Balancing environment, economy, and ethics in product innovation.
Weaving Through Negros
By Mike Claparols
Since 2008, Mike and Banj Claparols of Creative Definitions have dedicated themselves to providing world-class Negrense products in the local market, continuously striving to innovate and open more opportunities for its producers. Almost a decade later, they made a major shift by becoming a social enterprise when they partnered with several weaving communities on Negros Island in the Philippines. The collaborations aim to achieve long-term sustainability not only for Creative Definitions but also for the communities. This can only be possible if certain practices are adopted, such as the use of indigenous natural materials, fair trade, ethical marketing, design innovation, as well as taking into account environmental and cultural influences. Putting it simply, sustainability means that there should be a balance between the environment, the economy, and ethics.
The first of these partnerships was established in 2017 with the Negros 9 Kabankalan Weavers. Living in a remote area in the mountains of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, the weavers were organized in 2014 by Fr. Brian Gore and other members of the community in Barangay Sitio Bantolinao, to create a steady source of income and improve the community’s fledgling weaving industry. Their craftsmanship and commitment attracted the attention of Creative Definitions and a partnership was arranged to help the group with product development and marketing. From nine weavers, the Negros 9 has grown to 13 weavers. Other groups have lent support. The Loom Project donated four handlooms and another two came from Artefino’s Heartefino Project. Today, the handwoven products of the Negros 9 are exclusively marketed by Creative Definitions in Manila and the international market.
The following year, another weaving group, also in Kabankalan, caught the notice of Creative Definitions. The Oringao Abaca Handloom Weavers Association was originally set up with assistance from the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry. In 2018, Creative Definitions and the weavers went into a partnership agreement to undertake a trial project to weave fabrics made of Philippine cotton. There are currently three active weavers in this community.
In 2019, Creative Definitions partnered with a master weaver from a nearby town in Negros Occidental. Helen Managuitof Valladolid comes from a family of weavers and claims that her mother taught her the unique weave patterns never before seen in other weaving communities. Creative Definitions assists Helen in opening new markets and increasing production capacity. With the assistance of Creative Definitions, three new looms were acquired as Helen plans to teach new weavers in her community.
Crossing the mountains in 2019, Creative Definitions partnered with another dynamic group of weavers, this time from Bacong town in Negros Oriental. The Bacong Weavers of Negros Oriental specialize in sinamay weaving using an indigenous abaca variety. Currently, product development is being done to weave fabrics that combine cotton and abaca fibers.
Creative Definitions has found a viable business model in balancing environment, economy, and ethics. The social enterprise’s continued search for new materials and production techniques has led to unique sustainable products, like handwoven fabrics that are 100% made of cotton. In the near future, Creative Definitions will also introduce handwoven fabrics made of blended yarns from cotton, pineapple, abaca, bamboo, and banana. More interestingly, it will introduce sustainable handwoven fabrics with water repellence using the SMARTEX technology and nonwoven textile technologies, in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Textile Research Institute.
Lakat Sustainable Footwear
This is an output of Creative Definitions’ collaboration with the Negros 9 Kabankalan weavers in Negros Occidental. By experimenting with locally-sourced natural fibers like pineapple blended with cotton for the uppers, using virgin rubber from Mindanao for the outer sole, and then tapping the craftsmanship of gifted Marikina shoemakers, Creative Definitions has produced its own line of sustainable footwear. Lakat Sustainables is a line of hand sewn shoes, inspired by the advocacy of improving people’s lives in partner communities and local fiber crop farmers.
Lakat Sustainables will initially be made of handwoven pineapple-cotton blended fabric. With the help of the Philippine Textile Research Institute, Creative Definitions is undertaking research in the use of other fibers, including abaca, banana, maguey, bamboo, and silk.
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