Last month's International Fashion Showcase saw more than 30 foreign embassies and cultural institutions present young design talent to a London audience comprising press, buyers and fashion aficionados.
The Manila Wear showcase from the Philippines was the only one that highlighted how six designers incorporate indigenous sustainable materials into their designs. In addition, each designer had either a partnership with an NGO where profits are put back into community development, or was collaborating with local artisans and textile suppliers.
While Manila is not generally known as an international fashion capital, it could become a leader in sustainable design processes, says Senen Mangalile, minister and consul general at the Philippine embassy in London. "Philippines has a lot to offer in terms of creative designs, but also a model for sustainable partnership between designers and the local communities who supply some of the materials [the designers] use." The designers possess the creative talent to make work for an international market but at the same time, they help local communities who perform the work.
With a rising middle class and a new generation of designers who are engaged with international fashion markets in a way their predecessors weren't, the elements are coming together for a dynamic hub of Manila designers who combine inspiration from the tropical landscape that surrounds them with western design aesthetics.
Accessories designer Ken Samudio, referenced the diverse marine life of the Philippines 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 provides a source of income for a group of single mothers in Manila who he has trained in the artisan needlework used in his designs.
Fellow accessories designer Adante Leyesa, or "social designer" as he prefers to be called, creates handbags and statement necklaces using bamboo, piña (pineapple fibre) and locally sourced precious stones. He 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.
"I am a strong advocate of the use of local materials," says Leyesa. "I am an educator and I provide capacity-building programmes in remote areas to teach people the skills to develop products for my brand."
Womenswear designer Tipay Caintic, is a native of Taclobad, where Typhoon Haiyan struck in November. Her knitwear collection drew on the theme of the environmental catastrophe that has, according the Philippine government, displaced nearly 4.1 million people.
Caintic has primarily used knitted pineapple fibre, spun into a silky yarn similar to rayon. Her showpiece is a full length knit evening gown named Downpour which is crocheted from banana silk and includes a voluminous skirts made out of piña, a material not that dissimilar to organza. The ensemble is topped with a Perspex hat resembling the corrugated tin roofs of the coastal shantytowns that were hardest hit.