How Paul Cabral’s First Fashion Show Honors True Filipino Design

How Paul Cabral’s First Fashion Show Honors True Filipino Design


It’s finally here: With over 20 years in the industry, designer Paul Cabral takes the plunge to present his first-ever show at the Laperal Mansion

How does one know when they’re ready? It’s simple; no one does—it just takes guts. Paul Cabral staged his premiere showcase, dubbed UNA, at the lavish setting of the Laperal Mansion. Nestled alongside the prestigious Malacañang Palace with a staggering array of 72 meticulously fashioned ensembles, the designer catapulted himself into an uncharted territory of contemporary glamour; a nod to the notion that greatness knows no limit. And this was truly uncharted. After all, this was his first show in his career. Finally, Cabral is ready; and what a way to go all-out and full-force. 

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Florals, pearls, sheer, and texture are complementary themes that evolve throughout the show, as seen in this look

Cabral’s route to this critical moment has been anything from conventional. For more than two decades, he quietly polished his talent behind the scenes, creating bespoke masterpieces for a discerning clientele that included political dignitaries like former Presidents Benigno Aquino III and Cory Aquino, as well as entertainment luminaries like Vice Ganda, Maricel Soriano, and Judy Ann Santos.

An emerald cape-like add-on in the vein of a Filipiniana is worn over a colorful and rustled dress
Beads are flourished and detailed in intricate patterns in this mutli-tiered Filipiniana look

As you step into the grandeur of the mansion, your senses are overwhelmed by a scope of textures, colors, and shapes dancing through its winding halls. And one of them did dance. Each model exudes a quiet assurance, embodying the culmination of his lifelong dedication to his craft. With every intricate bead pattern and playful pleating technique, the garments offer a view of Cabral’s artistic heaven—clouds floating above dedication and passion, flying over planes of creativity.

Oversize bows are placed in several ensembles in multiple ways, including a sole one placed at the front

Central to Cabral’s repertoire is his mastery of Philippine textiles, with piña becoming a lead in this display. The choice to feature the fabric prominently in his collection celebrates the country’s textile traditions and further showcases Cabral’s ability to elevate local materials to international acclaim, from basic to breathtaking, incorporating tradition with trendsetting.

Fringe is used accordingly in this display

Through his blending of traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design elements, prioritizing impeccable fit and elevated charm over avant-garde experimentation, Cabral pays homage to the rich identity of Filipino culture. In doing so, he boldly propels piña fabric forward, charting a course for its evolution with unwavering confidence.

Sewn drop-beads are showcased in this meticulous pattern in blush pink

More than drop-beads in standard patterns or indigenous prints in elevated construction or embellished fabric in rustling movement, shoes drop by unannounced and unexpectedly. Yet, it’s not one we fully close the door on; instead, we open it wide. It’s one of the many elements to take notice of: pearl strategically placed on top, a spread of gold sheen delicately adorned, and fabric sewed all over to match the look of its skirt. 

Cut-outs are predominant in the collection, as seen on this baby blue look with matching shoes
Sheer shorts is also strong with the traditional barong attire, especially with menswear

Atop this—quite literally—rest the accessories, resplendent in their golden accord. They beckon us intimately, with a stronghold that makes refusal impossible and desire undeniable. Whether adorning ears, necks, or wrists, they exude a structured might that leaves no room for hesitation. At their core, or worn proudly, the jewelry, no matter how ostentatious or impractical in size, radiates opulence; and isn’t that fashion? Moreover, isn’t that distinctly Filipino fashion? Perhaps the modern Filipino is inherently opulent, and there’s nothing wrong with embracing that truth wholeheartedly.

Bright red tafetta takes on a voluminous dress with curved butterfly sleeves

Despite the perplexing sequence of models, parading from grandiose ball gowns to sleek midi-skirts and transparent shorts, the collection emanated an undeniable charm; a collection interwoven with levels of brilliance and strands of fringe. Cabral had ignited a storm of ingenuity, leaving us yearning for more. Because, surely, there will be more, and we can’t wait to see it.

Paul Cabral ends his show on a celebratory note that captures fireworks outside

The designer redefines the modern Filipino—not just polishing the already-modern archetype but concocting a bold, spicy recipe of what the fully realized modern Filipino can be. The collection seemingly liberates us from the colonial aftertaste embedded in our skin, whether we want to see it or choose to, appreciate it or fail to, accept it or decline to. With Paul Cabral leading the charge, the Filipino looks not just like themselves, but as easy as traveling on a Sunday morning.

Photography MIGGY BROÑO

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