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This fashion designer spotlights the heritage of South Cotabato with his collection

In the past years, we’ve seen the resurgence of Filipino textiles and fabrics in the local fashion scene. These handwoven materials aren’t just beautiful, they hold stories of the Philippines’ rich heritage and are testaments to Filipino indigenous tribes’ dedication to their work and sustainable practices. The return of these handwoven tapestries also helped put the spotlight on emerging fashion designers from different parts of the country. The latest addition to that list is Dante Mana, a recent graduate from the Fashion Institute of the Philippines (FIP).

For the graduation show, Dante chose to create a capsule collection titled “The Hands of the Dreamweaver,” celebrating the culture and heritage of South Cotabato’s T’boli tribe. The result was a vibrant fashion presentation—his love letter—that paid homage to his hometown and the women who continue to keep its indigenous crafts alive. Taking inspiration from the works of the indigenous group was a natural step for the young fashion designer.

“I was fortunate to be exposed to their captivating culture from an early age. My connection to the world of T’boli performing arts, fostered by my mother, allowed me to witness the profound beauty and artistic expression that are integral to our heritage,” Dante told Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Additionally, the influence of my grandmother, a talented seamstress, revealed the enchanting process of transforming fabrics into remarkable creations.”

To make his vision come to life, Dante worked with various female artisans from the community. Among them were Ye Dina, who has been beading for more than 30 years, and Ye Mina, a master t’nalak weaver. On the runway, he presented pieces that explored many silhouettes, all providing the perfect canvas for the unique patterns of the T’boli community’s works. His muse wore massive headwraps with gold accessories and baskets to complete their looks. His collection was so spectacular that he took home the FIP’s Designer of the Year award.

“This collection is a heartfelt homage to my origins in South Cotabato, a place that played a pivotal role in nurturing my passion for arts and fashion,” the designer said. “I poured my heart and soul into every design. It’s not just a job for me; it’s my passion. I’m devoted to making things that resonate with people, designs that will make them stop and think, ‘Wow, this is special.’”

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