Dressing for a Hotter Planet: In the Philippines, Designers Are Creating Compelling Alternatives to Fast Fashion

For Mariton Villanueva, founding Himaya meant creating a brand that acts as a complete antithesis of fast fashion. Though it was officially founded in 2019, with Villanueva’s college capstone project serving as the brand’s first collection, Himaya really has its roots in Villanueva’s childhood, when she would visit her extended family’s clothing factories.

There, she witnessed some of the industry’s more unethical practices firsthand, from the workers’ slowly compensation to the exorbitant amount of waste. At first, she tried to upcycle scraps, turning them into everything from yoga bolsters to hair ties. But she soon grew exhausted and disillusioned, never truly able to catch up to the amount of waste generated.

Then in 2016, she was introduced to the Filipino tradition of indigo dyeing by her friend and fashion designer Luisa Jimenez of World of Patterns. She fell in love with how the dyeing practice was so deeply rooted in the environment, using materials easily found in nature to produce vividly dyed fabrics. “It’s really a passion of mine to work with my surroundings,” she says. “My father is a farmer, so I’ve always been very passionate about native flora and fauna and how they can be integrated into my career as a fashion designer.”

After receiving her training in natural dyeing from the Philippine Textile Research Institute, Villanueva traveled to Abra province, the natural-dyeing capital of the Philippines, to study under the Itneg tribe. As she observed their Indigenous dyeing and weaving practices, Villanueva saw the possibility of creating a truly sustainable brand. “I saw this new hope in the fashion industry, in how the Philippines’ sustainable fashion can progress over time,” she says.

Villanueva’s dyeing materials for Himaya consist of vegetable scraps collected from market vendors or foraged plants from her neighborhood. Last year when a typhoon felled eucalyptus trees at a university campus, Villanueva traveled to the site to gather the fallen leaves. For her canvas, she purchases damaged rolls of textiles from clothing factories, treating and upcycling them herself. When she wants to use naturally woven fabrics like piña or abaca, she sources them directly from artisan weavers in Aklan, Abra, and Ibaan. “My approach is really about working with the community, the people, and nature,” she says. “It’s about creating a whole ecosystem.”

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