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Paul Cabral did it!

He elevates 'piña' in his first gala collection that drew much applause

Pina sweet as perfume (All photos by

Paul Cabral did it! He staged his first gala collection ever in a career that spanned more than 20 years. His more-than-70-piece collection was created not with any fancy theme in mind, but with the real men and women who do wear his clothes. “When I design,” he told in an interview that broke the news about his first gala, “I remember the advice given me in my early years: Don’t think of something avant-garde, stick to your strong points, like the perfect fit of a dress, and work around that.”

At curtain call, Paul Cabral with guest of honor, first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos

And his show titled Una presented Tuesday, February 27, was just that: the perfect fit and high fashion wearability. The man or the woman wears the clothes, not the other way around. That’s the strongest suit of Paul Cabral that draws his clientele of the Who’s Who in politics, business and industry, and high society. In the run-up to this much-anticipated show—the original date was last year except that Paul got cold feet (see—Paul had the best calling card there could be: first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos wearing his well-fit ternos, maria clara, and tailored dresses. People took note of the clothes he has been making for her.

In truth, it was the first lady’s makeup artist and style insider Patrick Rosas who talked Paul into doing a gala show. Before this, Paul had the reputation in the fashion industry of not ever wanting to stage a collection.

Paul Cabral’s stylized maria clara

It was a coup to hold the show in the newly restored Laperal Mansion in San Miguel, Manila, near Malacañang. The garden was so beautiful at sunset as cocktails were being served before the show.

“Piña” combined with lace

His first and only gala show last Tuesday got good reviews and critical acclaim. It was obvious how he didn’t hold back to complete the collection, and spared no expense. It was a parade of the most elegant fabrics, from silks to taffeta, laces. Paul acquired the Joe Salazar fabric collection, and one or two sewers from the late designer’s staff.

The use of a solihiya pattern for skirts and shorts (for men) was ingenious.

Patterns on “piña”

He gave the Philippine piña the place of honor, giving it all the versatile treatments imaginable, yet giving it feminine elegance—not stiff, but soft and flowing. His callado work left some of his peers salivating; it became apparent how he has built a network of embroiderers, artisans, and craftsmen. The way he manipulated piña was skillful, yet not showy. For example—the lace top with organdy inner blouse and piña callado skirt of different patterns.

His collection had no ballgown overload. Instead, it had soft, feminine silhouettes that flattered the feminine figure, not overwhelming or drowning it. Filipinas are not huge women, nor are they model-tall. Paul knew how to enhance the Filipina’s body proportion.

Handpainted organdy skirt, peplum of cut-out “perlas”

His collection consisted of long, ankle-length dresses that were trim, not voluminous, with very minimal layering (at most, over slim pants). His touches, such as hand-cut flowers turned into a peplum, were judiciously masterful.

Mikado silk terno ballgown

His ballgowns were drop-dead drama yet remained elegant, not contrived. The black-and-white Mikado silk gown had a hand-pleated piña top.

Indeed, Paul Cabral is able to marry craftsmanship, high-fashion aesthetic, with wearability.

Rare color pop-up

One-sleeve terno, draped and beribboned

I was not surprised, after the show, to hear a Cabral stylish client express some concern. Absolutely won over by the collection, like the rest of the audience, she said, “I can’t imagine how much a Paul Cabral dress will cost after this most successful show.”—Thelma Sioson

ABS-CBN chairman Mark Lopez, Cory Vidanes, Susan Joven, ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak

Ambassador Philippe  Lhuillier, Thelma Sioson, Edna Lhuillier, Suzanne Ledesma



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