Trying to save the world today can take on many forms. For Digna Rosales, the veritable Grand Dame of Philippine fashion and president of the FDAP (Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines), the country’s oldest organization of fashion designers, it happens to involve trash. Think: Cast-off foil packaging, bottle caps, fishnet bags. Digna is taking all these and making a definitive fashion statement through waste couture. “I want to expose fashion in a different context,” she reveals as we caught up with her at the blessing of the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines (FDAP), CEDA, Inc., Qalidad Filipino Foundation, Inc. Corporate Centre.
And this development of fashion as an inclusive arena she and her colleagues take to a whole new level with this corporate centre that doesn't only house a design school and a factory that produces corporate wear, but also aims to generate jobs for Mandaluyong residents. Fashion at its most noble, indeed. City mayor Carmelita Abalos, former mayor Benhur Abalos, and the TESDA team were in attendance and in full support of the advocacy.
Having decades of experience in the industry gave Digna a different perspective. “Fashion is not frivolity. It is a way of life,” she relates. “Fashion is translated into livelihood. It has a wide network that benefits when the industry flourishes.” The downside of this growth, however, is fashion’s detrimental effect on the environment. “One of the major sources of pollution is the fashion industry,” laments Digna. “My industry is the second largest polluter of our planet, next to oil.”
Thus, Digna found an innovative way to provide education about conservation. “I have always believed in Filipino talent. I have very high respect for our creativity and skills,” she says. She has funneled this innate ingenuity to find creative reuse of dumpster finds. Under her tutelage, several designers have scooped up the detritus of the industrial world and converting it into something people will pay good money for: Wearable art made from materials that have been diverted from the waste stream.
In one creation, scraps of paper were painstakingly twisted into slender ropes. These ropes were then coiled into concentric circles that were pieced together to form the bodice of the dress. More paper ropes complete the ensemble, making up a cape that mimics the shagginess of fur.
Another handiwork refashioned cloth scraps into a dress. Hundreds of beer bottle caps forming waves undulate across the dress, creating an interesting juxtaposition of textures and movement.
Another piece features old rubber placemats and candy wrappers transformed into a sexy halter dress reminiscent of the superfluous design sensibilities of the psychedelic 1960s.
Sachets of shampoo were meticulously pieced together to replace fabric, resulting in a flirty pair of cropped top and pleated skirt. Sewn together plastic strips provides a fluffy stole to the set.
Mesh bags were also upcycled to form a quirky, coordinated suit with a ruffled hat. A boa made of shredded plastic wraps up the outfit.
With the imaginative use of garbage in this collection, green is definitely the new black. The fashion exhibit, currently displayed in the FDAP headquarters, is a testament that couture can be found in all shapes and sizes, proving that junk can be reimagined into beautiful couture. Visit them at Ceda Bldg. 777 Katarungan St. Brgy. Plainview Mandaluyong City.
ALSO READ: Beauty Spotlight: These Environment-Friendly Personal Care Products Redefine Sulit
Photographs by the author