If you asked Fe Cabactulan what she was wearing, her cheeky reply would be, “Fruit salad.”
At the February 17 cocktail before Dita Sandico was to present her latest wrap collection, Cabactulan, the wife of the Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, wore a white pina dress topped by an earthy brown Sandico ‘abaca’ scarf made from banana fiber. “I’m wearing fruit salad!”
I love this woman! She’s loving her clothing and having fun with it. When was the last time we felt this way about what we wore to a party?
If you were at the Philippine Center that evening, Cabactulan proudly and elegantly wore her wrap. So did Eleanor de Leon, the wife of the consul general, and consular officials and staff. They wore their Sandico wrap as ‘panuelo,’ ‘tapis’ or over a black skirt or a pair of jeans. A few twists and knots and this piece of clothing becomes uniquely your own.
The fashion show called “Czarist Charms: Filipiniana Flirting with the Unorthodox” showcased the many ways this wrap can be worn – around the neck, at the waist, to cover the arms, or over the head as a visor. She was further inspired by the “light, airy and gossamer wings of the butterfly,” said Sandico.
“It’s similar to how the women in Russia wore their clothes,” she told The FilAm.
To those curious about the unusual fabric she uses, Sandico addressed all concerns:
Yes, they are made of indigenous banana and pina fiber.
No, they don’t bleed or fade.
Yes, they can be handwashed and dry-cleaned.
No, the pleats won’t smoothen out over time.
Yes, they are machine-washable.
No, they don’t cost an arm and a leg.
“My dream is to make Philippine abaca a stamp in the world of fashion,” said Sandico, who studied fashion merchandising in Tobe-Coburn School in New York after graduating with a fine arts degree from UP.
Seeing the real women in a Sandico was a testament to the wearability of her apparel. But watching the models on stage showed how Filipino women, wearing head-turning capes and dramatic opera coats, can radiate “czarist charm.”