Abacá fiber making its place in fashion world

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2014-03-05 10:30:00 – Manila

The abacá fibre over the decades which was considered a high quality soft fibre more commonly used to create speciality paper, as it less matched the needs of fashion. In today fashion world, designers have started making use of luxurious handwoven abacá fabrics in their collections, as well as recent developments that blend pineapple fibre with polyester, showing that a varied range of bast and hard fibres does have a place in fashion world.

Moreover, abacá and polyester mix is increasingly looked upon as an alternative to using cotton in denim production in the fashion industry while in the automotive engineering, Mercedes Benz makes use of polypropylene thermoplastic and abacá yarn mixture in automobile body parts.

The Future Fabrics Expo, internation fashion showcase organized by the Sustainable Angle in UK focusing on minimizing environmental impact through fashion using textile innovation where more than 30 foreign embassies and cultural institutions present young design talent to a London audience. The highlight of the show was the Manila Wear showcase by the Philippines designers who incorporated indigenous sustainable materials into their designs.

Apart from this, each Philippines designer was either in partnership with an NGO where profits are put back into community development, or was working in partnership with local artisans and textile suppliers. This textile innovation can address consequence of Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines.

According to Senen Mangalile, minister and consul general at the Philippine embassy in London, Philippines designers possess the creative talent to make work for an international market but at the same time, help local communities. Manila, not known as an international fashion capital but has the potential to become a leader in sustainable design processes

At the showcase, accessories designer Ken Samudio, referenced the distinct Philippines marine life in his collars and headpieces combining indigenous materials, bamboo and abacá (banana fibre) with upcycled industrial materials like resin and plastic, and used local embroidery and beading techniques. Samudio's workshop gives training to group of single mothers in Manila in the artisan needlework used in his designs which in turn generate them income.

Adante Leyesa, another accessories designer or "social designer" as he prefers to be called, works in partnership with the Antique Atelier, a sustainable tourism project set up to provide work for disabled members of a remote island community outside Manila creates handbags and statement necklaces using bamboo, piña (pineapple fibre) and locally sourced precious stones.

While womenswear designer Tipay Caintic, is a native of Taclobad, where Typhoon Haiyan struck in November. Through her knitwear collection displayed theme of the environmental catastrophe. Her collection primarily used abacá, spun into a silky yarn similar to rayon.

Her showpiece was a full length knit evening gown named Black Rain crocheted from banana silk and includes a voluminous skirts made out of piña, a material not that unlike to organza. While, the ensemble was topped with a Perspex hat similar to the corrugated tin roofs of the coastal shantytowns that were hardest hit.

The Philippines is the largest producer of copra or coconut to the world market, a resource that was completely destroyed in the Eastern Visayas, where the typhoon landed. While attempts to replant the crops are underway, it can take nearly eight years before the crops mature and are ready for market. Thus, Philippines government has decided to promote the abacá industry. The abaca plant is indigenous to the Philippines whose warm, wet climate and volcanic soils are particularly suited to its cultivation which has been grown in the Philippines for centuries. The government is currently seeking certification from the Rainforest Alliance to increase market value.

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