Latest Stories

Cary Santiago, craftsman


JEWEL-TONED pieces sporting Santiago’s signature fabricwrappedmetalwork, fabrics woven in basket-weave patterns, and origami folding and draping.

The virtual gauntlet was thrown down three years before last Saturday’s Red Charity Gala.

If there was ever any doubt Cary Santiago wouldn’t hold up to the high standards set by Furne One and Michael Cinco, who both drew raves for their respective collections for the annual benefit gala, the score was finally settled last weekend: Santiago could, indeed, wow a fashion crowd sans a single bead or sequin.

The Cebu-based Santiago was confident when he told Inquirer Lifestyle his Red collection would prove that he was on the same level as his contemporaries. He was never a fan of beadwork, Santiago said, and he expected his work to be compared with One’s and Cinco’s, inevitable given their common background: Middle East training.

“I’m so happy and fulfilled. This is my best collection yet,” he said a few days before the show.

Santiago’s 35-piece origami-inspired collection (plus two men’s looks), presented Saturday at Makati Shangri-La’s Rizal Ballroom, hinted at some of his signature techniques (wrought-iron-like rococo metalwork), and whipped up just enough surprises to thrill the guests, a number of whom are his loyal clients.

Couture training

back and skirt details of a yellow satin dress.

It was a collection that displayed a skill honed through years of couture training in Beirut and Dubai, with intricate finishing touches that could’ve only been done with polish by a trained hand and an artist’s eye.

Santiago opened with one of his three all-white pieces, a strapless, draped satin dress with folded details on top. It featured side pockets, shown off with the exuberance of a flower girl at a wedding by Marina Benipayo. (We thought the veteran mannequin’s dramatic dance would set the tone for the show; it did not.)

The first suite was the black-and-white numbers, fitted black dresses draped with white fabrics that took the form of a bird, lizards, a butterfly, and combined with Rorschach-like trompe l’oeil patterns, a misnomer given the resulting three-dimensional features. Draping is a favored technique of Santiago, and if One and Cinco went gaga with their beadwork in their own Red collections, Santiago was unapologetic with his draping.

The draping gave scale to the simplicity of his silhouettes, seeming black canvasses to 3D white images. Swathes of white fabric were folded to adorn collars and sleeves, hems and bodices, or even as winged trains to short and long dresses.

Not everyone in the audience was a fan. We overheard snarky comments comparing them to the art of napkin folding; one said it was reminiscent of towels folded in the shape of fowls in cheesy hotel rooms.

TEN-PIECE colored suite showcases Santiago’s technical savvy. He deftly mixed folds and drapes andmetal rococo patterns.

And perhaps that wasn’t the strongest part of Santiago’s collection. There were audible oohs and aahs when the designer sent out his jewel-toned pieces, short and long dresses that sported his signature fabric-wrapped metalwork, fabrics woven in basket-weave patterns, and more origami folding and draping.

The 10-piece colored suite showcased the depth of Santiago’s technical savvy. He deftly mixed folds and drapes and metal rococo patterns.

The skirt lengths were modest, mostly covering the knees, and most of the long dresses were loosely draped. But there were hints of skin just the same—a peek into the hip or thighs; a deep plunge on the front in several pieces, as well as scoop backs, and through the peek-a-boo fabric weaves and metalwork.

Vastly different

What’s remarkable about Santiago is his ability to create two vastly different looks and yet put his distinct imprint on them. Surely he didn’t have the same woman in mind for the simpler-looking pieces—a flowy, draped black dress with an asymmetric shoulder accent, for instance—and the more ornate and elaborate looks. It was right that he gave his signature doily laser-cutting a rest for this show; it gave him an avenue to show his range as a craftsman.

ELABORATE draping and basket-style weaving

One popular designer quipped that the show didn’t quite start until Santiago sent out the colored dresses. And he had a point. The all-black and final segment, beautifully detailed dresses as they were, felt rather anticlimactic. It didn’t quite reach the apex of excitement expected to top the crescendo built by the colorful suite that preceded it.

The last piece, a flowy Grecian white dress with a neckpiece that extended to the back worn by Grace Tagle, didn’t quite sum up a collection that was largely grandiose in craft and detail. For a finale, it was underwhelming.

The annual gala is in its fifth year. A project of Tessa Valdes and Kaye Tinga, it’s staged to benefit the Philippine National Red Cross and the Assumption High School Batch 1981 Foundation. Ariel Lozada directed the show, with styling by Noel Manapat, and hair and makeup by Patrick Rosas’ team.

Santiago is the Red gala’s fifth featured designer, after Rajo Laurel, Dennis Lustico, One and Cinco. Tinga had said that she and Valdes did not intend for the Middle East-based Filipino designers to show back-to-back, but Santiago was the easy choice.

The now Cebu-based designer, who came home for good from Beirut seven years ago, was first to draw attention to Filipino fashion talents based in the Middle East, when he first presented a collection here in 2004.

DRAPING gives scale to the simplicity of Santiago’s silhouettes.

Santiago ushered in the wave of the collective called, if somewhat inaccurately, “Dubai designers.” One after the other, they started getting invites to present at various fashion shows here.

Santiago and company are trained in couture houses that cater to Arab royalty and elite. Given their market, they’re known for often elaborate and extravagant designs. They’ve impressed local fashion fans. And as Tinga rightfully pointed out, their entry into the scene has kept local designers on their toes.

Now the question is, after Santiago, One and Cinco, where does the Red gala go from here?

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Cary Santiago , Craft , fashion , Lifestyle , Philippines , Red Charity Gala

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  2. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  3. This is not just a farm
  4. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  5. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  6. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week?
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. The truffled mac ‘n’ cheese, eggs benedict, chicken leg confit are excellent
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Anti-gay demo in Ethiopia cancelled
  • Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US
  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine
  • Philippine eagle rescued by Army turned over to DENR
  • Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 10 soldiers
  • Sports

  • Vietnam says it will not host Asian Games
  • Nadal passes clay landmark with 300th victory
  • Wawrinka waltzes through with Monte Carlo walkover
  • Power Pinays smash India in Asian Women’s Club volleyball opener
  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Lifestyle

  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Entertainment

  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Business

  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking
  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • Technology

  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • DFA: 2 Filipinos survive Korean ferry disaster
  • PH asks airline passengers to check for MERS
  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan