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Filipino twins Aquiben Escatron Cadenas (left) and Aaron Escatron Cadenas. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai-based Filipino twins, once tailors, are now budding fashion designers.

Aaron Cadenas, 30, is an owner and creative director of his own fashion label while Aquiben, who was once a helper and tailor at a shop in Manila and Dubai, today runs his own shop and fashion label. In an interview with Gulf News, Aaron said he and his brother Aquiben are grateful for how far they have come.

But it was not without sacrifices.

‘Life was hard’

Aaron said he and his twin are among 11 children in the Cadenas family. They lived in Bohol, a province of the Philippines, in the country’s Central Visayas region. It was there that Aaron’s parents – mother Anecita and father Florentino – lived with their children.

“Life was very hard. My father was a farmer. Now he is staying at home as he is too old to work in the fields. My mother did small tailoring work at home. There were 13 mouths to feed. So you can imagine the stress we were in.”

Aquiben said he and his twin are very close. “We were connected in our mother’s womb and we are connected on this Earth. We are very similar in our interests too.”

He added that as children, he and Aaron would watch their mother stitch at home. “She had a manual sewing machine and we used to watch her peddle her stitch through. It fascinated us as children. We tried a hand at stitching too,” 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 Manila-based fashion designer as a helper. That is where I learnt everything. My first job was that of a helper. My brother and I learnt everything there.”

Financial burden

When Aaron turned 20, he was in emotional pain. “My family was going through hardship. One day I was at home thinking about my family and crying. I could not see my family suffer this way,” he said. “I felt responsible and wanted to do something more.”

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Gerryl Gaid sporting an Aaronic Atelier sustainability costume. Image Credit: Supplied

He went online and searched for jobs abroad. Details of agencies popped up. One agent forwarded Aaron details of a tailoring job in Dubai. “Next thing we know, Aaron found himself paying the agent fees and sitting on a plane to Dubai,” Aquiben said. “I knew this job was important for 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 bread winners of our family back 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. The same year Aquiben was picked to be one of the fashion designers for Bride Show Dubai. Two years later, Aaron was working with renowned Filipino fashion designer for a show on Philippines National Day.

More recently, Aaron’s designer dress won best costume at Mrs Universe Dubai. The costume, which was worn by a Filipino representing her country at the Mrs Universe event, came out a winner at the beauty pageant.

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A Garimon Roferos abaya at Bride Abu Dhabi in June 2019. Image Credit: Supplied

Aaron said: “The sustainable costume is made of woven date palm leaves. I embedded pearls, seashells, dried aroma leaves to represent the culture of UAE. It was my way of transforming a woven date palm leaf outfit into a beautiful craft. This masterpiece put my name in the fashion industry.

“It was first won by a Philippines top model who is a sustainability champion. It was also displayed in the Philippines pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.”

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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 make life better for our families. Let’s make our own families here in the UAE and care for each other.”

Aaron said: “Nothing comes easy in life. It is all about hard work. I work hours and hours on a piece. It is my passion that drives me. So dare to dream and dream big. It is never easy to get to your goal but remember why you started it all in the first place. When you do, everything falls in place.”