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Arts and Culture

Designer featured in Vogue reacts to backlash over 'basahan' designs

Marane A. Plaza - Philstar.com
Designer featured in Vogue reacts to backlash over 'basahan' designs
Elise McMahon of LikeMindedObjects as seen on Vogue
Vogue via Elise McMahon of LikeMindedObjects' Instagram page

MANILA, Philippines — Upcycling in style and design is all the rage these days, and New York-based furniture designer Elise McMahon of LikeMindedObjects is the latest viral one to put the spotlight on handmade looms that look very familiar among Filipinos. 

McMahon collaborated with textile designer Franny Capone to repurpose bales of unwanted t-shirts through weaving, which gained a feature story in the prestigious Vogue fashion magazine. Their artistic collab resulted to huge, colorful beautiful things turned into chairs, sweaters and wall ornaments, which look very much like the "basahan" or staple floor rugs seen in Filipino homes. 

Of course, netizens from Asian, Latin and African countries have a lot to say about the common weaving technique used by the artists, noting that it is not exactly a revolutionary method. Some even call the upcycling art of the two as cultural appropriation. 

But after receiving the feedback from Filipinos, McMahon addressed the issue in the comments section of the original Vogue Runway Instagram post. 

 

 

"This is a really complex conversation, through these comments last night and today I learned about this amazing weaving style Basahan using t-shirt material that has long been happening in the Philippines and have been rushing to educate myself since," McMahon wrote. "I really respect this practice, and all people who are being resourceful [with] craft and waste globally." 

She also explained that her method is much simpler to learn than the intricate basahan method. 

"I can see how this aesthetic cross over, which results from using random t-shirts, feels super close to the basahan style and partly caused this upset. I am open and hoping to have full dialogue if anyone would like, I'm aware of my privileges and all the potential for resulting blind spots. 

"We are a super small studio and felt lucky to have Vogue's platform to help spread the word but agree that too little press celebrates traditional practices that really are what we all need to learn from to attempt any semblance of 'sustainability'. I wish I had known about this before and am glad to know about it now! With respect, Elise." 

LikeMindedObjects partnered with the Hudson Valley job creation non-profit Spark of Hudson to address the community aspect, launching a How To booklet and video to allow people in Hudson Valley to create woven textiles in huge productions.

 

RELATED: Ang Kiukok painting declared 'National Cultural Treasure'

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