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Filip + Inna is a Filipino fashion brand that collaborates with indigenous artisans in the Philippines to create one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories with weaves, embroidery, and beadwork. Each of their creations is formed by tradition as the warp, contemporary as the weft, and culture embodied by artisans, designers, and customers. The brand is an example of SDG 12: Responsible Consumption due to its concentration on slow fashion. Additionally, they offer indigenous people a sustainable livelihood in compliance with SDGs 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.
With a profound love for culture, Filip + Inna champions native designs for contemporary Filipinas. The social enterprise connects with artisans from 19 indigenous groups in the Philippines who utilize their imaginations to create the garments and give them life. At the same time, Filip + Inna supplies them with materials to revive tradition through fashion. In hopes of teaching the younger generation ancestral craft, the enterprise also teaches embroidery, beadwork, and weaving techniques.
The brand's founder emphasizes abiding by the 3Cs of the Cultural Intellectual Property Initiative: Consent, Compensation, and Credit. With this, Filip + Inna continues to grow its network of indigenous groups. They maintain long-term business partnerships with the groups upon receiving their consent, giving them due credit and paying them proper compensation for their expertise.
Each quarter they collaborate to design and deliver handcrafted capsule collections of outerwear, dresses, shirts, pants, shoes, and bags. Most of their pieces are custom-crafted, and artisans use premium materials to create a high-quality feel and appearance for each item. In contrast to fast fashion, the brand seeks to create clothing, not in abundance, but rather just enough to keep the hands of artisans occupied.
Len Cabili, Founder and Creative Director of Filip + Inna weaving with the Philippine T'boli tribe. PHOTO TAKEN FROM the FILIP + INNA WEBSITE
At a young age, Lenora Cabili's family instilled in her a love for Filipino culture. Her mother grew up in Basilan, a small island south of Mindanao, so exposure to indigenous groups was not new to her. In her youth, seeing her grandma wearing beautiful "malong," a traditional Muslim attire made her wonder if the youth would be wearing it one day. Upon joining the Bayanihan Dance Company, she rediscovered the beauty of dance costumes. She even began to wear them as everyday clothing as she wanted to showcase the beauty of such clothing to those around her.
With her love for fashion, she pursued design. She obtained a bachelor's degree in clothing technology from the University of the Philippines and her master's degree in entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management.
Years later, she was diagnosed with cancer. Pondering her life's purpose, she contemplated pursuing what she loved. Calibili said: "It was at that moment that I realized that fashion is my passion. It was not an easy journey as I tried exploring her horizons abroad. At one point, I felt like I was not cut out for fashion and almost surrendered."
"In John Robshaw's textile design studio in New York, where he displayed vibrant textiles from all around Asia, I got the idea to work with Filipino artisans. When I thought of a brand name, I wanted it to point back to the Philippines since Filipino culture was close to my heart. Thus, the birth of Filip + Inna came about," says Cabili.
The Philippine market in 2009 had scarce demand for Philippine Crafts, yet internationally the market was growing given that consumers are willing to pay premium prices for high-quality garments. As Filip + Inna continued to gain traction in the Philippines with the rise of sustainability and appreciation for native products, it broke the status quo of such by buying into the changing mindset. "My vision for the fashion industry is to be rooted in culture and one that finds a way to honor our culture through the pieces created by designers. It can't be a fashion industry that looks to the west for inspiration; rather, the inspiration is within us. It's a matter of pushing our identity into our clothing," says Cabili.
Every piece needs labor-intensive handiwork that takes a lot of time and effort, especially when crafting durable, ecological clothes. The company, which is all about slow fashion, exemplifies SDG 12 of "responsible consumption and production" as it works toward realizing its mission. On the other hand, SDGs 8 and 11, "decent jobs and economic growth" and "sustainable cities and communities," are evident since they provide the indigenous people with a means of subsistence.
Although 100% sustainability is still an ideal that is yet to be achieved, Filip + Inna strives to continue to make to make progress toward it. "I really love what Filip + Inna has achieved. I think that it's really an inspiration and gives appreciation that traditional Filipino clothes are so cool and pretty. I really hope that more clothing companies will grow to adopt these traditional designs that we have," said Cabili.
Because of the company's make-to-order production strategy, the quality of materials used, skill, and time required to create the products, its products are significantly more expensive than ready-to-wear clothing. Cabili claimed, "For the work that goes into it, it is not expensive. But people don't think that. They just look at the price and say, 'oh, it's expensive.' We make sure that the quality is well done, and we have clients who have had pieces for more than ten years, and they still use it, now that's sustainable fashion." Thereby establishing the company as a premium brand to propel its advocacy of celebrating culture through clothing.
Filip + Inna empowers indigenous groups and women by fusing tradition with modern fashion while preserving their cultural traditions and providing them with a sustainable livelihood. In collaboration with local communities and artisans across the country, they design apparel showcasing and promoting Filipino identity and craftsmanship. Only small quantities of each item are produced to reduce waste and preserve its excellent quality.
According to Cabili, "There is no one who can say that they are 100% sustainable as a brand," and "That's the reality of it, you cannot be fully sustainable, but you strive to reach that. It's more of a journey to being sustainable." However, they nevertheless aspire to achieve true sustainability. It is their ideal goal, and they believe that to reach it, they must follow specific standards, uphold all of its values, and apply them in every aspect of the business. This is evident through the various programs they offer wherein they can conserve history and promote their initiatives on cultural sustainability:
F+I Client Partnership Program
This program enables Filip + Inna to connect deeper with its consumers and artisans. They work closely with their community weavers in developing personalized custom designs for each client, allowing them to foster a bond with their workers and customers.
Sama - Sama Programs
In Filipino, "sama-sama" signifies "all together." With the vision of intertwining the past with the present, the company aspires to recognize the value of its interconnection and interweave them together in the future of fashion. Together, through this set of programs, they commemorate and uphold Filipino culture and customs alongside local artists.
The Bahay Kubo Program
In addition to preserving their traditions, Filip + Inna supports its community partners by engaging them to develop their livelihoods. With the help of Green Releaf, a community-driven initiative that promotes resilience and regeneration, they aim to integrate their current farming techniques with the fundamentals of permaculture to create a self-sustaining environment and advance their goal of food sovereignty.
The Back to the Loom Project
This project focuses on honoring the craft of indigenous communities and their traditional customs. Through this, the company seeks to establish weaving center facilities around the Philippines for its partner artisans.
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Lenora Cabili, Founder & Creative Director
Filip + Inna is a social enterprise that collaborates with indigenous artisans to produce one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories, handmade traditional beadwork, weaving, and embroidery from particular communities are incorporated into each piece. Filip + Inna contributes to the preservation and revival of Philippine customs that are in danger of being lost and forgotten.