Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

 

This special report is a guide to importers, fashion designers and entrepreneurs in search of unique, natural and environment-friendly fabrics from the Philippines. It highlights handwoven textiles that are now becoming part of local and international fashion, and the products that have been made from them.

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VideoThe Philippine advantageFabrics & product applicationsDesignersFabric suppliersFashion accessory & home decor suppliersMoving forwardPDF download

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Here’s a preview of the special report on handwoven fabrics from the Philippines.



Handwoven fabrics: Philippines The Philippine advantage

Philippine handwoven textiles use fibers extracted from locally grown crops, the major one being abaca or Manila hemp. They are woven on looms that require neither electricity nor water to operate and produce minimal residual waste, making them environment-friendly products. Further, the handicraft nature of fabric construction, which reflect local history and culture, make each fabric unique. Amid the “slow fashion” movement in the global market highlighting sustainable, environment-friendly and ethically sourced materials, Philippine handwoven fabrics are taking center stage.


Domestic availability of natural fibers

Abaca, cotton and piña fibers, three materials used in most handwoven textiles from the Philippines, are from locally grown plants.

Abaca: The fiber is extracted from the leaf sheath of the abaca plant (Musa textilis Nee) through hand stripping, spindle stripping or decortication. The first harvest can be done 16 to 24 months from planting, depending on the variety, climate and other factors. Subsequent harvest is done at three- to four-month intervals.

The Philippines is the primary source of this material, accounting for about 87 percent of global production. The top producing regions are the Bicol Region, Davao, Eastern Visayas, Caraga and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Fabrics made from abaca fibers are known for strength and durability. Handwoven abaca textiles are seen in garments, fashion accessories and home products such as placemats and table runners.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Piña: This resilient and naturally glossy fiber is extracted from the leaves of the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus), specifically the Red Spanish and the native Philippine Red varieties.

Extraction is done through hand scraping or stripping and decortication. Due to labor-intensive extraction and weaving process, handwoven fabric from piña fiber is limited and consequently, expensive. In 2016, the country produced about 5.8 metric tons of hand-scraped and decorticated piña fibers, according to data from the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA). Camarines Norte in the Bicol Region was the main source of decorticated fiber, while handscraped fiber came mostly from Aklan province in Western Visayas, and Palawan province in the Southwestern Tagalog Region.

Piña fiber is used on its own or blended with cotton, abaca or silk to produce fabrics for formal men’s dress shirts (barong Tagalog) and other types of clothing. The fiber is also used in table linens and napkins, scarves and shawls.

*2016 production statistics from the Philippine Fiber Development Authority (PhilFIDA)

Cotton: Philippine cotton is one of the well-known quality cotton varieties in the world, comparable with Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton according to Maribel Ongpin, chair of Habi, The Philippine Textile Council.

Cultivation of the plant is however limited to a few farms in Visayas and northern Luzon. Production declined as local textile manufacturers switched to imported cotton fiber or yarn, which is less costly than the domestic version.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton, which is genetically engineered to resist bollworm, is also being cultivated in the Philippines in line with efforts to revive domestic production. This variety is being cultivated in select areas of Ilocos Norte in Luzon and Iloilo in Visayas.

*2016 production statistics from the Philippine Fiber Development Authority (PhilFIDA)

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Eco-friendly production

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

From fiber extraction to weaving, the production of the fabrics featured in this report relies mostly on manual labor. The process produces zero carbon emissions and minimal residual waste.

Raw material suppliers strip the abaca stalks or pineapple leaves by hand and without the use of harmful chemicals.

For dyes, makers turn to plant-based sources such as leaves, roots, seeds and bark to keep with the environment-friendly theme. Among the 100 plant-based sources of dyes that the Philippine Textile Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (PTRI-DOST) has identified are the following: indigo leaves for blue dye; mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) bark for reddish brown, coconut husk for red to maroon; annatto seeds for bright orange; and coffee pulp for light pink.

In weaving, handlooms are used to produce the fabric, minimizing the impact on the environment. Powered simply by skillful hands and feet, the handloom runs without electricity, and instead operates through the manual and meticulous interlacing of threads and rhythmic stepping on the pedal.

Additionally, most weavers are from indigenous tribes or marginalized groups. Fashion designer Jaki Peñalosa noted: “What is laudable about promoting native fabrics is the fact that it helps to create jobs. The community is involved in the process of making our native fibers, from growing and harvesting, sourcing and spinning the threads, and weaving the actual fabrics.”

Artisanal quality

Weaving requires mastery of the loom – using techniques handed down from previous generations. It can take days and sometimes weeks to finish a panel of fabric, but the result is a unique work of art.

In abel weaving, for instance, master weaver and 2012 Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan awardee Magdalena Gamayo, when imparting techniques to her students, emphasizes the importance of high thread count, mastering the use of different handloom based on the number of pedals and ensuring proper tension and rhythm is applied when weaving.

An understanding of the symbolism behind the aesthetics is also often required, especially fabrics woven by indigenous tribes. Such textiles tell the story of each community, reflecting its culture and traditions.

Designs are inspired by nature or by a weaver’s dreams. Common patterns include flowers, animals or ocean waves stylized in geometric shapes such as squares, circles and diamonds.

“We have a fabric industry which boasts of a highly skilled workforce prized for its embroidery and other intricate design capabilities that have been passed down through generations, including hand weaving of fabrics from indigenous fibers,” said fashion designer Jaki Peñalosa, who uses hablon in her creations. “This gives our fabrics a dignified and distinguishing charm that embraces our Philippine heritage.”

The Philippines has more than 1,000 weavers and over 490 groups involved in the handweaving industry, Senator Loren Legarda disclosed in an October 2017 speech, citing the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI).

For more than 30 years, the PTRI has trained over 4,000 weavers across the country and assisted 35 percent of the existing weaving companies on skills training, weave design development, loom execution, and the repair, conversion or modification of handlooms.



Handwoven fabrics: Philippines Fabrics & product applications

This section features eight handwoven fabrics from across the Philippines.


FABRICS FROM LUZON

Abel Iloco/Inabel of Ilocos

Properties

Abel Iloco, also known as inabel, is traditionally made of cotton, and comes in more than 80 vibrant and colorful patterns. Its traditional and most popular pattern is the binakol – recognizable by its uniform, interlocked geometric patterns. Two colors form squares and rectangles, which then create an optical illusion resembling whirlwinds (alipugpog), whirlpools (kurikos) and fans (pinalpal-id). The dizzying effect of the binakol weave is said to drive away bad spirits.

The woven designs are inspired by nature, from land formations and ripples of the ocean to celestial elements of the night sky. Other patterns depict the harvest cycle and symbols of prosperity for ancient Filipinos.

A good inabel has a high thread count and delicate and evenly spaced ethnic patterns.

Applications

Abel Iloco is typically made into table runners, pillow cases, blankets, towels and other home textiles. It is also promoted as a prized fabric, ideal for use in fashion and personal accessories.

Abel Iloco is gaining popularity in the fashion scene as Paloma Urquijo Zobel and other young and upcoming designers use it in mainstream products such as pullovers, kaftans, bomber jackets and jeans.

Origin

Abel Iloco is indigenous to the Ilocos Region in the northern part of the Philippines.

Abel is an Ilocano term for weaving, while Iloco refers to the area where the textile originated. The final woven product is called inabel.

Inabel weaving or panagabel is a centuries-old weaving tradition using a pedal frame loom.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Cordillera ikat

Properties

The ikat variant from the Cordillera Region in Northern Luzon is made using cotton or polyester thread, with the color palette consisting primarily of red, blue and black.

For coloring, natural dyes such as betel nut red, indigo blue, talisay gray, mahogany brown and annatto orange. In more contemporary versions of the fabric, the color palette has expanded with the use of synthetic dyes to include purple, violet, yellow, green and brown.

The fabric is sturdy, thick and warm. Because of its elaborate weaving process, the patterns emerge in a distinctive blurred appearance. Tapestries with indigenous designs are prized as collector’s items because of their exquisite craftsmanship.

Applications

The Cordillera ikat fabric can be made into apparel and fashion accessories such as scarves, shawls, ponchos, cover-ups and handbags. The textile is also used as upholstery, pillow cases, table runners and wall coverings.

Origin

From the Indonesian term meaning “to bind” or “to tie,” ikat or ikkat is a method of weaving prevalent in different parts of Asia and beyond, from India to South and Central America. It involves resist-dyeing the thread before they are woven to create various patterns.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines


FABRICS FROM VISAYAS

Hablon

Properties

Hablon is typically woven from abaca and other natural materials such as piña (pineapple fiber) and locally grown silk threads.7 Due to the limited availability and relatively high prices of the fiber, abaca is sometimes combined with rayon and cotton to make the textile.

The color palette of hablon includes emerald, lavender, pink, tangerine and crimson.

Applications

Hablon is traditionally used in the multicolor traditional wrap-around skirt for women (patadyong), the formal dress shirt for men (barong Tagalog), bandanas, shawls, scarves, dresses and gowns. It is also made into blankets and table runners.

Today, hablon is making waves in both the local and international fashion scene, particularly as haute couture, because of the versatility and uniqueness of the fabric. This is most clearly seen in the works of renowned Ilongga designer Jaki Peñalosa.

Origin

The term hablon comes from the Hiligaynon or Ilonggo word habol, which means to cover with a cloth. Hablon refers to both the weaving process and the product. Weavers of this fabric are found mainly in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Cebu and Antique.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Piña fabrics

Properties

Known as the queen of Philippine fabrics, piña is soft, fine and translucent. The strong, resilient, ivory white strands have a sheen similar to silk, and this natural gloss protects the fibers.

Pure piña fabric is lightweight like linen or hemp but far more delicate and luxurious to touch.

Pineapple fiber when blended with cotton, abaca or silk create light, breezy fabrics such as piña seda (pineapple silk) or piña jusi, which is stronger yet less expensive than pure piña fabric. Blending adds strength to the textile without altering the sheer aesthetic too much. More importantly, the process reduces the time and cost of producing the textile.

Piña fabric can be adorned with traditional hand embroidery called calado. Embroidered piña garment is thus called piña calado.

Handwoven piña fabric come in its natural color or dyed using natural hues extracted from botanicals. Piña fabric can be tinted with talisay yellow, indigo blue, guava khaki, mahogany brown, talisay black, annatto orange, cogon yellow, coconut pink and mayana green. Synthetic dyes can also be used to yield black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet versions.

Indigo-dyed piña seda from Custommade Crafts Center (above) and a shawl (left) from Rurungan sa Tubod Foundation Inc., which offers products in piña and piña-silk blends.

Applications

The most popular use of piña fabric is in the formal men’s dress shirt (barong Tagalog), mestiza dresses and wedding gowns. Piña is also used in bags and other fashion accessories, as well as luxury table linen.

Origin

Piña fabric, or simply piña, the Spanish word for pineapple, is made of fibers extracted from the leaves of the Red Spanish and the native Philippine Red pineapple varieties.

Aklan province in the Western Visayas Region is the main production center of this fabric.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines


FABRICS FROM MINDANAO

Hinabol/Abaca pinangabol

Properties

The hinabol or abaca pinangabol is made from abaca threads that are tie-dyed or woven as one color such as brown, black or green. Tie-dyed designs also feature a combination of pink, red, blue, orange or yellow. In terms of patterns, the Higaonon tribe’s ikat design lacks the presence of diamond patterns seen in the ikat of the Ifugaos of Northern Luzon.

