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(Feature)PHL textile industry: Weaving the next level

By Ma. Cristina C. Arayata

MANILA, Jan. 28 (PNA) — Who are you wearing?

You may have noticed that in the fashion industry, the usual question goes "Who are you wearing?" instead of "What are you wearing?"

Some people may seem to know Chanel, Valentino, Kenneth Cole and Louboutin very well. Filipinos are proud to wear Francis Libiran, Monique Lhuiller and Michael Cinco and Rajo Laurel.

But how many would say he/she is wearing pina, hinabol and abaca? These days when people post their OOTD (outfit of the day) on social media, how many of them are sporting an outfit made from indigenous fibers?

This morning, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo shared that the country's textile industry faced some challenges in the past years. These include closure of hundreds of commercial mills, decline in local manufacturers, the influx of imported textile and apparel, plus the emergence of global brands penetrating the local market.

"There's a very low demand for handloomed fabrics because it is an undervalued skill and material," noticed Anya Lim, Anthill Fabrics Gallery managing director.

She added that there's no enabling environment for the younger generation to learn the craft. When Lim established Anthill Fabrics, she noticed that community weavers are mostly old women.

Lim thinks that one of the reasons why there's a weak cultural transmission of this craft is that people have a notion that a weave is a costume, and that it cannot be worn everyday.

"Why will I wear a placemat or a blanket? That's what people often say," she cited.

Working together; weaving the next level

To address the challenges, the DOST made sure science and technology (S&T) will be used to enhance the production of indigenous materials. In fact, the agency launched the Innovation Center for Yarns and Textiles (ICYT) last year.

Through S&T, the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI), one of its attached agencies, is now able to produce blended yarns of abaca and pineapple with 30 percent indigenous fiber content.

Montejo also shared that the agency can now produce fabrics with 20, 30, 40 percent indigenous yarn blends.

The DOST chief explained that this has significant implications for the finished product manufacturer, through a unique product prepositions.

"A local brand manufacturer has expressed interest in the abaca blend for knit possibilities; one other is working on a capsule collection with fabrics to be produced by provincial weavers; and another is working on design development of a fabric weave…," Montejo said.

He emphasized that the agency is looking at new paradigms on how the stakeholders, particularly the small and micro enterprises, may be enabled by technology to produce more and better at a lower cost.

Anthill Fabrics Gallery as an enterprise, on the other hand, offers contemporary designs that anyone can wear. It also customizes products and does a lot of collaborations.

Lim said Anthill Fabrics wants to address cultural degradation and sustainable livelihood. To do this, offers fabrics, apparel, even plush toys, to make sure the products are indeed for everyone.

She longs for the day when the youth would totally understand that wearing a weave isn't "baduy" (being off-fashion or of bad taste).

There are other advocates of Philippine textile such as Senator Loren Legarda and Jean Goulbourn, who clarified today that she's not a designer but a stylist.

When it comes to designs, Goulbourn suggested that one should not stick to the ancient, as this would not sell. She wants Filipino designers to be fearless.

Goulbourn showed interest in helping Anthill Fabrics Gallery in its advocacies and in improving its products. She is also interested to collaborate with Montejo and the PTRI.

Meanwhile, the PTRI has collaborated with Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) in creating a bi-lingual technical manual on handloom weaving.

Celia Elumba, PTRI director, said the manual will really help the weaving communities in taking the step by step process in weaving.

With these advocates and the DOST taking the Philippine textile to the next level, for sure their efforts would go a long way.

When time comes that somebody would ask what are we wearing, I hope we could proudly utter "pina", "abaca" or even "vegetable fiber". (PNA)

RMA/MCCA

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