas. The perfectionist Cabral has done a rehearsal with the models, complete with music and lighting.

“I am so happy,” Cabral gushes. “This is actually my dream show. There will be 50 female and 20 male models wearing cocktail to formal outfits. The clothes are Philippine-inspired but with a modern take; they can be worn by women from age 25 up.”

Also crafting gardens and interiors: Cabral enjoys landscaping and designing homes to destress. In photo are two areas of his atelier.

And as in most designs Cabral envisions, they should be timeless; women would still want them five or 10 years from now.

That is perhaps a similar view which he shared with Salazar—one of Philippine fashion’s greats—who noticed Cabral’s work. For one wedding Salazar handled, he asked Cabral to take care of the bridal entourage, noticing that they had the same handiwork style.

“Malinis ang tahi ni Paul,” Salazar confided to a friend. “Parang he can take my place someday.” I learned about this conversation from an industry source.

How does Cabral view the current fashion industry? “The Philippine fashion scene is livelier now, there are a lot of promising young designers. And I am glad that more Filipinos are appreciating and wearing local designs. The weavers, sewers, designers and SMEs are recovering from the pandemic through their strong support.

“However, I believe that a little twist and modern flair to our Filipiniana can boost the way fashion is going now. It’s vital to keep the structure and design relevant to the younger generation.”

He also wishes that our piña fabric could be developed into something sturdier and more manageable. 

On Tuesday, it will be lights, camera, fashion when Paul Cabral presents everything he has mastered all these shy years.