Colors are produced using natural dyes extracted from plants such as turmeric to create yellow hues and guava leaves for black, and guava leaves for green or khaki. These dyes are sometimes mixed with synthetic varieties imported from China to produce pink, blue and purple.

The process of making hinabol is tedious, from the harvest of abaca and the careful dyeing of the threads – to achieve vibrant hues – to the actual weaving.

Applications

The hinabol is used in handbags and home textiles such as placemats and table runners.

Origin

In the Binukid dialect of Bukidnon, hinabol is the term for “woven.” Weaving is a manner of expressing the values of the Higaonon community of Bukidnon in North Central Mindanao. Traditionally, the hinabol fabric is also referred to as the “cloth of peace” since it is given as an offering to spirits, as “blood money” to one’s rival tribe, or as dowry or token at a wedding.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Inaul

Properties

The inaul is handwoven from cotton or rayon silk. With the scarcity of certain raw materials, however, some variants now also incorporate polyester or acrylic threads.

The inaul exhibits a variety of patterns, such as rainbow (binaludto), stripes (makabimban) or taro (panigabi).

The traditional colors of the fabric carry a wealth of meaning in the Maguindanaon culture: black stands for dignity, white for mourning and purity, red for bravery, green for tranquility, and yellow and orange for royalty.

Applications

The inaul is often worn by women as a skirt or by men as trousers during weddings and other formal events. More contemporary uses of the fabric include gowns and the polo barong, a short-sleeved version of the formal barong Tagalog.

Origin

Inaul, pronounced as inol, is the Maguindanaon word for “woven.” Known for its bold colors and exquisite use of metallic-colored threads and brocade patterns, the inaul fabric captures not only the level of craftsmanship but also the core values of the Maguindanao community in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Weavers of inaul derive spiritual meaning from the craft as it serves as a medium of artistic expression.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

T’nalak

Properties

T’nalak is made from abaca fiber. The finest strands are used as warp while thicker fibers become the weft. Despite its delicate quality, however, the t’nalak can last for a decade and is said to be fire-resistant.

The traditional colors of red, black and white in the t’nalak reflect the same hues of the abaca leaves. Natural dyes such as talisay black and indigo blue give the fabric additional vibrancy. Synthetic dyes yield black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet shades.

Because the t’nalak is made from plant fiber, the use of chemicals such as chlorine to clean the fabric may also result in discoloration.

Applications

The t’nalak has been used in a wide range of fashion, home and gift products, including bags, bracelets, throw pillows, notebook covers and gift boxes. It is also a very popular textile in clothing. Famed Philippine fashion designers Renee Salud and Anthony Legarda feature the tńalak in their designs.

Origin

T’nalak is handwoven by the T’boli of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, which is in the southern part of Mindanao. According to lore, makers of t’nalak – called “dream weavers” – cannot simply proceed with weaving a pattern unless the design came to them in a dream inspired by Fu Dalu, the spirit of the abaca.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Yakan

Properties

Made from a blend of pineapple and abaca fibers, the Yakan fabric is naturally tinted with botanical extracts to yield bold colors. It showcases large geometrical patterns inspired by elements of nature such as mountains and flowers.

Individual fibers are woven together by the hundreds on a body-tension backstrap loom.

Applications

The fabric is used in garments and fashion accessories such as bags, purses and belts. Yakan textile is also seen in table runners, mats and other home products.

Origin

Weavers of the Yakan tribe are renowned for having some of the finest handloom skills as artisans that the very fabric they weave is named after their community.

These weavers are found in Lamitan, a city in Basilan province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Yakan handwoven fabric is traditionally used as a ceremonial cloth during religious rituals; a token on special occasions; a peace offering; or a commodity in exchange for other goods.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines



Handwoven fabrics: Philippines Designers



Jaki Peñalosa

Known as the “Queen of Hablon,” Jacqueline ‘Jaki’ Alcantara Peñalosa is a frontliner in promoting the distinct beauty of hablon, the native fabric of her home province of Iloilo.

