What does a country’s craftsmanship signify? The first thing that comes to mind is its longstanding traditions, as the result of an artistic heritage handed down through centuries. In the Philippines, these certainly hold true – with the country being a known exporter of everything from mats, baskets, and ethnic fabrics all over the world. Yet in hindsight, this might also signify a lower sense of economic importance.
In a study conducted by Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, they describe the emergent thought of craftsmanship being deemed a lower art form compared to conceptual innovation in higher-income nations.
“The educational systems in developed countries sanctified intellectual intelligence and looked down on manual skills. In the arts conceptual innovation had overtaken craftsmanship as the core competence.” In other words, highly unique and conceptual products (including everything from haute couture to smartphones) proved to be of higher value than mere souvenir goods.
Yet in the case of the Philippines, craftsmanship seems to become more and more tied into the uplifting of the local lifestyle – as well as the communities that make them, and even national identity. With such visions in place, the idea of balancing conceptual innovation and manual craftsmanship can be seen in the works of Filipino designers. This could prove to be not only beneficial in creating better-looking handicrafts, but in uplifting the lives of the local communities that make them as well.
We take a look at the most exciting contemporary brands committed to giving the Philippines the spotlight in the world of global craftsmanship.
A multi-awarded furniture designer and manufacturer from Cebu, Cobonpue is known for taking Philippine craftsmanship into the international arena. And rightfully so – his home pieces manage to twist, turn, and tame a wide variety of locally sourced materials, even being dubbed “Rattan’s First Virtuoso” by TIME Magazine back in 2006.
A play on the term “Filipina”, Filip + Inna is a fashion brand that incorporates age-old custom weaving, embroidery and beadwork – resulting in heritage-inspired but undoubtedly contemporary pieces perfect for the modern wardrobe.
Lenora “Len” Cabili is the brand’s Founder and Creative Designer, spearheading Filip + Inna’s collaboration with different tribes all across the country to create her wide range of pieces.
Family trio Becky, Amina, and Rosanna Aranaz are the three women behind the now-prolific Aranaz brand. An accessories label that celebrates the exoticism and artisanship of Filipino culture, they offer a colorful range of clutches, handbags, hats, and other intricate fashions that manage to retain a sense of polished chic.
Moving beyond the confines of the Philippines, the brand today is stocked in many major boutiques all over the world, including the LVMH Group-owned Le Bon Marché in Paris, Selfridges in London, and Anthropologie in the U.S. Furthermore, Aranaz has also been featured in other top publications – such as French Vogue and U.S Marie Claire.
Founded in 2014, AKABA is a rising social enterprise that takes the formerly waning art of loomweaving into the contemporary era. The artisan bag brand provides a source for indigenous groups to continue practicing their craft, all the while highlighting the beauty and practical use of their handwoven textiles.
While many Filipino lifestyle brands take inspiration from the country’s cultural heritage – Team Manila on the other hand finds its muse in the lifestyle, culture, and imagery of Manila (sometimes even poking fun at the quirks of living in the Philippine capital).
With shirts, totes, pouches, limited edition prints, artwork, and other lifestyle accessories that elevate the mundane and everyday, and honor beloved national icons, Team Manila offers everything for everyone.
A specialty streetwear label with a headstrong image, BRKLSS has pieces that can very much fit into any hypebeast or sneakerhead’s closet. The brand highlights the fun and excitement of drifting and drag racing, catering to the tastes of everyone with a knack for edgier (and fresher) style.