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Sumpa kita, Sampaguita

By MARBBIE TAGABUCBA, The Philippine Star Published Dec 10, 2020 4:00 pm

We send flowers to show that we care. When Vanilla Arucan’s friend caught COVID-19 and had to be quarantined at home, the young graphic designer instead sent a screen printed flower print. This caring gesture is what inspires the three scarves in her capsule collection with womenswear brand D’elle, in line with its second anniversary.

Sumpa kita. The sampaguita that appears in the scarves gets its name from a heartfelt promise. Distinctly sweet and heady, you don’t have to see its waxy white blooms, delicately perched on glossy green foliage, to know it’s there.

It’s the same with Vanilla’s sampaguitas for D’elle, painted in fluid strokes of black and cream, not unlike the taijitu, a symbol of yin and yang, to inspire a sense of harmony and balance.

 Vanilla Arucan

Months into the pandemic, scarves have gone from a stylish gesture to become the most hardworking fashion accessory. Worn as a head wrap, it conceals hair regrowth from months without salon appointments in lockdown. It’s even worn as a makeshift face mask. Vanilla wears hers as a no-brainer tube top, folding it into three and securing it around her back with a tight knot. She has another one that spruces up a nook in her workspace. It’s even beautiful enough to be framed.

“If you Google ‘sampaguita,’ there’s not really just one look, which I think is so cool for flowers. I found an image of a pair of sampaguitas that looked like they were dancing,” she shares. “That, as well as Matisse’s ‘Dance,’ was the inspiration for one of the scarves.”

Vanilla made fashion headlines in June when she tugged on nostalgia and reimagined the ubiquitous Good Morning towel onto abaca face masks for a collaboration with design collective Rada Collab.

Good Morning towels, named as such for the red, cursive “Good Morning” print in English and Chinese, are synonymous with the most hardworking of us. They’re fast-absorbent, they’re simple, and they’re light and easy to carry. Now that face masks are essential and life-saving, her well-designed Good Morning mask couldn’t be more fitting.

Starting out as a kid “projecting (graphic design) as a smokescreen to conceal” her shyness, the self-taught designer who has released a zine with independent publishing lab Kwago and interned at Bellas Artes Projects is growing up with her work, extending her creative expression beyond a digital screen where she’s taught herself how to silkscreen and do rubber carving during this pandemic.

“Growing up and learning more, I realized that (graphic design) was much more than putting elements together and making them look pretty, it also had to provide solutions and make sense.”

At the heart of her work is a caring heart for others, even if it’s finding different ways to send flowers.

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Vanilla Arucan x D’elle scarves are available in limited stocks until March 2021 via DM @d.Elle studios on Instagram. Ten percent of sales is fully dedicated to Sabokahan Unity of Lumad Women, a women-led grassroots organization by Liyang Network that strives to protect and empower fellow Lumad women and advance Indigenous women’s rights.