Sustainable Filipino Fashion + 7 Tips for an Intentional Closet

#MUNIonThis: What sustainable fashion initiatives are help curb textile waste in the Philippines? What can each individual do to live with less waste and engage their others as well?

During the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, the search for the dead ended with a death toll of 1,134.[1] while approximately 2,500 injured people were rescued from the building alive.[2]

This incident shook the world and woke up many to the wrongs of the fashion industry. It opened a floodgate for other concerns related to environmental sustainability, and all the waste created by fast fashion – and invited consumers and producers to take a harder look at what we need to do differently.

MUNI Meetup on Sustainable Fashion

At the MUNI Meetup MNL on Sustainable Fashion on June 16 at Clock In BGC High Street, we brought together a panel composed of advocates of sustainable fashion in business and government to raise awareness on the impact of textile waste and local initiatives to curb it including:

  1. Anya Lim, Creative Director and Princess Ant of ANTHILL Fabric Gallery

  2. Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, President and co-founder of Rags2Riches, Inc. & Things That Matter

  3. Celia B. Elumba, Director of PTRI – DOST (Philippine Textile Research Institute) moderated by Kylie Misa, a MUNI ambassador and co-founder of WVN Home Textiles.

Trailblazers of Sustainable Filipino Fashion

Last year, ANTHILL decided to take action and go beyond its social mission by looking at how to further increase impact and protect the environment. They launched a Zero Waste Program called PAMANA in partnership with their Argao Weaving Community and Textile Designer Jessica Ouano.

(L-R) Bomber jacket made with patchwork weave scraps; pencil skirt made with 100% interwoven fabric scraps

ANTHILL’s garage in Cebu is now a mountain pile of fabric waste from production end cuts donated by local designers and ateliers. That is not even close to 1% of the waste from local fashion manufacturing industry in Cebu.

Rags2Riches has also sought to curb textile waste by using surplus fabric from textile factories in its production since 2007, collaborating with various designers to increase the value of items that would literally otherwise just be seen as rags.

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz pointed out that tremendous effort goes into making something beautiful out of what seemed like trash, and there is also great value in saving something from going to landfills. So she invites us to consider: why do we haggle with local creators and artisans who try to create more sustainable products, but don’t even consider haggling high-end labels?

Eco-ethical bags and featured “puso” design from Rags2Riches

Matching Brand Values and Customer Values

“Look at the holistic value of a product for all of its stakeholders,’ shared Reese. The customer is only one of the stakeholders. Behind each sustainable product are people who made it with intention. We also look at the people who made the product and the community in which the factory or shop is located. What value does this product provide them?

ANTHILL’s Anya Lim sharing their story with MUNI Meetup attendees Jericho Rosales and Kim Jones

“The kind of customer you are is determined by how strong your values are,” says Anya. But sustainable fashion is not only be for those who have loads of expendable income. There are also more budget-friendly second-hand shops, while ANTHILL also has a Weave Exchange program that sells its pre-loved pieces at a more affordable price.

Sustainable Fashion for Livelihood Creation and Cultural Preservation

Celia Elumba, Director of the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) also shared that before Rags2Riches was born, the women they partnered with in Payatas and Tondo were already skilled in weaving but they sold low-value products like rags. Rags2Riches helped show these women the value of their craft by marketing high-value bags, allowing these women to earn decent wages for their families.

Sustainable fashion does not just enhance the lives of the artisans and the workers. “It sustains a tradition,” shared Kylie Misa, our meetup moderator and advocate of handweaving. In many indigenous communities, the elders are unable to pass on the weaving tradition to the young, who have little interest as they see little value in the craft. That was the case until the renewed and growing interest in our local weaves.

Our MUNI Meetup on Sustainable Fashion panelists: (L-R) Anya Lim of ANTHILL Fabric Gallery, Kylie Misa of WVN, Reese-Fernandez Ruiz of Rags2Riches, Celia Elumba of PTRI


Educating ourselves, as consumers, is one of the important ways we can support and promote sustainable fashion. Anya encourages us to ask ourselves what role we play in all this. “Fast fashion is a result of the demand for accessibility and lower price. In the name of efficiency, we’ve sacrificed sustainability,” she added.

Therefore, the responsibility for the consequences of fast fashion does not fall solely on the shoulders of brands, but on us too, as consumers. We create the demand, and therefore, we can be part of the solution too, so now we ask, “What can we do?”

Buy less and be mindful of what you do buy. (So in this sense, sustainable fashion is really financially attainable.) 😛 

  1. Save your money. Resist the temptation to peruse shops just because they’re on sale. Remember: It’s 100% off if you didn’t buy it! Keep your hard-earned cash for more intentional purchases.

  2. Give your clothes TLC. Make them last longer by following proper care instructions in use, washing and drying. 

  3. If it’s torn, mend it. If it’s broken, fix it. Some businesses, like Rags2Riches, offer repair services on products you buy from them. Extend the product life and divert it from landfills by through repair and reuse!

  4. Swap with friends and family. In every closet, there are a couple of items that are no longer worn.  Again, this helps you extend the life cycle / use of a product, and not let the resources that went into its production go to waste.

When you do have to buy clothes, look into sustainable options.

  1. Buy second-hand clothes from ukay-ukay, or from programs like ANTHILL’s Weave Exchange, or Patagonia’s Worn Wear.

  2. Find classic, multi-wear pieces that you can mix and match with other items in your closet. Save yourself money, time, closet and luggage space when you have pieces that can be worn frequently and in a variety of ways.

  3. Ask meaningful questions. Choose to invest in a intentional, story-filled closet. Ask about the material/s the item is made of, where and how the item was made, who made it, and what values the brand upholds. This helps you add pieces to your closet that are more meaningful to the maker, and hopefully to you as a buyer too.

Lastly, we need more voices. “Don’t just be the messenger, be the message as well.” shared Denise Subido, MUNI’s Managing Director and meetup host. We can lead by example, and show others that living more sustainably is possible, fashionable and truly desirable.

#ecofashion #anthill #weaving #textiles #rags2riches #sustainablefashion #Zerowaste

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