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Threads of life

By Words by Natasha Dragun Photography by Sonny Thakur

Threads of life
An ethical fashion initiative in the Philippines not only preserves weaving, beadwork and embroidery traditions but supports local artisans and their communities.

Growing up on Mindanao, the second-largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines, Lenora Cabili was surrounded by artisans creating reels of fabric from abaca (a type of banana-like plant native to the country) from an early age. Shredded, dried and dyed, the fibres were woven into mats, accessories and clothes – a stunning footprint of the island community.

Today, Cabili is one of the country’s strongest proponents of indigenous fashion – her label Filip + Inna showcases intricate weaving, embroidery and beadwork from across the archipelago.

“My mission is to create while also reviving, even preserving, ancient traditions of the Philippines that are in danger of becoming lost,” says Cabili, whose work with 11 communities across the country also offers an opportunity to improve livelihoods.

A centuries-old tradition in the Philippines, the embroidery Cabili sources includes cross-stitch patterns of indigenous people and intricate callado (filigree work where yarn is painstakingly pulled off the cloth) from the country’s lowlands. She has just finished work on the Felicia Dress from her B’laan Collection, which features 15,000 glass beads, all stitched by hand. “It took the artisan five weeks to finish it,” she says. 

A former dancer turned fashion designer, Cabili’s Filip + Inna – a portmanteau of Filipino and Filipina – clothes are essentially a map of the country, highlighting regional crafts and materials. Cabili travels the islands, tracking down unique creations and collaborating with artisans to create distinct garments and accessories for women. It’s a time-consuming process, but it guarantees individual, highly personalised pieces – each artisan also puts their name on the garments they create.

While collections change with availability and the seasons, pieces might include resort-style tops, chemises, boleros, lounge pants and caftans. No two garments are ever alike. Embellishments often nod to the traditional garb of various communities and Cabili keeps a collection of garments from far-flung islands for inspiration.

“I wear Filip + Inna clothes with pride because behind every garment is the artisan and her life story,” she says.

See filipinna.com.

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Peninsula academy

While Peninsula hotels around the world have their own distinct character, one thing that ties them together is a supreme sense of style – plus the Peninsula Academy.

A thoughtfully curated collection of bespoke tours in each hotel’s city, the academy is designed to immerse guests in the local landscape, highlighting everything from history and culture to contemporary arts
and cuisine.

At the Peninsula Manila, a diverse programme includes a helicopter tour of WWII relics as well as a craft class and Burda: Hand Embroidery Art of the Philippines. The latter sees Peninsula guests spend an afternoon at the atelier of Lenora Cabili and learn how each piece she designs is gawa sa kamay (handmade).

Over coffee or champagne and canapés, guests can enjoy a salon show featuring select pieces from Cabili’s latest collection, which they may also purchase or have custom fitted. manila.peninsula.com

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