By Pauline Faye Tria
A lot of people dream of becoming fashion designers. Some go to fashion school, some learn by themselves, but Havaianas distributor and businesswoman Marga Nograles became a fashion designer because of her desire to give back to her people.
Marga says she doesn’t consider herself a designer, as it has been an unexpected journey for her.
“It wasn’t something I planned, it just happened for me. I started with this brand, Kaayo, only because in the beginning, what I wanted to do was really just to help these tribes,” Marga says.
Kaayo is Marga’s own fashion line, which incorporates designs and styles from different tribes in Mindanao such as the Bagobo, T’boli, Mandaya, and the Maguindanaoan weavers.
Growing up around these tribes, she had had a lot of women come to her for help for their financial needs, and instead of giving them cash, Marga have decided to give them something even better—empowerment to make money for themselves.
She initially wanted to buy something the tribes had made such as their jackets, and she would sell them to her friends, which turned out to be a hit.
After realizing that there was a big market for tribal wear, Marga decided to collaborate with Mindanaoan tribes to create clothes. This is how her brand Kaayo was born.
Marga’s partnership with the tribes from Mindanao became the tribe’s source of livelihood, and every piece of clothing created by the tribes has a different story to tell.
“I’m in this business to bring in a little creativity and [so that] I’m able to help also,” she says.
Marga considers herself to be immensely blessed and, with that blessing, she says it’s time to give back.
Her style is always classic with a twist. A good fit with something more fun, such as an accent and, with her line Kaayo, she has found a way to mix her timeless taste with tinges of Mindanaoan fashion.
Born and raised in Davao, Marga says the reason she wanted to work with women from Mindanao is because she has known them for a long time.
“Why Mindanaoan fashion? That’s my roots. That’s who I am. What I wanted to do now was use these treasures that I have in Mindanao, and tweak [and] modernize it to make it wearable fashion for the Philippines and eventually outside the Philippines,” she says.
Working with Mindanaoan tribes, Marga uses their talents and cultures to bring her designs to life.
One example she cites is the Bagobo tribe. The Bagobo tribe has a certain way of beading that cannot be replicated. It is a well-kept secret within the tribe.
“I wanted to use this technique to make modern pieces to bring the Bagobos to the world. So they see the culture and the talent of Mindanao,” Marga says.
Her dream for Kaayo is to uplift Mindanao and bring its culture and talent to world attention. In the future, she plans to help Mindanao in terms of education, health, and more.
Among Marga’s favorite creations from her line are the crowd favorite tangkulo scarf from the Bagobo tribe, the mikado jacket from the T’boli tribe, the linen longsleeves from the Mandaya tribe, and her inaul ball skirt by the Maguindanao weavers.
“I just want to really uplift and make Mindanao a better place, and bring Mindanao up a pedestal because for the longest time, hindi kami pinapansin (we had not been given notice). Now is our time to shine, and now is the time to showcase the treasures we have and where we’re from,” Marga says.