Dubai: Filipino twins based in Dubai, once tailors, are now budding fashion designers.
Aaron Cadenas, 30, is the owner and creative director of his own fashion label while Aquiben, who was once an assistant and a tailor at a boutique in Manila and Dubai, now runs his own boutique and fashion label . In an interview with Gulf News, Aaron said he and his brother Aquiben are grateful for how far they’ve come.
But it was not without sacrifices.
“Life was hard”
Aaron said he and his twin were among 11 children in the Cadenas family. They lived in Bohol, a province of the Philippines, in the Central Visayas region of the country. This is where Aaron’s parents – mother Anecita and father Florentino – lived with their children.
“Life was very hard. My father was a farmer. Now he stays at home because he is too old to work in the fields. My mother did small sewing jobs at home. There were 13 mouths to feed. So you can imagine the stress we were in.
Aquiben said he and his twin were very close. “We were connected in our mother’s womb and we are connected on this Earth. We are also very similar in our interests.
He added that as children, he and Aaron watched their mother sew at home. “She had a manual sewing machine and we used to watch her peddle her sewing. It fascinated us when we were children. We also tried our hand at sewing,” he added.
Aaron said that when he was 15, he had to leave his hometown to look for a job in the capital, Manila. “I worked for a fashion designer based in Manila as an assistant. That’s where I learned everything. My first job was as an assistant. My brother and I learned everything there .
When Aaron turned 20, he was in emotional pain. “My family was going through difficult times. One day I was at home thinking about my family and crying. I couldn’t see my family suffering like this,” he said. “I felt responsible and wanted to do something more.”
He went online and looked for overseas jobs. The details of the agencies have appeared. An agent passed Aaron details of a tailoring job in Dubai. “The next thing we know, Aaron ended up paying the agent fee and sitting on a plane to Dubai,” Aquiben said. “I knew this job was important to Aaron and our family; so with a heavy heart, I said goodbye to him at the airport.
The twins were reunited three years later as Aaron decided to bring his brother to Dubai and find him a job. “Today, we are the main breadwinners of our family in the Philippines.”
Dress to impress
In 2018, Aaron designed a dress for a singer-actress who was performing at a concert in the Philippines and later in London. In the same year, Aquiben was chosen to be one of the fashion designers for the Bride Show Dubai. Two years later, Aaron was working with a renowned Filipino fashion designer for a show during the Philippines National Day.
More recently, Aaron’s designer dress won Best Costume at Mrs Universe Dubai. The costume, worn by a Filipina representing her country at the Mrs Universe event, won the beauty contest.
Aaron said: “The durable suit is made from woven date palm leaves. I incorporated pearls, shells, dried aromatic leaves to represent the culture of the United Arab Emirates. It was my way of turning an outfit woven from date palm leaves into a beautiful craft. This masterpiece put my name in the fashion industry.
“It was first won by a Filipino supermodel who is a champion of sustainability. It was also displayed in the Philippines pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Message to their people
Aquiben said the Filipino community is very caring and close-knit. “We continue to be there for each other. We leave our loved ones and come here to improve the lives of our families. Let’s create our own families here in the UAE and take care of each other.
Aaron said: “Nothing in life is easy. It’s all about hard work. I work hours and hours on a piece. It’s my passion that drives me. So dare to dream and dream big. He Reaching your goal is never easy, but remember why you started it all in the first place.When you do, everything falls into place.