Finding oneself in fashion

“WHEN something is meant to be yours, it will always find its way to you,” is a quote that relates to one Dirkie Roa Dabbay, a Kagay-anon fashion designer, after he went through a long journey of looking for his passion and once lost himself in love, found his way into fashion.

Dabbay always has his heart set into art, particularly in illustration and design, ever since in high school as his classmates look for him to design their dresses for prom.

“It started in high school na during prom season with my girl classmates na since nabantayan na gyud nila na hilig ko mag drawing, ingon sila nga ‘ok, design a dress for me.’ Mao dayun to, mag design-design ko saila, dad-on nila sa ilang mga mananahi,” Dabbay said.

After graduating high school in 2002, he wanted a career in media, however, he did not pass the entrance exam at De La Salle University in Manila.

He was, then, encouraged by his parents to take up nursing, as nurses at that time were in demand. But after a semester in Centro Escolar, Dabbay told himself that nursing “is not for me.”

With his mind and heart set for the creative industry, Dabbay shifted to interior design and studied for a year in the Philippine School of Interior Design (PSID).

However, “Parang kulang pa rin sya. For me, I felt like it was too restrictive, the lines that we had to make were all too straight for me,” Dirkie said.

It was during that time when a good friend of his, who was into photography, formed a team consisted of said friend’s sister, who was a makeup artist, and their mutual friend, a stylist.

Dirkie, after learning that their stylist friend was pregnant and can’t continue with her work, took over the job for styling and found himself loving the feel of handling clothes.

“That’s when it started na parang ‘Wow, I really like handling clothes.’ It was really my friends who encouraged me na parang ‘Why don’t you take up a career in fashion?’“ Dirkie shared.

His journey in searching for a college meant for him did not stop in PSID.

He enrolled in Business Management majoring in Fashion Design at Southville International School and Colleges Manila. But he found it too much in the business side with almost no creative part.

As such, he enrolled and studied in fashion La Salle College International (LCI) for a year.

Dirkie was, then, hired by a couture house called New Yorker PVR, located in San Lorenzo village, Makati. He worked as an illustrator and designer for them for almost two years.

Dirkie went back to school in LCI and pursued the last year of his college there and after graduating, he worked as an assistant stylist in Saga Events Inc.

“Didto na dayun na murag ‘This is what I really like, this is what I really love. I really enjoyed doing this.’ Although in styling medyo kapoy because of all the pull outs, all the returns and taking care of all the clothes. Pero it was fun because I got to meet all these super talented people in the industry,” Dirkie said.

He returned to Cagayan de Oro City in 2009 and started designing and making dresses for clients, mostly his friends, after receiving encouragements from his family and peers.

In 2010, he worked as an instructor in Fashion Institute of the Philippines in Cagayan de Oro.

However, after almost two years of teaching in FIP, he fell in love with an Italian guy he met in Manila and dropped everything in Cagayan de Oro because he was “so enamored by him.”

“I was young then parang I would think na I’ll give up everything in the name of love,” Dirkie shared.

He was 27 years old when he fell in love. Dirkie was in a relationship with the guy for four years and also worked for him as his corporate secretary.

And yet Dirkie, who still loves fashion, still find his heart searching for the spark of his passion and found his work too corporate, something that limited his creative side.

“I slowly lost myself in the relationship na parang I had no creative output. It was all too corporate for my own good. Didto, I went through a really bad depression, I has to go through therapy for like 3 months. It became really bad taman na I had to break it off fro his sake and my sake also,” Dirkie said.

Despite of breaking up, Dirkie and his now ex-boyfriend are still friends.

Dirkie went back to Cagayan de Oro City in 2015. It was only after two years of undergoing healing retreat that he found himself back into making clothes, back to fashion.

“It’s the only thing I know how to do well so balikan nako siya. Then, I decided why I don’t focus on men’s wear,” he said.

“It started with friends again and it built up until the next thing he know, he’s already part of the annual Mindanao Fashion Summit. It all like just slowly fell into place,” he added.

Apart from his family, his friends in Cagayan de Oro City, one of them was Angela Soriano, played a huge part in pushing him back to and igniting his passion for fashion.

“Angela Soriano, she really made me realize how much potential I had, that I can still go back to fashion. She’s also the one who recommended me to join the Designer’s Assembly, a branch of OFDG (Oro Fashion Designers Guild) for younger and up and coming designers in Cagayan de Oro,” Dirkie said.

Dirkie has been participating in the Mindanao Fashion Summit and doing collaboration with fellow designer Angela Soriano like the private viewing fashion show which was held last December 17 at Minindal Cuisine in Upper Camaman-an, Cagayan de Oro City.

There were plans for him to participate in another event, the Spring-Summer fashion show, still initiated by Soriano.

Dirkie, who loves going to beaches, also planned to become the go to designer for resort wear.

“I really wanted to get into resort wear because if I were to design clothes for women, stronger ko for resort wear rather than kaning formal wear. Plus it’s also really in my personality kaning resort wear because I love the beach so much. Like kung pwede ko magpa-dagat, every week magpa-dagat ko,” Dirkie said.

In the future, Dirkie wants to study in Parsons School of Design, an art and design school in New York City, and to have his own design studio in the city but, at the moment, he’s relying on referrals rather than walk-ins.

“If I open a studio, I can have walk-ins aside from referrals. That’s better business for me. Pero I’m still working on the capital,” Dirkie said.

“I just wanna really focus on putting my name out there more,” he added.

Despite the long journey full of self-discovery and occasional heart breaks, Dirkie still found himself back to the one thing that seems to be constant for him: fashion.


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