Grace, subtlety and quiet magnificence: Paul Cabral’s Filipiniana couture

FIRST Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and Paul Cabral at the ‘Una: Paul Cabral Premier Gala’ at the Laperal Mansion. | photograph courtesy of PBBM.COM.PH

Maricris Zobel, in Sunday’s Social Set, had declared him the “the next Ramon Valera.” Everyone agrees designer Paul Cabral, whose “Una,” the premier gala fashion show held recently at the newly refurbished Laperal Mansion, the presidential guest house in Arlegui Street, received resounding applause, a standing ovation and a crescendo of superlative praises, has finally come out of his cocoon.


His first-ever fashion show drew the cream of high society, politics, the diplomatic world and business, led by US Ambassador MaryKay L. Carlson, tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, Philippine Ambassador to Spain Philippe Jones and Mrs. Edna Lhuillier, philanthropist Alice Eduardo, Mark and Emily Villar, Helen Gamboa and daughter, among others.

Here are some of what his distinguished guests had to say:

‘Real men and women can wear his works’

Rachel Arenas, a businesswoman and politician and the first woman representative of Pangasinan, served as a member of the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2013, to which post she has returned since 2022. She was chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board from 2017 to 2021. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Philippine Red Cross. She is the only daughter of socialite-politician and philanthropist Rosemarie “Baby” J. Arenas.

Rachel spoke highly of Paul as someone she has known and admired for years: 

“I loved everything about Paul’s collection, from the most creative use of indigenous or local fabrics to his most beautiful and inspired designs, and finally his trademark, of the finest and unparalleled workmanship.

“My mother and I have been clients of Paul for almost 30 years already and we have worn and seen his works over many years. I will have to say that Paul, without a doubt, has really outdone himself, shown his best, with his first ever fashion show. He has set a new standard.

“Paul was able to show proof that the Filipiniana is not only meant to be an attire for the Philippine setting, but it can also compete as haute couture on the global stage.

“What I most like about his creations is that real men and women can always imagine themselves in his creations, from the basic cuts to his most fashionable designs.

“Based on what I have seen of his show, Philippine fashion is moving toward new heights, bigger and with more beautiful designs for the world to see and to wear.

“I wonder what Paul’s next surprise will be. Whatever it will be, I am sure I will always patronize him, as I have always done so since I was young.”

Commitment to tradition and modernity

Ana Lorenzana De Ocampo is the co-founder of Wildflour Hospitality Group, and has been its chief executive and president since its inception 12 years ago.

She opened the first Wildflour Café + Bakery with her sister Margie Manzke (a now James Beard Award-winning chef in her own right) in 2012 in then-up-and-coming Bonifacio Global City. The original dream of a simple corner café has since expanded into one of the fastest growing F&B companies in the Philippines, with eight restaurant concept brands spread across 18 restaurants over 50 spaces in the most prime locations across Metro Manila, and with many more on the way in the coming years.

Ana’s refreshing take on Paul’s design aptly describes Paul’s commitment to creating boundaryless works:

“You can see a lot of hard work put into Paul Cabral’s designs with beautiful fabric. What struck me most was his ability to blend tradition and modernity seamlessly.

“Paul accomplished a great balance in redefining modern Filipiniana, he offered a fresh perspective without losing touch of our roots. It’s evident he put thought into every detail.

“As for where Philippine fashion is headed, Paul’s show gave us a promising glimpse into a future where we embrace our heritage with a contemporary twist. Looking forward, I hope Paul continues to surprise us with his creativity while keeping things genuine.

“His place among Filipino designers is undoubtedly up there and it’s well-deserved.”

The ‘new Joe Salazar’

Larry Leviste was 15 years old and in third year high school in La Salle Green Hills when he won a Manila-based “Miss Universe” competition.

Through time, he would become one of the most visible faces in Manila’s social and artistic scene, even making a movie with Dolphy directed by the late National Artist Lino Brocka.

For 30 years, he covered the fashion and social landscape as the fashion editor of what was then the number one daily in the country. He commented on what the society gals were wearing in his column, Style Spy.

Of Paul’s signature style, Larry was the most admiring:

“I asked the dying Joe Salazar ‘How will I know who your successor will be?’ The frail designer said, ‘Yung damit niya ay dapat malutong, mabango at mukang mahal ang bayad (His creations should be crisp, sweet-smelling and expensive)’ Paul Cabral, without a doubt delivered those attributes in his first haute show at the Laperal Mansion.

“It was undoubtedly the signature style of modern Filipiniana. The colors were so perfume pastels. The sharp tailoring was most evident in his menswear. Equally eye-catching were the draping and flow of his dramatic evening wear. The stunning accessories by Arnel Papa made each of the 90-piece collection unforgettable.  Paul, who received a rousing standing ovation from the A-List crown, is the new Joe Salazar. Congratulations, Paul.”

Timeless allure

Charmaine Rivera Lagman is a devoted mother and wife. She describes her life as “one enriched by the joys of family and the fulfillment of running our esteemed construction business, MCGP, Inc. With a proud legacy spanning 25 years as a Triple-A licensed general contractor, our company embodies excellence and integrity in every project we undertake. Balancing the demands of family and business keeps me fully engaged, and as empty nesters, my husband Mike and I cherish the moments we spend together, especially as we frequently travel to the USA to be with our children, nurturing our bond across continents.”

Charmaine highlighted the many virtues of Paul’s works, thus:

“What did I admire about the whole collection of Paul Cabral? I was immersed in the precision tailoring of Paul Cabral’s collection, with its impeccable craftsmanship, sharp silhouettes and enduring sophistication. Each garment embodies a timeless allure, exuding an air of refined elegance that transcends fleeting trends. Enthralled by the meticulous attention to detail and the graceful charm of every piece, I am captivated by the effortless chicness that defines his signature style.

“Paul has masterfully achieved the essence of timeless elegance within modern Filipiniana, encapsulating the authentic beauty of Filipino culture. His designs effortlessly blend tradition with contemporary flair, celebrating the rich heritage and vibrant spirit of the Philippines. Through his meticulous craftsmanship and visionary approach, Cabral’s creations resonate with a profound sense of pride, showcasing the exquisite allure of our Filipino identity with grace and sophistication.

“I eagerly anticipate witnessing Paul Cabral’s forthcoming collection, envisioning a fusion of classic allure and modern sensuality. I anticipate his ability to seamlessly intertwine timeless elegance with a contemporary edge, evoking a sense of classic sexiness that transcends eras. By harmonizing elements of the old world with modern aesthetics, Cabral has the opportunity to create pieces that resonate with both tradition and innovation, captivating audiences with their sophisticated charm and undeniable allure.”