The breast cancer survivors wore black–and happy colors, too | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Designer Maureen Disini with breast cancer survivors Leah Caringal and Maritoni Fernandez (photos by Kimberly dela Cruz)

ICanServe Foundation’s “Fashion Can Serve” event Tuesday night at Raffles Makati’s grand ballroom was very much a celebration of fashion as it was of life, as models, endorsers and breast cancer survivors, such as Inquirer Lifestyle’s Alya Honasan, did the runway wearing creations of six of the country’s leading designers.

The event, a first of its kind for ICanServe, doubled as a fund-raiser for the foundation’s “Ating Dibdibin” program promoting awareness and early detection of breast cancer (see sidebar). Marie France partnered with ICanServe to stage the show.

Apart from money generated through donations, the event was able to make close to P1 million through a series of auctions hosted by Inquirer Lifestyle columnist Tessa Prieto-Valdes. Issa Litton hosted the entire show.

Stores Specialists Inc. and Homme et Femme donated several designer bags for auction, while Fortune Travel and El Nido Resorts donated holiday packages.

Miladay provided jewelry pieces for the show’s muses, while Aranaz provided them and the models with additional accessories.

“You can’t keep breast cancer from hitting you,” said Bettina Osmeña, a breast cancer survivor and one of the event’s organizers. “The key is early detection. Breast cancer is curable if detected early.”

Apart from working with professional models and prominent ICanServe endorsers such as Dawn Zulueta, Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez, Amina Aranaz, Rissa Trillo, Agot Isidro and Bianca Elizalde, each designer was assigned to dress up one to three breast cancer survivors.

Veteran designer Lulu Tan Gan kicked off the show with a resort wear collection in her trademark knits as well as piña, silk and linen in colors like beige, lavender and baby pink.

A number of piña jackets were either printed or partially beaded, while a few pieces had three-dimensional floral appliqués.

Tan Gan dressed up cancer survivors Ann Puno, Bernie Aboitiz and Patty Betita in layered looks that combined lace, knit and silk.

“I’m moved and touched by just looking at these women and knowing that they survived feeling so well and looking so good,” said Tan Gan. “They have also become better persons who want to help each other.”

Eric delos Santos used a brocade-like white fabric with swirls of gold to fashion a collection consisting of long off-shoulder dresses, separates and jumpsuits.

He used silk and an overlay of soft embroidered and appliquéd tulle to create pieces for cancer survivor Toni Abad and endorsers Isidro and Trillo.


Newbie designer Maureen Disini used a wide range of fabrics, namely lace, silk gazar, tulle and laser-cut leather, to fashion 10 looks consisting of long dresses, ponchos and separates.

Except for cancer survivors Leah Caringal and Maritoni Fernandez, who wore updated versions of satin gowns in blush that harked back to the ’50s and ’60s, respectively, all of Disini’s models wore black.

“Black is admittedly a sad color, but it depends on how you interpret it,” Disini said. “But I was able to celebrate life through my two muses. Our directive was to use shades of pink for them to symbolize their triumph over breast cancer.”

Like her colleagues, Disini personally knew a number of women who either survived or succumbed to breast cancer. She dedicated her collection to a Houston-based Filipino friend who’s recuperating from the dreaded disease.

Kristel Yulo reinterpreted organdy,  turning some of her creations into woven accents. She also incorporated chiffon, lace and tulle with a hint of beadwork.

For her two muses, bag designer Aranaz and two-time cancer survivor Michelle Dayrit-Soliven, Yulo fashioned long, sleeveless dresses in hot pink organza.

“I’m honored to be part of this show and its advocacy,” said Yulo. “Two of my mom’s sisters and my dad’s sister passed away because of breast cancer. My mom is in constant fear of the disease. So, it’s something personal for us.”

Rajo Laurel used silk and stretch tulle in various shades of nude in 10 looks, including  fully beaded and tasseled pants and long dresses with overlays, strategic slits and partially exposed skin.

He did clingy nude dresses for Elizalde and for breast cancer survivor Julie Torres, mother of Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez.

For ICanServe cofounder and breast cancer survivor Crisann Celdran, Laurel’s classmate in college, the designer did a long dress in gray with pleated bodice and see-through inserts.

Rhett Eala

If Laurel presented some of the evening’s strongest pieces, Eala showed some of the most colorful ensembles through embroidery, hints of beadwork and his trademark hand painting techniques.

Eala used a range of materials such as organza, silk gazar, lace and tulle. Instead of confining embellishment purely to hand painting like he did in the past, he combined it this time with a bit of embroidery and beadwork.

To give the audience a break from all that color, he opted to dress  De Leon and breast cancer survivor Honasan in black. A writer, stage actress and self-described “dog mama,” Honasan strutted the catwalk in a jovial and triumphant mood.

Eala capped off the show on a high note with a classic red-carpet fuchsia number with a lace bodice and sweetheart neckline worn by Zulueta.

“Everything I do is personal,” said Eala, whose mother is also a breast cancer survivor. “I wanted to show a very optimistic collection. Black was just a breaker. I’m more into color now. In keeping with the occasion, this is a happy collection.”

Follow the author on Twitter and Instagram @alex_y_vergara

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