Gabbie Sarenas’ “Tanan” Collection is a Celebration of Eternal Love

Gabbie Sarenas’ Ode to Eternal Romance for Bench Fashion Week S/S 2024

Youthful radiance: fresh-faced makeup looks complement Gabbie Sarenas’ “Tanan” collection. Photo by Kim Angela Santos

The tagline of Gabbie Sarenas’ label is “A Love Letter to the Philippines.” When asked if she thinks Filipinos are inherently romantic, Sarenas tells Vogue Philippines, “I think we have a lot of fantasies.” In her newest collection for Bench Fashion Week S/S 2024, Sarenas explores the fantasy of escaping challenging circumstances to pursue love, and what it says about how Filipinos view love as a people.

In Carlos Siguion-Reyna’s 1991 film, “Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit,” the tumultuous journey of two star-crossed lovers, marred by the rigid confines of social class and the relentless onslaught of tragedy, culminates in a breathtaking montage. Amidst the backdrop of beautiful rolling hills made to represent the afterlife, the two main characters appear blissfully in love as they traverse the picturesque landscape to the song “Hanggang sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan” by Richard Reynoso, illustrating that their love has finally transcended circumstance.

The film was one of the main inspirations for Gabbie Sarenas’ collection for Bench Fashion Week S/S 2024. In creating the looks for this collection, Sarenas imagined what the characters in “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit” would wear in modern times.

Designer Gabbie Sarenas and model Joyce Oreña backstage at Bench Fashion Week S/S 2024.  Photo by Kim Angela Santos

The collection, entitled “Tanan,” meaning “elopement,” consisted of delicately embroidered garments in light, neutral tones that were hand dyed to give it a vintage, inherited look, adding to the characterization of lovers going on a spontaneous yet deliberate adventure to pursue their love. 

The exploration of elopement and romantic escape in Sarenas’ “Tanan” shows a facet of love in Filipino culture that is rarely seen in fashion. The concept of elopement in the Philippines is multi-faceted: in a country where religion, cultural norms and traditions, and family values play a central role in the lives of individuals, the decision to elope can be met with mixed reactions from relatives and the general public.

Staying true to the label, the “Tanan” collection is composed of pieces with Gabbie Sarenas’ signature botanical embroidery designs.  Photo by Kim Angela Santos
Keeping it soft and simple. Models at Gabbie Sarenas’ showcase for Bench Fashion Week S/S 2024 sported sleek low buns and simple hairstyles. Photo by Kim Angela Santos

In Filipino media such as the 2012 teleserye “Walang Hanggan,which is loosely based on “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit,” the decision to elope is shown as a pivotal romantic plot point, where characters seeking autonomy, authenticity, and intimacy devoid of the constraints of traditional marriage are finally able to celebrate their love in the purest form. When asked if she thinks Filipinos are inherently romantic, Sarenas answers, “I think we have a lot of fantasies.” 

Sarenas says media produced by LVN Pictures and Sampaguita Pictures, two well known Filipino film studios which portrayed romance in film in the 40s and 50s are manifestations of Filipino romantic fantasies. “It’s something that takes you out of your mundane life and your nine-to-five. When you watch TV, you’re taken out of that and you’re made to feel your feelings.” 

“I think we [as Filipinos] have a lot of love. We do things with a lot of love.” Sarenas expounds. “Malasakit (solicitude) with the details— that’s who we are as people.” 

Gabbie Sarenas and model Joyce Oreña preparing backstage.  Photo by Kim Angela Santos

Love is a thread that runs through Sarenas’ label. The brand’s tagline, “A Love Letter to the Philippines,” displays the designer’s commitment not only to producing fashion inspired by the Philippines, but also to cultural preservation. Sarenas exemplifies the importance of uplifting Filipino textiles and dressmaking techniques in her label to protect Filipino heritage. “These skills have to be passed down, they cannot be replicated. These processes have to be well documented [through fashion] because all of these will become artifacts, [through these] foreigners will then try to understand why we do the things we do, and why these clothes are made the way they are.” 

As a designer, Sarenas grows a garden of her own work, continuously improving and creating new iterations of her well-loved designs. After joining Ternocon 2023, Sarenas invested into improving her skills as a designer, taking pattern making, terno making, and menswear classes, among others. “I always want to progress and level up in my technical skills and taste level,” Sarenas shares. “You owe it to yourself to learn even when you have to go back to basics, because you can improve on a lot of things with your experiences.” 

Gabbie Sarenas took inspiration from stories of her clients who were getting married. Photo by Kim Angela Santos

Sarenas says all of her collections are children to her, in a way. “It’s like the film Meet the Robinsons— you want your very first collection to be the best. But, I’m still very proud of each and every one [of my collections]. If I’m not proud of them, they won’t come out.” Sarenas says. “Reflecting on it, I can say that there’s a lot of growth.” 

In contrast to previous collections, “Tanan” exudes a palpable sense of joy and happiness. The pieces in the Tanan collection are as delicate as a lover’s touch. Sarenas says that the collection also took inspiration from her clients’ personal anecdotes, most of whom were couples about to get married. “When I ask them, how did you two meet? They always have the same look— they’re so smitten in love.” Sarenas says. 

This inspiration is evident in the youthful radiance of the collection. During the show, the models were styled very minimally with plain soled shoes and no accessories. For the models’ looks, Sarenas opted for slicked back, low buns for the female models, with natural, barely there makeup, capturing the simplicity and tenderness of romance.

Gabbie Sarenas backstage at Bench Fashion Week S/S 2024.  Photo by Kim Angela Santos
Ethereal, nostalgic, and romantic: the Gabbie Sarenas showcase at Bench Fashion Week S/S 2024 tells a story about the subtleties of love. Photo by Kim Angela Santos

The elegant tenderness that permeates through Sarenas’ design is an invitation to explore Filipino culture up close. With this collection, Sarenas reels audiences in with the intricate details. “We are so much more than the loud fiestas and festivities. We want to show [the parts of our culture] that are not that strong, and I hope [we make it] strong,” Sarenas says.

Prior to the show, Sarenas shares a playlist with Vogue Philippines consisting of music which helped inspire the collection, including songs such as “Hanggang sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan” by Basil Valdez, “Panalangin” by Apo Hiking Society, and “Young Hearts Run Free” by Candi Staton. As the showcase on the first day of Bench Fashion Week S/S 2024 culminated with the upbeat tempo of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”, the timeless anthem of love and escapism underscored Sarenas’ snapshot of Filipino romance and her outlook on design: endlessly inspired, nostalgic, romantic, unafraid and excited to venture into new adventures. 

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