Shaping Iloilo Fashion

Last April 23–29, it was Fashion Revolution week — an advocacy campaign led by Fashion Revolution to advocate for a sustainable fashion industry. In participation of this week, Global Shapers Iloilo Hub held a #ShapingFashion huddle last April 26 in partnership with Iloilo-based designer and one of the founding members of the Fashion & Design Council of the Philippines, Pj Arañador.

His charming Wawa Heritage Restaurant in Jaro, Iloilo City was a perfect venue. Huddled in a cozy dining area, we watched a few videos from the #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign and started an interesting discussion about the history of fashion in Iloilo.

Video from FashionRevolution.org

Fashion in Iloilo?

Yes, you read that right. Did you know Iloilo was once known as the textile capital of the Philippines? Even way before the Spanish occupation (1521–1898), Iloilo had a rich tradition in trading textiles, and eventually developed its own weaving industry which gave rise to the hablon — Iloilo’s trademark textile.

Image Source from Project Iloilo: http://projectiloilo.com/hablon-love-weave/

Amidst the heritage pieces around us, Sir PJ’s recollection of fashion history in our city and province felt like a time machine winding us back. But if you walk along the downtown streets of Calle Real, you can still see the living traditions of Iloilo fashion right before your eyes. These are most personified by the dynamic mananahi (people — mostly women — who sew clothes).

As young Ilonggos, we grew up with our parents and grandparents who always go to their family mananahi or sastre (dressmaker) whenever they needed a new piece of clothing. Today, rarely do young people avail of custom-made clothing unless it is for special occasions like weddings, graduations, debuts, or pageants. We then talked about how young people need to support this craft more in order to sustain it.

"Crafts keep the soul of a place alive!" — PJ Arañador

Unfortunately, like many handmade arts, enticing the new generation, especially the children of mananahi, weavers and embroiderers, remains a challenge. It also does not help that the modern Ilonggos’s closet is peppered with clothing made from China. Mostly bought from our foreign retail stores in the malls or in the neighborhood ukay-ukay.

Painting by Ilonggo artist Kinno Florentino (Image by Rhick Albay: https://maverhick.blogspot.com/2016/08/tumandok-threads.html?m=1)

If the youth can support locally-made clothing and even the specialty craft like kalado embroidery and the hablon weaving tradition, then we can help sustain these living heritage practices that make us who we are. What if we have a culture of wearing something Filipino everyday, then we can support local crafts.

I remember this painting by Ilonggo artist Kinno Florentino. He envisioned the modern Ilongga walking the streets in a fashion statement inspired by the Panay Bukidnon tribe. I personally am looking forward to more Iloilo designers make affordable modern clothing like these — inspired by our local tradition.

Sir PJ holding a Barong Tagalaog with “Kalado” embroidery

The good thing is we have institutions who are recognizing the importance of keeping traditions alive while still being relevant in the modern times. Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT U) for example has a new course dedicated to the local fashion industry. They are also reviving cotton weaving industry in Iloilo. There’s also the Escuela de Artisans, Sir PJ’s school that is dedicated to keep the local crafts alive by teaching it to the new generation.

But on a more practical level, fashion is also about lifestyle and everyday living. After all, clothing is one of the most basic human needs. So a discussion about fashion is not exclusive for a “fashionista”. It’s for everyone. While I am also an advocate for slow and ethical fashion, I also personally just want to know how I can declutter my closet without adding a pile in the landfill. This was also part of the discussion — Circular Fashion — where we think consciously about our wardrobe choices.

A ‘circular fashion consumer’ is a person who appreciates the true value of a garment, a pair of shoes, or accessory, including all work that lies behind and all precious natural resources that have been used throughout its supply chain. He/she aims to hold on to its belongings for as long as possible, and to use them a maximum number of times during their lifetime. In all, he/she wishes to contribute to a fashion industry that is ‘circular as opposed to linear’, in which nothing goes to waste and everything is utilized, reutilized, repurposed and recycled in the most effective and sustainable manner possible. — http://www.greenstrategy.se/what-is-circular-fashion-2/

Indeed, joining the #FashionRevolution has several dimensions, and it can be done by anyone! These are some of the call-to-action ideas from our #ShapingFashion huddle:

1. Starting a Circular Fashion movement in Iloilo

  • Instead of discarding your clothing, learn how to upcycle! We can do clothes swapping and engage local establishments to be “centers” where Ilonggos can swap clothes and prevent them from going to the landfills.
  • Try to create a “minimalist” wardrobe. There is this movement that challenges one to live off a wardrobe of only 30 pieces — less clothing and footwear, but uncompromising in living your own style!

2. Wear something local everyday!

  • The only way for our crafts to survive is if they have a market. If we create a habit of wearing something local everyday, and convince more to do it, we can raise awareness and increase the chances of the local artisans to sustain their crafts.

3. Create a directory for our mananahi

  • There are actually a number of Ilonggos (even among the youth) who would love to have everyday clothing sewn or made. But we just don’t know where they are. How about by using the power of the internet and social media, we collate a directory of local sastres, mananahi, embroiderers, etc. so we know where to go! There is a local startup that is building this so this is promising.

We hope to make this happen!

Thank you once again to Sir PJ Arañador for hosting this gathering and for imparting his wisdom and insights on #ShapingFashion. And thanks as well to everyone who participated!

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Written for #ShapingIloilo, an initiative of Global Shapers Iloilo Hub

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