By Liza Ilarde
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I met Christian Louboutin in 1996, when he came to Manila to attend the launch of his shoes at Rustan’s. He was an affable gentleman, so easy to talk to, not at all intimidating. He was, after all, the It Shoe Designer at the time. Today, his name is synonymous to impossibly chic shoes—and bags.
Last November, he returned to Manila, his first trip back since the Rustan’s launch in the ’90s. He was here not to promote anything really, and when a dinner was set up with the country’s lifestyle editors and influencers, the agenda was… nothing. Just a get-together with no pressure to report on it. (Unfortunately, I was out of the country, so I missed my reunion with Mr. Louboutin.)
Fast forward to two weeks ago when the secret was revealed: the real reason Christian Louboutin was in the Philippines! His new bag collection called Manilacaba, which incorporates multiple textiles from indigenous peoples around the country, was launched. The weaves include the hablon, on which the designer’s logo is embroidered; the bold-hued patadyong, on which one strap is attached; and the geometric-patterned yakan, found on one panel of the large tote; among other weaves, as well as embellishments like mother-of-pearl buttons, metal spikes, iridescent sequins, and whimsical jeepney embroidery. (And if you get the chance to see the bag in person, take a peek inside at the eye-popping jeepney-print lining!)
So how did this happen? Maritess Tantoco-Enriquez, a director and member of the board of Rustan’s Commercial Corporation, recalls that Christian, who’s a friend, called her nearly a year ago. “He called to ask if I could put him in touch with people who worked together to help elevate women,” she said. “So I connected him with Jeannie Javelosa and Alex Mendoza of GREAT Women.” GREAT (which stands for Gender Responsive Economic Action for the Transformation of) Women is a platform that empowers women entrepreneurs, providing them with training and mentoring programs to help them thrive in their businesses on a global scale.
The limited-edition bags are available in two designs. According to the official press release, Piloutin honors the natural wonders of the seas surrounding the Philippines, the islands’ treasures, and the shimmering seabed; while the Artemistrap imagines you swimming through pristine waters and exploring the multicolored coral reefs. Only 10 of each style are available worldwide, and for every purchase, 10 percent of the benefits will be donated to the initiative to contribute to its development.
The Manilacaba bags will be exclusively available at Rustan’s Makati.