Peñalosa incorporates hablon, piña and other handwoven native fabrics into high fashion. “My goal is to recast the way people see our ethnic fabrics by fusing contemporary designs with indigenous fabrics in unexpected and bold colors that will exude the modern Filipina.”

Her intricate gowns, dresses and ensembles have been on the runways of various fashion capitals, including London, Milan, New York, Rome and Toronto.

Peñalosa, who is based in Iloilo City, has been a fashion designer and entrepreneur for more than two decades. She is the current president of the Designers Guild of Iloilo, a nonprofit organization of fashion designers who aim to promote Iloilo as the center of fashion and the arts for Western Visayas.



Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Oliver Tolentino

With a clientele of A-list celebrities in Hollywood and beyond, Oliver Tolentino is a powerhouse when it comes to promoting “eco textiles” in the global fashion industry. His use of piña and other natural, environment-friendly fabrics in couture has captured the eye of icons in fashion and entertainment.

“Through my boutique in Beverly Hills, California, I have focused on introducing modern designs of these fabrics to Hollywood,” he said.

Tolentino’s Beverly Hills boutique opened in 2009. In 2010, he received international acclaim as a finalist in the Oscars Designer Challenge. That very same year, he won the Sustainable Eco Fashion Award in the Bahamas.

His creations have been seen on the red carpet at various awards shows, including the Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys and Grammys. Celebrities have also worn his designs on TV programs such as American Idol and America’s Next Top Model.

“I introduce the fabrics in a subtle way by having a client fall in love with a dress without their knowing what it’s made of,” he said. “Once they learn about it, they love it even more.”



Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Paloma Urquijo Zobel

After graduating from Parsons in New York and Imperial College Business School in London, young designer and businesswoman Paloma Urquijo Zobel is now retracing her roots and immersing herself in Filipino culture and heritage. She is doing so through her love for fashion and art.

Through the retail brand PIOPIO, Paloma is learning about her identity as Filipino. She turns the spotlight on traditional fabrics sourced from all over the Philippines – reinterpreted in modern clothing. PIOPIO’s “true DNA” comes from the artisans who keep the craft of handwoven fabrics alive in a textiles industry dominated by cheap synthetics.

“With less than a thousand looms left in the Philippines today, I think my generation will be responsible for the fall or rise of these traditional arts,” Zobel said.

Ikat and inabel are among PIOPIO’s most popular fabrics. “We repurpose these textiles in the spirit of respect and in an effort to keep our traditions alive and more relatable while supporting the textile weavers,” she said.



Handwoven fabrics: Philippines Fabric suppliers

This section offers information on featured fabric suppliers in the report. Download the report to get the complete information on the companies
and their products.

Click “Inquire Now” to send inquiries to featured suppliers.


ANTHILL Fabric Gallery Inc.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Textile: Abaca pinangabol or hinabol from the Daraghuyan tribe of Dalwangan in Bukidnon

Descriptions: Naturally dyed textile; features warp ikat stripes; 16 inches (0.41 meter) wide; colors can be customized

Price: $6 per meter  

Inquire now




Custommade Crafts Center Inc.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Textile: Hinabol from the Higaonon in Bukidnon

Descriptions: Naturally dyed abaca textile; stripe pattern; 11 meters per roll

Price: $13 per meter  

MOQ: 3 rolls  

Inquire now




Gida’s T’nalak International

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Textile: T’nalak from the T’boli of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato

Descriptions: Ancient patterns/intricates; hand-dyed abaca textile

Price: 24 yards (21.95 meters) per variant or pattern  


Inquire now




Manlilikha ng Bayan Loomweavers Association

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Textile: 2-pedal design, polycotton thread

Descriptions: 2-pedal design, polycotton thread,; 50 yards (45.72 meters) per roll

Price: About $6 to $9 per yard  

Inquire now




Narda’s Handwoven Arts & Crafts

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Textile: Ifugao ethnic design fabric

Descriptions: Handwoven cotton textile with Ifugao ethnic design; solid background in combined stripes; 36 inches (0.91 meters) wide

Price: $16 per yard  

MOQ: 50 yards (45.72 meters) per color

Inquire now



Handwoven fabrics: Philippines Fashion accessory and home decor suppliers

This section offers information on some featured home decor and fashion accessory suppliers in the report. Download the report to get the complete information on the companies and their products.

