In Mindanao, Modern Design Is Rooted In Tradition

Photo by Borgy Angeles

From Mindanao-based designers Toping Zamora, Xioti Chiu, Daryl Tejano, and Mark Suralta Pabon, traditional textiles are reimagined in sleek, contemporary cuts.

There are stories woven in our textiles. The T’nalak textile of the T’boli of South Cotabato, for one, is believed to be patterned after visions that appeared to them in dreams. If a garment is a ghost of all the lives its wearer might have led, textiles are thresholds to our visual past. Under Mark Suralta Pabon’s guiding hand, the T’nalak is formed and fabricated anew, reflecting modern sensibilities while connecting its wearer to a people’s deeply rooted history.

Based in Davao, Toping Zamora fuses his ornate beadwork and contemporary cuts with Mindanaoan weaving patterns. From Davao del Sur, Xioti Chiu works closely with weavers in his community to preserve tradition, crafting vibrant, tailored suiting and streetwear using the textile Inaul of Maguindanao. Agusan del Sur’s Daryl Tejano, on the other hand, uses passed-down techniques from his grandmother to fashion future-forward silhouettes inspired by anime.

For its November issue, Vogue Philippines takes a survey across the Philippine islands to discover the work of the designers of our times. Below, discover the four talents that hail from Mindanao. 

Toping Zamora (Davao)

Toping Zamora’s modern terno design.
Photo by Borgy Angeles

Davao is a melting pot of Mindanaoan culture, and growing as a community with the indigenous tribes is what inspires Toping Zamora. He highlighted the visual codes of beadwork in polymer clay appliqué and scuba crepe as the only Mindanao-based designer at the 2020 edition of Ternocon. “I want to empower the indigenous community through contemporary fashion,” he says. Winning the 2018 Kadayawan Ball introduced him to the industry, while the Stellar Mindanao Heritage Fashion Designer of The Year 2019 started his artisan focus. During the Budayaw Fashion Show 2019 at Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia, he shone the spotlight on the intricate weaving patterns of Mindanao and put the region’s weaving techniques on the map.

Xioti Chiu (Davao del Sur)

Xioti Chiu’s designs made of Inaul textile.
Photo by Borgy Angeles

Xioti Chiu calls himself a “designurse.” A nurse by profession, the fashion designer stood out with a ready-to-wear collection inspired by India when he won the Look of Style award in 2014. Nearly a decade in, his inspiration comes closer to home as he incorporates the textile Inaul of Maguindanao into streetwear silhouettes. Being an educator at the School of Arts and Fashion is in line with his “passion, vocation, and mission to help the fashion community, especially in Southern Mindanao, and to young designers,” he declares. As the director of the Fashion Designers Alliance Mindanao Chapter, he is collaborating with a weaving community to create upcycled textiles that not only preserve the tradition, but also move toward a sustainable future.

Daryl Tejano (Agusan del Sur)

Daryl Tejano’s strong female-inspired fashion apparel.
Photo by Borgy Angeles

Costume design is all about communicating a character the moment they step onto the scene, which is where Daryl Tejano’s interest in fashion started by way of strong female characters in anime. His curiosity grew from illustration to dressmaking, learning while observing his grandmother sewing clothes, until a competition in his municipality cemented his design dreams. Tejano is still completing his formal education as part of the pioneering batch of the Philippine Fashion Academy in Davao City under Xioti Chiu. His cyberpunk pieces have already made their way to Thailand Fashion Week 2021, and he’s just getting started.

Mark Suralta Pabon (South Cotabato)

Mark Suralta Pabon’s T’nalak contemporary design.
Photo by Borgy Angeles

The T’boli of South Cotabato are best known for their T’nalak, a patterned abaca textile so anchored in rituals and ceremonies. Mark Suralta Pabon weaves cultural pride into every stitch by incorporating the T’nalak into contemporary pieces that exude the dignified sophistication it was intended for. “South Cotabato has a very diverse culture and unique people and it is reflected in my work through contemporary design,” he says. He has won MoDa Mindanao in 2017 and Habi Kadayawan in 2019, but his truest victory is the growing support the community now receives, especially at his atelier in Koronadal.


Vogue Philippines: November 2023 Issue


By MARBBIE TAGABUCBA. Photographs by BORGY ANGELES. Styling by DARYL CHANG. Introduction by CHELSEA SARABIA. Makeup: Angeline Dela Cruz. Hair: Miggy Carbonilla. Models: Lulu Eslao of Luminary Models, Martha Raagas of Luminary Models, Siobhan Moylan. Nails: Extraordinail. Producer: Anz Hizon. Photographer’s Assistant: Pao Mendoza. Stylist’s Assistants: Neil De Guzman, Ticia Almazan, Renee De Guzman. Makeup Assistant: Jian Santos. Hair Assistant: John Dave Villalino. Intern: Sophia Lanawan. Shot on location at Ito Kish Cafe. Special thanks to Ito Kish

More From Vogue

Share now on:
FacebookXEmailCopy Link