Mark Suralta Pabon’s earliest encounter with fashion was in the form of paper dolls.
“I remember making dresses for paper dolls when I was a kid,” said the young designer from Tantangan, South Cotabato.
This sparked his creativity and created a yearning for design, which inspired him to take a dressmaking course after high school.
Mark spent years learning the basics of the craft, techniques and methods at Hinigaran Technical Training Center and Koronadal Fashion Institute.
He also immersed himself in local fashion, working as assistant to a couturier in his city.
Looking back, he said, the best lesson he learned from all that is resilience.
“Every day is a learning experience and a challenge—I have to give every design a piece of my heart and commit to it,” he said.
Today, that wisdom has become his guiding light as he continues to pursue fashion, no matter the challenge.
Pabon’s skills and aesthetic blend tradition and innovation. His fresh takes on ethnic craftsmanship derive from the fact that he sees fashion not just a profession, but as an advocacy: “My design takes my heritage to the front row, with hopes to conserve the T’boli culture around me.”
The result is a range of dresses that is chic yet reflective of Mindanao—and these creations don’t look like costumes.
This gained him recognition in Moda Mindanao at SM Lanang Premier, Davao City’s longest-running fashion competition.
Humble embellishments, modest cuts and layers of fabric, and glass beads come together in wearable dresses that spark conversations about the wise use of indigenous fabric and unexpected modernity.
“I feel that the bright details in my dresses depict hope and renewal in Mindanao,” he said.
He hopes to grow in fashion enough to put his city on the map, while helping preserve the t’nalak weaving by popularizing it in his designs.
All this flourished from playing with paper dolls and believing in design that could bring a community into the future.
Photography Jerick Sanchez
Styling Luis Carlo San Juan
Makeup and Hairstyle Theresa Padin
Model Lou Yanong of PMAP