Natural tropical fabrics from all over the Philippines got their time in the spotlight at the “Bagong Habi, Salinlahi: Cutting Edge Philippine Textiles” fashion show at the InterContinental Hotel Manila. Spearheaded by the Philippine Textile Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PTRI), the show featured fabrics made of native Philippine plants, from old standards like piña, abaca, and banana to newly-developed fabrics made from water hyacinth, saluyot, and maguey. The fabrics were also dyed using natural plant sources: mayana, guava, mahogany, achuete, indigo, talisay, and coconut husk.
Fabrics from all over the Philippines were there to represent local cultures and craftsmanship, including piña and jusi from Aklan, hablon from Iloilo, and inaul from Maguindanao. Philippine Fashion designers, industry bigwigs and textile industry stakeholders attended the event. On display were garments using the eco-friendly textiles, from cocktail dresses to office uniforms, and even bridal wear. As models came down the catwalk, an audio-visual presentation showed step by step the manufacture of the fabrics. One process they undergo is enzyme treatment to eliminate itchiness and produce a softer drape. “Bagong Habi: Salinlahi aims to iron out all misconstrued perceptions towards indigenous fabrics that they are impractical, itchy, uncomfortable and drab,” said DOST-PTRI director Dr. Carlos Tomboc. Thanks to this process, the fabrics also no longer need to be dry-cleaned but can be laundered in the regular way.
“Bagong Habi: Salinlahi is all about making new, innovative and world-class textiles and a showcase of designs for different facets of life, said designer Anthony Cruz Legarda, the show’s creative director. “It is synergistic—it was made possible through the collaboration of individuals who are passionate about our own culture, natural resources, and great talent in manufacturing.” The PTRI also helps promising designers with their craft. One of them is 22-year-old Kristal de Guzman, who has found use for the lowly talahib. “I was driving home to Laguna when I saw it on the road and thought, ‘Hey, why not use it for the fabric?’” she said. A student of Fashion Design at the School of Fashion and the Arts (SOFA ), de Guzman knew that the PTRI provided technical weaving assistance to designers. She contacted the institute, from whom she learned talahib is not suited for yarn manufacture. However, it can be incorporated into the fabric through hand-weaving.
With PTRI’s assistance, de Guzman wove the talahib and interlaced it with polyester threads. The fabric was used as the main material for handbags. The bags were also trimmed with detailed wood carvings from Paete. De Guzman’s design made it to the finals for the accessories category of “Weaving the Future: A Social Design Competition”, a show led by the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in November.
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