Click “Inquire Now” to send inquiries to featured suppliers.


Gifts and Graces Fair Trade Foundation Inc.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Model: T’nalak Pillow Cover

Descriptions: T’nalak front; woven buri back; 18×18 inches (0.46×0.46 meters); available in black, blue and red

Price: $26  

MOQ: 2 dozen  

Delivery time: 5 weeks  

Inquire now




Narda’s Handwoven Arts & Crafts

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Model: SCF-56772

Descriptions: Scarf; handwoven cotton; 7×72 inches (0.18×1.83 meters)

FOB: $8.50  

MOQ: 36 pieces per color  

Delivery time: 2 to 3 months  

Inquire now




Piopio Inc.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Model: PIO’d Denim Pants

Descriptions: Denim pants with one of a kind custom Yakan fabric handwoven patches

FOB: About $70  

MOQ: 10 pieces for wholesale  

Delivery time: 1-3 days (domestic), 4-14 days (international)  


Inquire now




Rowilda’s Handloom Weaving.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Model: Placemat

Descriptions: Abel Iloco; six pieces of assorted designs; 13×18 inches (0.33×0.46 meters)

FOB: $8.40 per set  

MOQ: 12 sets  

Delivery time: 15 to 30 days  

Inquire now




Rurungan sa Tubod Foundation Inc.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Model: Tepiña Handwoven Silk/ Piña Shawls

Descriptions: Philippine silk with patterned insertions of piña fiber; 22×72 inches (0.56×1.83 meters)

FOB price: $52 

Delivery time: Three months for 50 pieces 

 

Inquire now




That One Piece Enterprise

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

Model: Olivia Hablon 01

Descriptions: Indoor light; wrought iron frame; hablon on shade with ceiling canopy

FOB: $59.50  

MOQ: 90 pieces  

Delivery time: 90 days  

Inquire now



Handwoven fabrics: Philippines Moving forward


Challenges

The main challenge for suppliers of handwoven fabrics and items made from them is the limited supply of raw materials and the labor-intensive manufacturing process — two factors that make the fabrics and products made from them rare, desirable and expensive. Consequently, although handwoven fabrics from the Philippines are gaining popularity in the domestic and international fashion scene, there is still a need to educate buyers about the steps involved in the making of these textiles and the communities that produce them to enhance appreciation for these fabrics.

Limited raw material supply

The main challenge of using yarn from abaca, cotton, pineapple and other fiber crops is ensuring the availability of raw materials, as output is dependent on the weather, pests and other external factors.

Manufacturers are also currently struggling to process plant fibers into textiles in a fast, efficient method.

For instance, while the Philippines is the top producer of abaca — providing over 87 percent of the world’s supply — supply still falls short of demand given the various industries that make use of the fiber.

Similarly, piña and cotton fiber are in short supply. Of the more than 180,000 hectares in the Philippines planted to fiber crops, only about 4 percent is taken up by pineapple, cotton and other crops that are not abaca, according to statistics from the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA).

Due to the limited output of domestically produced natural fibers, makers have turned to blending these with synthetics such as polyester and acrylic, which are cheaper and can be easily procured.

Nonstandardized products

Manual weaving and dyeing of fabrics yield uneven patterns and shades. Textiles and products using such materials should be seen and marketed as unique and artisanal crafts.

