A social design experience

B HIVE - Bianca Salonga -

Given a highly globalized environment today, we are seeing more designers and renowned labels using fabrics from other parts of the world like Africa and Asia. Names like Dries van Noten and Marc Jacobs, for instance, have been known to utilize exotic luxurious materials such as Indian embroidery, African damask or Scottish tweeds to create stunning pieces that, season after season, are celebrated the world over.

This new era in world fashion, if anything, poses as an opportunity for local weaving communities and creative talents to take on a more active role in defining the future of fashion. It was also with these considerations in mind that the Fashion Design Council of the Philippines (FDCP) organized Weaving the Future: A Social Design Competition. The main objective of this initiative was to encourage designers and local artisans like embroiderers, carvers and weavers to collaborate and ultimately create community-based livelihood. Additionally, the competition also aimed to further promote local weaves like abel, piña, Mindanao silk and hablon, among many others, by creating innovative pieces that are sustainable and adaptable to mainstream fashion.

Grand prize winner (apparel division) Roland Alzate develops a new fabric, polyhemp piña, to come up with a modern and chic collection called Salmagundi.

Throughout the competition, an impressive roster of 19 young and aspiring designers presented their collections, which they were able to complete by working alongside local communities of Gawad Kalinga all across the country. The contestants were categorized according to two divisions: apparel and accessories. Moreover, throughout the whole competition process, aspirants were each given the opportunity to seek and critiquing from esteemed members of the FDCP. Designers working on their accessories offered a myriad of pieces to include bags, belts, platform sandals, watch straps and statement jewelry. Meanwhile, the three-piece prêt-a-porter collections presented the innovative renditions on how to infuse local fabrics into modern, wearable and translatable garments.

Of this talented lot, two designers emerged as winners — Roland Alzate for apparel division and Adante Leyesa for accessories division. Leyesa, who worked with the Association of Disabled Persons (ADP) in Antique to create a three-piece multilayered necklace made out of pearls from Palawan and piña fabric, took inspiration from his dreams and aspirations. The piece may be worn individually or as a stunning statement piece, which makes for interesting design. He shared, “This piece represents my journey into becoming a designer and also the dreams of the community I worked with in the process of this competition, the ADP in San Jose Buena Vista, Antique.” He first came across this non-government organization through the piña fabrics they were producing, which had been put to a halt due to economic challenges. “I saw the fabrics they made from way back and decided to use this for my creation. Since winning the competition, the association members have once again resumed production and are also undergoing trainings and workshops to improve their craft,” explained the enthusiastic Leyesa.

Judges Bea Zobel Jr. (center) and fashion designer Pepito Albert.

At present, both Leyesa and the community in Antique are busy with the product development of the neckpiece which they plan to mass produce and distribute in various Kultura shops across the country. The team is also putting together a new collection using piña fabric in preparation for a large bi-annual exposition in March that they hope will allow them to promote local weaves to a larger, international audience. Leyesa finally pondered, “The aim of the FDCP for the competition was very challenging. At the same time, the idea they had for Weaving the Future, allowed designers like myself to create pieces that have potential for promotion abroad. With the all-Filipino pieces, we are able to showcase what we can do using our own fabrics, materials and design.”

Alzate, on the other hand, who had also just recently presented his debut Spring-Summer 2012 collection during the Philippine Fashion Week, unveiled a collection of uber-feminine dresses, which were designed to address what women truly want in their wardrobes. Working with a small community in Kalibo, he developed a new fabric called polyhemp piña — a modernized variation to traditional piña. The collection, aptly named Salmagundi, also utilized local materials such as hablon, mixed abaca, piña, banana silk and dyed fine hemp. He explained, “The word Salmagundi means ‘to put together seemingly disparate things to create a cohesive whole.’ When I came across this word, it seemed perfect for the collection I was working on.” For some time now, Alzate has been inclined to experiment with various fabric combinations that are unexpected. After having won the competition, Alzate aims to continue the work he began with local weavers. “I will continue to work with these weavers and hope to be able to train more people to work on polyhemp piña. Ultimately, I hope to be able to bring the fabric to a larger audience by showcasing how it can be used for mainstream fashion by creating more garments using this new fabric.” In the coming months, the pieces that were created as an extension of this winning collection will be sold in chic Myth boutique in Greenbelt 5. When asked what prompted Alzate to push boundaries and go as far as to develop a new fabric for his collection, he simply answered, “We have so many great designers and each one of them is such an inspiration. So when I had the chance to present my own collection, I wanted to present something new, refreshing and innovative.”

Fashion photographer Mark Nicdao and STAR’s Rissa Mananquil-Trillo during prejudging.

More than an event, Weaving the Future was an experience that continues to the present — for the designers and most especially for the communities that the competition aims to help. Not only was the event key in honing future design talents, it also helped revive many local industries across the country, allowing countless communities to develop their skills, gain access to larger markets and ultimately improve in their crafts. In so many respects, it was a shining representation of fashion with a conscience and global foresight.

Photos courtesy of FDCP, Roland Alzate and Adante Leyesa











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