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This Purpose-Driven Fashion Show Is Bound To Rouse Pinoy Pride In You

When social, cultural, gender, and sustainability advocate and GREAT Women president Jeannie Javelosa took over the mic at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel's Sage Bar on March 5 to talk about an upcoming project she had been working on for months, her excitement was almost tangible, so much so that the room was in pure anticipation of what she was about to unveil—and rightly so. 

After all, it's not every day that it can be revealed that a meaningful breakthrough has been made in the country's long, and often complex, journey towards women empowerment and cultural preservation.

Yet that's exactly what Jeannie, her dedicated colleagues at the GREAT Women Project, and government partners have accomplished this year, a feat worth celebrating with a dash of style, a stroke of nationalism, and a whole lot of women pride. 

 

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In line with International Women's Month, governance and capacity development project GREAT Women proudly invites everyone to "WEAVE: Celebrating the GREAT in Women," a fashion show slated to take place on March 30 at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel's Lobby Lounge. 

Before categorizing the upcoming affair as your run-of-the-mill models-meet-couture event, know that "Weave" is both a style showcase and a symbolic display of something much, much deeper than that. 

 

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As Jeannie described it, "Weave" is a testament to everything great about Filipina women, most especially the female weavers from Panay Island who are the true heroines of the purpose-driven event. 

It's right to assume that these women's works will be at front and center, yet it's important to learn the story behind them beforehand to be able to fully appreciate each piece before the spotlight hits them on the catwalk. 

 

 

By this time, Filipinos are no strangers to the "love local" attitude in fashion. Celebrities opt to wear local designers' pieces to glamorous events, the phrase "Filipino-made" is now uttered with confidence, and "locally sourced" labels on clothing now have a strong appeal to shoppers. 

Many men and women will take pride in knowing that they've contributed in one way or another to the local textile industry (and to the betterment of the lives of Filipinos who depend on it) by patronizing clothes and other garments made in the Philippines—or so they think.

 

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Digging deeper into the subject, Jeannie and Director of the Philippine Textile Research Institute Imelda Canuel explain that it's unfortunately not as straightforward as that. 

Yes, garments can be Philippine made, but a large part of the issue lies in the materials used to make them. They're often, if not almost always, imported from different countries, which means that only local labor is utilized in this scenario—the actual materials used to make clothes are not from the country.

 

 

It gets bleaker when Jeannie and Imelda ask their audience to reflect on the popularity and mainstream status of clothing and other fabric products made from native textiles. Fashionistas will know—and love—cotton, linen, chambray, and rayon, but what about the distinctly Filipino hablon, patadyong, and habi

Besides, at this point, even if products made from local textiles were, hypothetically speaking, made available to the public and placed side by side with products made elsewhere, they would still struggle to compete in very important areas: design relevance and innovation. 

 

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As tough as it was to admit, Jeannie and Imelda went on to share that although Filipino textiles boast of quality and uniqueness, weavers, for too long, have lacked exposure to what the consumer wants to see these days so they end up with products that haven't exactly kept up with the times.

The most shocking facet of this story, however, was narrated in detail by Imelda who revealed that in many instances, weavers themselves do not have access to the necessary equipment needed to transform readily available raw materials into a finished product.

 

 

Imagine being surrounded by hectares of abaca trees, but without the means to turn them into abaca fiber that will later on be used to create a dress admired by many. To make a living for one's self, you resort to imported cotton from neighboring China and India, creating clothes that are technically Philippine-made, but not clothes that are of Philippine make. 

Now, we begin to see the disconnect.

Now, we know better, and that "locally made" isn't always what it suggests. 

These points, from consumers lacking real knowledge of the state of the local textile industry to weavers having no means to elevate their craft, have altogether resulted in the near death of the local textile industry—the operative word being "near." 

 

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With Jeannie at the helm of this ship and her team ready to tackle the seemingly insurmountable task of reviving the Philippine textile industry, they will never, ever allow it to reach the point of resuscitation—hence, the fashion show they poured their souls in. 

Quite literally taking months and months of their personal and professional lives to achieve, the project has finally come to a fruition, and Jeannie is over the moon to be able to say that it will be her foundation's first-ever professionally-staged fashion event. 

 

 

To summarize the benefits that the fashion show had had on participating weavers, it's given them a broader understanding of what it takes to run a small business, the opportunity to work with product development specialists to help them improve their designs, a network that bridges them to both local and international niche markets, and of course, the pride in oneself and the empowerment that every Filipino woman deserves to live a fulfilled life. 

It's certainly been more than just giving them a venue to sell what they've made, a meaningful and sustainable way to tackle the challenges of their industry that their lives depend on. 

 

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Not to mistake the event as the ultimate finish line of their efforts to raise the status of Panay's female weavers, "Weave" simply is the culmination of one phase of this initiative, but one bound to be stunning and a great omen for better things to come. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rising high: innovations in #greatwomentextiles

A post shared by GREAT WOMEN (@greatwomenasean) on

 

At "Weave," expect to see local textiles fashioned into pieces like they've never been before. 

Showcasing ensembles for both men and women, the show will focus on what Panay's women weavers have accomplished since being tapped by GREAT Women (a foundation whose name is, in fact, an acrconym for Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women). 

 

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Knowing that eye-catching neutrals paired with geometric lines, familiar prints and patterns outfitted into classic coordinates and stand-alone pieces, versatile blouses, and trendy picks will all be present should be enough to tempt you to come to "Weave," but now learning the journey that the eyes, hands, and hearts that helped create them went through should definitely be the main reason for your attendance.  

Summer is fast approaching—we couldn't think of a better way to breathe life into your wardrobe with the pieces from "Weave" that you can call your own. 

 

 

To learn more about GREAT Women, their projects, upcoming fashion show "WEAVE: Celebrating the GREAT in Women," and how you can purchase items from their collections, follow them on @greatwomenasean and @greatwomencolleciton. 

A happy International Women's Month to everyone!