Well-worn Love: Gabbie Sarenas Embraces the Happy and Intimate Moments with Handmade Designs

Well-worn Love: Gabbie Sarenas Embraces the Happy and Intimate Moments with Handmade Designs


In an exclusive interview, MEGA dives deep with fashion designer Gabbie Sarenas and ‘Tanan’, her runway collection for BENCH Fashion Week 2024

Gabbie Sarenas showcased intricate pieces that create a palpable, atmospheric story. Through romantic and intimate storytelling, Gabbie’s work evokes emotions story-wise and design-wise. Her pieces are inspired by the private and tender moments of romantic relationships, perfect for treasured moments—on and long after the wedding day.

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Filipina designer Gabbie Sarenas is at the helm of BENCH Fashion Week 2024

The designer’s vision has always been A Love Letter to the Philippines. Her dedication for Filipino textiles and handiwork, hand-made embroidery and hand-dying, reflects a commitment to this design philosophy. “It’s always done with reverence,” Gabbie says during her exclusive talk with MEGA. “Not just the culture, but also the experiences of our people—beyond what you see from books and research.”

Her collection, Tanan, draws from the private and tender moments of a romantic relationship, of a couple who is about to elope or get married in an intimate setting. Her designs have a rawness and a striking simplicity to them, imbued with intimate musings and romantic stories that evoke emotion. The collection delves into nostalgic and sentimental fabrication, incorporating anti-colors and dainty embroidery and inspired by motifs from the film Hihintayin Kita sa Langit, directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna. “The pieces don’t look new, but they are,” the designer states. “The hand-dyed antique or tea colors are as if they’ve been worn or inherited, something you can pass on to your children.”

Gabbie’s creativity and subtle patriotism shines in Tanan
Her tribute to the Philippines is mastered through intricately woven masterpieces

Tanan embodies versatile garments that can be effortlessly paired with inherited pieces or everyday attire. “In Tanan, they pile on something on top of what they’re wearing because mag-ta-tanan ka na,” Gabbie tells MEGA. “Maybe your mother’s scarf, veil, or your grandmother’s vintage barong. That’s Tanan. You’re always complimenting your client’s wardrobe.”

Tanan transforms the mundane act of dressing into a romantic story worth telling

Feeling the pulse

Story-wise and design-wise, the pieces are crafted in the atelier’s signature style—Filipino handiwork. “I believe that our culture comes from our hands. So be it fashion or medical or culinary, we are a people na nagkakamayan,” Gabbie answers when asked why this is especially important to her and her work. “I asked my parents, who are doctors, about operating, and they said they could literally feel the ‘pulso’. That’s something a machine can never replace, even with modern-day technology.”

On the topic of championing this commitment to local craftsmanship, Gabbie continues, “Personally, I find it more soulful, and other than the heartwarming story, it lasts longer. It becomes more of a treasured piece that when you look at it, you think: God, this is made by hand. By pulse. It says a lot about our culture. You can say a lot about a people’s culture from their handicraft.”

Gabbie explored the transparencies of fabrics, anti-colors, and the play of tones and textures

A look into a designer’s process

All the decisions for this showcase were intentional and meticulous. The music for her showcase, Bakit Ba Ganyan soulfully sung by renowned actress Dina Bonnevie, fits the collection perfectly. “When she was singing, she was very smitten,” Gabbie shares. “She doesn’t understand why, but she fell in love. When you get married, you’re so smitten and happy to be even doing this. And you’ve found someone to do it with.”

Tanan is about well-worn love, made by the routine and quiet of a life built together

Tanan paved the way for an intricate wedding wardrobe meant to be treasured long after the celebration of love. Also inspired by Gabbie’s discerning clientele, who have shared treasured moments, the designer says she was in a happy disposition while creating this collection. “Nakakahawa talaga [the happiness of the clients],” Gabbie states. “During consultations for weddings, I ask them a question, and they always have the same look. It’s in their eyes. I told my models: ‘This is your motivation for the show.’ I wanted to replicate that happiness and to place it in that intimate setting; hence the music. Tanan is about the happiness of finding their person.”

On making it to the BENCH runway

The designer, like every other creator, has no escape from internal battles. “In every show I make, it has to be better than the last one—all the time,” Gabbie admits to MEGA. “There’s an immense pressure on my shoulders. It’s an internal thing, but for this show, I chose to really play with my strengths and delve into menswear, new prepositions of items or designs, and ideas from TernoCon 2023 that are made into something else or new.”

The designer’s signature style reads through her pieces: sentimental, nostalgic, peaceful, and handcrafted

Gabbie also says that although there was pressure and anxiousness, the show was just about telling joys. Tanan was an idea from July last year, and seeing her creations walk down the runway was a rewarding experience. She then mentions how the ‘happy disposition’ she was in while creating Tanan coincides with opening BENCH Fashion Week 2024 with Jo Ann Bitagcol. “I’m happy to do the show with Jo Ann,” the designer says fondly. “To see her as a designer and not as a model for us, iba pa rin.”


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