Indigenous fibers woven into artful garbs were strutted on the catwalk of high fashion at the Columbus Circle in New York City in celebration of the New York Fashion Week Sept. 8-15 this year. Models flaunted creatively designed wedding ensembles made of piña, cotton, silk, saluyot and water hyacinth fibers as part of a wedding couture collection. The collection is an interplay of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Textile Research Institute developed local tropical fabrics and century-old weaving techniques from Paoay, Ilocos Norte; Vigan, Ilocos Sur; Kalibo, Aklan; Iloilo; and Cotabato City.
“In PTRI, we constantly search for the judicious use of indigenous natural sources of fiber, as well as develop eco-friendly technologies in processing them,” said PTRI Director Carlos C. Tomboc. “Such technology could greatly add premium and value to our ethnic textiles, making them in competitive in the fashion industry without losing our cultural heritage,” Tomboc added. Jeanie Lynn Cabansag, who leads the study on the development of neoethnic Philippine textiles, said, “To boost textile production in the country, DOST-PTRI developed a holistic approach to revive and to show the evolution of our ethnic textiles into these new and cosmopolitan designs.” “We aim to do this through PTRI’s eco-friendly dyeing technologies and materials,” she told.
The ethnic designs featured in the project include the inabel of Ilocos Norte, binakel or pinilian of Abra, woven piña and jusi of Aklan, hablon of Iloilo, tinalak of Lake Sebu, hinabol of the Higaonons in Bukidnon, inaul of Maguindanao, and the colourful fabrics of the Yakans and Maranaos of Mindanao. This project aims to sew the neo-ethnic Philippine tropical fabrics into their place in mainstream fashion, given their eco-character and faithfulness to the Filipno heritage. “It is a concrete demonstration of Filipino craftsmanship and artistry,” Cabansag added.
Part of the collection is the inabel gown from the famous inabel fabric of Vigan, Ilocos Sur which was woven using PTRI’s enhanced loom weaving technologies. The cotton and saluyot threads for the shawl of this gown were also processed at the Institute’s pilot plant. PTRI was also involved in the natural dyeing of the pure silk threads for the Maguindanao’s inaul gown, pants and barong. Among the collection is a wedding gown made purely from piña liniuan fibers. The Institute, in partnership with the Dela Cruz House of Piña of Kalibo, Aklan, created a special weave construction twisting the piña liniuan fibers to fashion a thicker and denser feel compared with commonly woven piña fibers.
The water hyacinth and cottonblended saluyot threads used for the embroidery designs and floral embellishments of the gowns and the water hyacinth fibers for the construction of a piña-silk-hyacinth dress were also products of PTRI’s researches. The collection is a product of a collaboration among PTRI, Anthony Cruz Legarda, and the Non-Timber Forest Products-Task Force (NTFP-TF), and Filipino artisans from various provinces.
“Our Philippine textiles and our natural dyes are worth sharing,” attested Ruth Canlas of the NTFP-TF, a collaborative network of Philippine grassroots-based non-government organizations and peoples organizations addressing the livelihood needs of upland forest peoples, during the send off program and photoshoot held at an Intramuros courtyard. In collaboration with New York-based Filipino Fashion designer Anthony Cruz Legarda, these neo-ethnic Philippine tropical fabrics were transformed into a collection of six gowns and two groom’s jackets infused with PTRI-developed technologies on weave design and natural dyeing. The wedding collection brandishes naturally-dyed and intricately handwoven fabrics embellished and embroidered by the Philippines’ finest master artisans using intricate techniques of calado or open cut work embroidery, bobbin lacework, and jewelry beadwork to create fine detailing and elaborate designs. Sharing DOST-PTRI’s vision, Mr. Legarda wants to prove that Philippine indigenous textiles can compete in the world of high fashion. PTRI’s newly developed fibers and textile technologies “make me more competitive in the world of fashion. We really need to develop new things that the world desires,” says Mr. Legarda. PTRI will tap Legarda’s expertise for its 45th anniversary fashion show in January 2012 in support of the local textile industry.