Culture is defined by many aspects, which includes clothes and ways of dressing. Heritage fashion seeks not only to preserve local textile traditions and promote craftsmen, but also use these for stylish pieces in tune with current trends.
“We don’t want to be so ethnic because we can’t wear ethnic all the time. We want to just wear clothes that are sustainable, slow fashion, wearable, comfortable and breathable. So it’s all Filipino. I don’t have to go around screaming, ‘Hey look! I’m wearing Filipiniana.’ No. Every thing we should be wearing is Filipiniana. So, this is where we’re coming from,” said Jeannie Javelosa, co-founder of the GREAT Women (GW) brand.
GW initiated the Heritage Fashion Show, parading pieces culled from and curated by women micro-entrepreneurs, indigenous peoples and popular designers at the Shangri-La Plaza mall for its month-long celebration, “Likha.”
Javelosa said heritage fashion preserves culture and also revitalizes it through sustainable apparel. The latter and slow fashion may appear antithetical to ever-changing trends and mass-produced fashion, but this is a sound practice, according to her.
“Because in today’s world, it’s all fast. You want to change your clothes; you want to throw it away. It goes into landfills. In the global world, textile is a second industry with the greatest environmental issue. The first is food. So, we want to stay there and make a statement that we have to be sustainable in our fashion,” Javelosa explained.
GW’s advocacy also hopes to protect local weavers from the onslaught of global brands in the local market. As part of anticipated pop-up event, “Filipino Flavors and Fabrics: A GREAT Women Festival of Homegrown Food and Design,” the show also highlights eco-conscious fashion, which encourages slower production schedules, lower carbon footprint and importantly, fair wages for the producers.
“With big global brands coming in, what happens to our very poor weavers? If you don’t give them jobs, the heritage of which they are known for slowly dies. Right? So, this is where we’re at. I know it’s a harder position. It’s an upward climb. And nowadays, we’re riding on the fact that people love the idea of using Filipino. But more than Filipino, let us make it wearable.”
Through the event, Javelosa said these weavers are given market access.
“Because Great Women is focused on textiles, specifically, handwoven textiles from indigenous communities and women cooperatives all around the country, we feel that the next part of the value chain is always that of a designer touching base with our weavers as well as our own GW collection coming out into a space,” she added.
“Normally, they’ll never be able to come up here, right? But part of the supply chain is to make sure to fill the gaps that are lacking for them like financial inclusion, product development, kinds of coloration threads, all the angles of marketing, the lifestyle — that’s the work we do. It’s a full supply chain and we look at all the gaps. So, when you look at my pants, these are Bagobo. But it doesn’t look like a Bagobo pair of pants. It’s very contemporary already. So, we want to make sure that we’re revitalizing because there’s a revival.”
GW emphasizes innovation without sacrificing traditional weaving.
“They keep their culture as is. At some point, you may want your jacket to be softer, because we’re even looking at the usability. The kind of textiles for the home are different from textiles for shirts or pants. It depends on how you weave. So, we weave really tight as it tightens the material. If you weave softer with less threads, it softens the material. So, usability and functionality is another thing.”
Javelosa agreed that there is no textile industry in the country, but her group is helping in its development.
“Yes, we have no textile industry in the Philippines. That’s what we’re trying to develop. We have a lot of people from India and China to put up big factories. What happens to our small community people? That’s where we’re coming from. We want to make them level up and find an in-between phase which is standardized and ready for the international market, but without killing them to become factories. That’s my aim.
“We need to make a stand for artisan and community-based because behind all these are people’s lives, of women and children’s next generation’s lives. If we do not make a stand for what the GW means, we’re just like anybody else,” she said.
Aside from GREAT Women’s own collection, collaborators included fashion designer Rhett Eala, accessories brand Adante Leyesa, bag makers Fino Leatherware and LARA, shoe artisan Ai-She and clothing label Tygie.
Wardrobe and accessories with contemporary Filipiniana looks come from merchants like Beth Agarao, and support indigenous artisan labels like Angie’s Yakan Cloth, Cowhed, and K’Datu Souvenirs. Bidibidi bags combine traditional crafting techniques and upcycled materials.
Aside from the amazing fashion, the festival offered a delicious selection of local products such as Secret Kitchen of Samar delicacies, Pamora Farms frozen produce and Proudly Promdi beverages.
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