Davao-based fashion designers are collaborating
with indigenous cultures to help keep their heritage alive.

Last December, lifestyle writer and fashion stylist Stephanie Zubiri and I spent three days at the beautiful Pearl Farm Beach Resort on Samal Island just off the coast of Davao City, Philippines.  We were there to photograph the designs of some Mindanao’s leading fashion creatives.  As Stephanie details in our February 2020 SilkAir Silkwinds feature, “beyond its lush mountains and pristine beaches, Mindanao has unparalleled cultural richness and religious diversity.”

“Comprised of 27 provinces and over 26 ethno-linguistic tribes, the Philippines’ second-largest island is a melting pot of cultures.  The Davao region alone has 11 indigenous tribes, each with their own unique artisanal traditions.  From the Manobo tribes known for intricate beadwork to the cross-stitch embroidery of the T’boli, there is much to inspire the modern-day designer.”

However, “working with tradition is by no means easy.  Designers must be mindful of cultural appropriation and nurture sustainable relationships with their indigenous partners.  This means ensuring that their fabrics and archetypal designs are used with respect as well as paying artisans a fair price for their work.” As Lenora Cabili, a Mindanao native and founder of local brand Filip+Inna, explains, “It is important to give the artisans proper value for their work, and give back to the community through different programmes.”

Stephanie also spoke to three other leading Mindanaoan designers — Bea Constantino of Herman & Co.,  Marga Nograles of Kaayo and Toping Zamora, — about their brand philosophies, sources of inspiration, how they integrate tradition into their modern designs, what sparked their interest in working with indigenous communities and how they give back to them.

Read the interviews in this month’s SilkAir Silkwinds fashion feature below.  And click here to browse the entire destination fashion shoot, including outtakes that did not appear in the magazine.