Contemporary Ethnic – Philippines

Coming back from holiday in the Philippines recently, I returned with the disappointment of not coming back on large container ship. Why? Well, mainly because I’d still be at sea (and technically still on holiday) but really because the country is a hot bed of un-tapped stuff. Stuff that would look good on you and in your homes in an ethnic and non hippyish sort of way. Like, Narra wood furniture – solid, stylish and sleek with nods to traditional Spanish designs (Colonisers up until the mid 1800). Ethnic pots, glassware, weaved rugs, mother of pearl and gold jewellery, threaded and designed by the all- female Muslim artisans of Mindoro, are sold in the numerous Manila malls – some a mile in length.

Best of all, though, are the clothes. Traditional formal wear, normally saved for weddings and christenings, is made with ‘Pina’ fabric – thread spun of stripped palm leaves and coconut, and therefore fully sustainable. Batik techniques and ‘duster’ patterns normally worn by Filipino grandmas are awash with vibrant colours and floral patterns perfect to run side by side those found in SS12 and upcoming SS13 print trends.

With a contemporary band of Filipino designers bringing them to ready-to-wear status, fortunately said stuff is starting to make it’s way over to the UK. The London based, Bamboo District, is just one of those offering traditional wear and accessories tailored for the UK Summer market ( For those with a spare pound looking for the next Lombok, check out Kenneth Cobonpue for Filipino furniture building techniques merged with contemporary design (

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