The handicraft nature of production also limits output. Consequently, very few suppliers of handwoven fabrics actually export. Most of their products go to local designers and makers of fashion accessories and home products.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines





Outlook and support initiatives

Philippine natural handwoven fabrics are prized for their quality fiber, superb construction and signature designs. The symbolisms and techniques inherent in their production also reflect the Filipino heritage. This lends the fabrics an artistic and artisanal quality that cannot be replicated in mass-produced textiles.

Eco-conscious consumers

For world-class Filipino designer Oliver Tolentino, natural and sustainable fabrics from the Philippines resonate with environment-conscious consumers because these textiles are more eco-friendly than most.

In addition, he noted that Philippine natural fabrics do not need to be broken down with lots of water, which is wasteful. They can also be dyed with natural sources like plants, vegetables, roots, and coconut husks, instead of harmful chemicals.

Tolentino has showcased his collections all over the US and in the Bahamas, Barbados, Bali, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Italy.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

A market for heritage fabrics

Philippine eco-fabrics are also gaining traction in countries where there is a high concentration of Filipino expatriates. In the case of designer and entrepreneur Jaki Peñalosa, Canada has been very welcoming of fashion that promotes heritage.

“Canada’s ethno-cultural makeup is such that every ethnic group is represented and given due recognition,” Penalosa shared. “Having done fashion shows on Canadian shores, I have had the privilege to witness how the Canadian government values and supports the Filipino community in their events and activities, even going as far as having politicians and government officials taking part in my fashion show.”

Paloma Zobel, once an expatriate herself, brings Philippine natural handwoven fabrics to the consciousness of a young, design-savvy generation. Like Tolentino and Peñalosa, she incorporates traditional fabrics into contemporary clothing to appeal to a new market.

“Our challenge daily is to stay as truthful to our culture and traditions without offending anyone, but still making [the fabrics] relevant and more accessible to a new generation,” Zobel said. “Weaving is a dying art. We try hard to get the youth excited about the fabrics and techniques, again by showing them how they can still be relevant in today’s world.”

Government & community support

Industry players are working to establish a solid supply chain, from building up the raw material supplies to promoting finished products.

Manlilikha Ng Bayan Loom Weavers Association, a weaving community in Ilocos, is now cultivating a 24 hectares to produce the insect-resistant Bt cotton and build up a sufficient supply of cotton threads for weaving. Communities are also partnering with companies in Manila and Cebu, such as Custom made Crafts and ANTHILL, which provide marketing and distribution services to connect the communities with buyers.

Government agencies such as the Philippine Fiber Development Authority (PhilFIDA), the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) and the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) support the industry by assisting farmers in the sustainable cultivation of fiber crops, research and development, and promotion of innovative textiles and their applications through exhibitions and community partnerships.

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines

By 2022, PhilFIDA is hoping 22,000 hectares of the insect-resistant Bt cotton can supply domestic and international demand for cotton on an industrial scale. It also aims to double the production of abaca to over 162,000 metric tons in the same year. The agency is assisting farmers with new cultivation techniques to increase yields. By working closely with the Department of Agriculture, PhilFIDA is modifying the current 12-step process of growing and harvesting abaca into a simpler six-step process.

Government research center PTRI supports the industry through R&D and skills training to develop innovative textiles and fabrics. The institute also offers a variety of services, such as cotton spinning and extraction of natural dyes, to link the science and technology sector with the manufacturing sector.

To promote natural handwoven fabrics and their applications, CITEM showcases the best of Philippine fashion and design through the biannual Manila FAME exhibitions. Many of the creations at Manila FAME are made of indigenous materials or inspired by indigenous designs.

The Likhang Habi Market Fair of HABI: The Philippine Textile Council highlights natural handwoven textiles and products, with a focus on different weaving techniques, from all over the Philippines. The council also sponsors lectures on the importance of handweaving as a craft.


Handwoven fabrics: Philippines PDF download

Handwoven fabrics: Philippines