5 Sustainable Pinay Designers to Know Now
I love Fashion Revolution Week. After 10 years of working in the fashion industry, I've seen so much unethical shit go down - people tryna pay less and less for skilled labor, fabric, and components being one of the most rampant offenses. The haggling I've seen these people do over pricing is so exploitative, especially when you think about the fact that this industry mostly serves the white and affluent at the expense of mostly people of color in the so-called "third world". As a crafter and maker myself more than a sketch-things-out designer (KNITTING IS LIFE), I deeply understand the immense time, skill, knowledge and physicality that gets poured into these labors. Thankfully, there are a growing number of designers out there now who want to take a stand for sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry, including a lot of Pilipinas - like Krystalrae of CHAN + KRYS, who we featured last month.
Fashion Revolution Week (April 24-30) falls on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 1138 people and injured many more on April 24, 2013. This tragedy marks the beginning of Fashion Revolution, a non-profit based in the UK that believes in transforming the fashion industry by collaborating across the whole chain from farmer to consumer, to work together towards radically changing the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed, so that our clothing is made in a safe, clean and fair way. They started the #whomademyclothes campaign, during which brands and producers are encouraged to respond with the hashtag #imadeyourclothes and to demonstrate transparency in their supply chain.
In honor of Fashion Revolution Week, we rounded up five Pinay-designed brands that refuse to sacrifice dope style for sustainability. From swimwear to modern Filipiñana and handcrafted accessories, support your sisters and help make a difference by getting down with these ethical fashion brands.
AURIA is a London-based brand creating futuristic swimwear from Econyl, a 100% recycled fabric that explores the impact of discarded fishing nets on the environment and impoverished communities in the Philippines. Founded by Diana Auria in 2013, AURIA works closely with Net-Works, a program that takes abandoned nets and melts them down into the new-generation textile that she uses in her contemporary, flattering suits. Before launching AURIA, Diana studied at Central St Martins and went on to specialize in lingerie and swim design at the London College of Fashion. AURIA believes in maintaining integrity and putting environmental and social responsibility at the heart of the brand, but that style and substance can coexist. They understand that the choices both designers and consumers make can create a huge impact, and by focusing on fresh, fun designs, they're able to reach the consumer who might not really care about sustainability but just want their playful, sexy swimsuits. "It’s from the sea back into the sea, the full life cycle. But you would never know.” (The Guardian)
Manila-based Gabbie Sarenas, whose label launched just last year, aims to immortalize tradition through clothing by championing creative Filipino techniques and artisanship. Her latest collection, Pagtanom, takes local fabrics like traditional Filipino silk jusi made by artisans in Iloilo, cotton woven by Bontoc weavers, and pina shifu from Aklan, and sculpts them into luxe, modern clothing.
Gabbie envisions her brand to be one that is held accountable for its entire process of production and also creating less consumption in her customers by making versatile pieces that beg to be worn over and over in multiple ways.
ILANO was founded in 2012 by Oakland-based Roseli Ilano, built off her passion for textiles and decade of experience as a writer, educator and developer of storytelling campaigns for social justice and human rights (she's def been doing work in the community for a long time now, very legit). With the tagline "Artisan Made Modern," ILANO blends modern design with time-honored techniques, and specializes in gorgeous handcrafted textile + leather sandals and handbags. Deeply inspired by indigenous crafts, and the innovations in movement, line, color, and texture by women artists such as sculptor Ruth Asawa, the Bauhaus Weaving Workshop, and serigrapher Sister Corita Kent, ILANO creates a platform to explore traditional handcrafts through a contemporary lens.
Roseli designs the textiles for the line in her studio and then partners with artisans from around the globe, such as the worker-owned Vida Nueva Womens Cooperative in Teotitlan del Valle, an indigenous Mexican community with centuries of weaving history. She is also a Girlboss Grant recipient and winner of the Scion Motivate Prize for Young Entrepreneurs, and her travels and collaborations have taken her from the valleys of Oaxaca to the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordillera.
Materials + Process
Launched in 2011, Materials + Process is a design studio based in San Francisco founded by industrial designer Christine Marcelino that creates "goods for the modern frontier" - read: stunning, minimal leather pieces such as carryalls, totes, and wallets. Christine makes all of her products in her SF studio out of vegetable dyed leather, and her intention is to craft "enduring products that intimately reflect individuality and creativity, while keeping pace with a modern lifestyle...By recognizing essential functionality and using authentic materials, we naturally build longevity into our products. Through our work we cultivate and inspire thought through our artisanship."
As you can see below, her pieces are super minimal, elegant, and absolutely gorgeous - we love those elevated touches like horsehair tassels and brass hardware, and you can really see how much careful craftsmanship goes into each piece.
We've def featured VINTA before, and this won't be the last time either - I was privileged to interview founder Caroline Mangosing in Manila last month as part of our "9 Muses" series, and I can definitely say that she is the bomb (more to come later). VINTA Gallery was conceived in 2009 as a social enterprise and incubated within Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture in Toronto, where she served as executive director and founder from 2007-2015. They create a stunning collection of custom and ready-to-wear ternos and barongs that recall vintage glamour but are super super chic and modern.
Caroline designs the collection in Toronto, then works closely with skilled artisans at their atelier in the Philippines. VINTA honors artisan work by ensuring that the business provides a living wage for those making the products as an opposite reaction to the rampant exploitation in the fashion industry. She hopes to expand manufacturing in the Philippines, creating opportunities for artisans and craftspeople to earn a sustainable wage while supporting the preservation of Filipino traditions in embroidery and other handicrafts. A percentage of profits will be donated back to support Kapisanan's work with Filipino-Canadian youth in Toronto.