2015 TELA FASHION SHOW: A tapestry of Mindanao Island fabrics and haute couture

By , on August 21, 2015

Vancouver, B.C. — Richmond’s Riverside Grand Ballroom on August 7th was turned into a festive ambiance of southern Philippines. It was a showcase of prized Mindanao fabrics hitting the runway in Canada for the first time. With over 60 haute and prêt-a-porter creations from Cagayan de Oro’s top designers who infused contemporary and ethno-cultural mosaic of the island—Mimi Pimentel, Gil Macaibay III, Mark Yaranon, Boogie Musni Rivera and Benjie S. Manuel.

'Tela' Benjie Manuel & organizers
‘Tela’ Benjie Manuel & organizers

I dub this milestone as the renaissance of Southern Philippines fibers into the global 21st century. The well-attended fashion show depicted intricately hand-woven native textiles such as the pinya cloth from the province of Aklan. Considered as crème dela crème of Philippine fabrics, Pinya is derived from pineapple plant leaf fibers. And there were the colorful hand-loomed tapestries and waistcloths of different tribes of Mindanao. Noted for its intricate geometrical patterns and vibrant colours, the Mindanao fabrics are handcrafted by tribal women made from abaca, pineapple to silkworm cocoon fibers. Finished fabrics are called T’nalak, Jusi, Pina, Pina Jusi and Hinabol.

Photo_Tela Boogie_Benjie_Mimi

According to Tela fashion show coordinator and program director, Ontario-based Christopher Nazaire, “the beauty of these Mindanao fabrics lies in the dexterity of women weaving them who are mindful of a long tradition passed through generations. Woven into the intricacies of the fabrics are their tribes’ dreams and aspirations. Most famous of them, the T’boli weaves the T’nalak fabric which represents birth, life, marriage and death. Without guides, their women often called dream weavers rely on a mental image of the designs; believing that the patterns are bestowed on them through their dreams or the spirit of the abaca.”  Christopher further added, “the Mindanao silk is now a constant feature in Filipino haute couture. It is worn by Philippine politicians and famous celebrities like Senator Loren Legarda and Chin Chin Gutierrez”.

PHoto_Tela purple gown
Photo by Chris Nazaire courtesy of Babes Newland

Designer Benjie S. Manuel, who is the founding president of the Oro Fashion Designers Guild, articulated, “Tela 2015 aims to bring back the grandeur of the weaving industry by promoting it globally. Such initiative is a celebration of being a Filipino and a Mindanaoan. Being supported by Filipino communities around the world, I am grateful to them for believing in the designers and giving everyone a chance to reconnect with the Filipino roots as we move into the future of the Mindanao fashion industry.” The group proceeds to Toronto, New York and Seattle WA as respective stops for showcase. Hopefully, this would just be the first of many series of international showcases featuring avant-garde creations by this fresh, young breed of Filipino designers.

Photo_Tela Male ensemble by Boogie
Male ensemble by Boogie (Photo by Chris Nazaire courtesy of Babes Newland)

The Tela 2015 Fashion Show and Exhibition in Vancouver BC was presented and produced by the Society of Indigenous Network Above-Ground (SINAG), an organization that upholds the diverse ethnicity, nationality, faith and culture that make up the Filipino-Canadian as a whole. SINAG co-founders Victor and Zeny Villamera; and Lilet Salazar were pleased with the outcome of their debut project which was done in close cooperation with the Consulate General of the Philippines in British Columbia. The proceeds from Tela benefited Answering the Cry of the Poor or ANCOP in the Philippines.