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Fiber Rich

New clothing line, Frangipani, is the hotbed for modern piña designs.
Fiber Rich New clothing line, Frangipani, is the hotbed for modern piña designs.

It's refreshing to know that a lot of designers and fashion entrepreneurs are going global amidst the recession. In fact, a number of the fashion industry's movers and shakers are making it big abroad with their own line of Philippine-made products. Theirs is a testament of how the Filipino talent can compete in the cutthroat world stage. Names like Monique Lhuillier, Rafē Totengco and Bea Valdes are some who ring a bell and prompt a sense of Pinoy pride.

Today, Style Bible proudly turns the spotlight on a new brand called Frangipani. Frangipani is a clothing line founded by entrepreneurs Malou Romero and Noel Manapat, using hand-woven fabrics such as Piña as a major component in their designs. It's very Filipino and is easing its way into the world market with clients both here and abroad.

The Flower Label
Frangipani (pronounced franjipani) is the English term for the flower, Kalachuchi. “It's a beautiful flower, but so common that sometimes we take it for granted,” explains Noel. “So by calling it by its other name, you take a second look. That's what we hope to do with our local handcrafted fabrics—you take a second look. It's like repackaging it to produce unique stuff,” he adds.

The beauty and intricacy of the hand-woven fabrics inspired the duo to explore piña and incorporate into their collections. Often, we see this fabric being used for barongs, ternos and other Filipiniana outfits that are only used during weddings and Filipino-themed affairs. “We take a second look of the fabric our grandparents, parents, ninongs and ninangs wear,” Noel jests.

Noel and Malou's appreciation of Philippine-made hand-woven fabrics and other weaving techniques including embroidery gave birth to Frangipani. However, these materials are not crafted into Filipiniana outfits but are used in unexpectedly fresh and modern designs. “It is modern clothing using indigenous materials,” says Malou.

Piña Meets World
The labor that goes into every single strand of the piña fabric is complex and strenuous to say the least. Piña cloth is made from pineapple fibers done by hand from fiber extraction to weaving. The labor-intensive process is carried out very carefully so as not to cut any fibers. Thus, a weaver can only make about one-fourth meter of piña cloth in a day.

“There are different techniques of weaving such as Piña Callado, Piña Seda and Piña Sinuksok and they are all painstakingly hand-woven,” Malou shares. Frangipani has tapped weavers from Aklan and the embroidery industry in Lumban for their fabrics. The biggest challenge so far “was making all systems work—from sourcing the fabric to dealing with inconsistencies and delay,” Noel shares.

But this is also why these fabrics are deemed special; but more importantly, they are genuine Pinoy products designed to attract even the international scene. “There's a huge market out there but they are not exposed to our locally hand-crafted fabrics that are too beautiful not to bring out there. That's where we saw the missing link,” Noel says.

Brian Leyva for Frangipani
Noel and Malou tapped young, promising designer, Brian Leyva, to do their Holiday 2009 Collection. Brian's pieces are a fresh take on Filipino yet global design. All his creations for the collection made use of the locally hand-woven fabrics but done so in very modern silhouettes like a tulip dress, a jumpsuit and a frock to name a few.

At the moment, Frangipani accommodates clients by appointment only at Frangipani 453 Design Showroom, 453 Adalla St., Palm Village, Makati City. You may call (632) 896-6674 for inquiries.

Click on to see Frangipani's Holiday Collection.

—Nikki Santiago, Fashion Assistant


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