Pinoy fabrics for the young: wearable, hip, cool, sexy

Community News & Features Jun 9, 2017 at 5:07 pm
Designer: Jaki Peñalosa (Philippines)

Designer: Jaki Peñalosa (Philippines)                                  Photos: Michelle Chermaine Ramos

By Michelle Chermaine Ramos

The second annual Canadian Asian Fashion Week celebrated the talents of Canada’s multi-ethnic Asian community by featuring unique fashion pieces created by designers from different Asian countries including the Philippines, India, Korea, Vietnam, China, Japan and Pakistan. The event, which took place on the weekend of May 5-7, 2017, showcased haute couture and avant-garde collections by local and international designers along with the musical talents of local Asian performers and dance troupes with proceeds benefitting Grandview Kids. The opening night hosted by Cristina Carpio and Randy Persaud honoured Canadian fashion icon Suzanne Rogers with other VIPs in attendance including MPP Han Dong, MPP Lisa Thompson and Miss Universe Canada 2008 Samantha Tajik. When asked about her views on the significance of the role that fashion plays in society, Rogers emphasized the importance of celebrating diversity. “I think it’s important that we celebrate all cultures, all diversity, all fashion in this country. Everybody has something to contribute and it’s beautiful to see what’s been happening here tonight,” Rogers explained.

This year’s renowned international designer from the Philippines is Jaki Peñalosa who was one of the official designers of the Miss Universe 2017 gala night. Peñalosa designed a red gown made of pina fibre for Miss Universe Germany Johanna Acs at the 65th Miss Universe Designers’ Showcase and Charity Ball in Manila in January. The same design made an appearance on the runway during the CAFW opening show.

Eco Couture by Elina Ten (Korea & Kazakhstan)

Eco Couture by Elina Ten (Korea & Kazakhstan)

The eye for color and design runs in the family as Jaki’s daughter, Aisha Peñalosa, is also a talented designer of her own right who designs her own collection and helps her mother run the family business. Despite the common haughty air of stereotypical haute couture divas generally accepted as the nature of the fashion industry, this mother-daughter team are as talented as they are kind and generous.

Both ladies were incredibly down to earth during our interview as we talked about their passion for promoting indigenous Filipino materials, nurturing new Filipino designers looking to break into the industry back home, modernizing Filipiniana for the new generation and providing sustainable jobs for farmers and craftspeople.

Michelle: You received a lot of invitations to do shows in other parts of the world. Tell us what inspired you to choose to participate in CAFW.

Jaki: First of all, I’m so proud and happy to join Canadian Asian Fashion Week. This is my first time joining Canadian Asian Fashion Week though this is my fourth show in Canada. I’m promoting our Philippine heritage and using indigenous fabrics made from pineapple fibre, banana fibre, and silk and it’s all hand woven.

Michelle: What inspired this collection?

Jaki: This collection is promoting modern Filipiniana …that our materials and designs from the Philippines can be worn day and night. It can also be competitive with other designs abroad, globally.

From left: Aisha Peñalosa, Michelle Chermaine and Jaki Peñalosa

From left: Aisha Peñalosa, Michelle Chermaine and Jaki Peñalosa  (Photo courtesy of M. Ramos)

Michelle: What made you decide to specialize in using pineapple and banana fibres?

Aisha: It’s been traditional fabric for so many years now. It’s just that my mom and I started making it into really wearable and sexy pieces so the new generation can start wearing it. When you say piña, abaca…those are hand woven fabrics that are usually used for barongs or traditional gowns. Most of the new generation wouldn’t want that for something they would wear on certain events, so my mom thought of making it really modern and wearable and at the same time sexy, so the new generation can actually wear them even just for proms. It doesn’t have to be a Filipiniana. It doesn’t have to be something really formal. It could be just a casual dress.

Michelle: As a young designer representing the new generation, what inspires you?

Aisha: A lot of things! First of all, of course, the fabric itself inspires me. You know, when you see people wearing Chinese collars and they’re not Chinese, how did that happen? A lot of people also use different fabrics from different countries and we do not hear much of other people in other countries wearing Filipino fabrics and that’s what we want. That’s what I wanted and I want the new generation to wear these dresses on normal occasions and any occasion so that more and more people can see how lovely these fabrics are. They can help spread the word that these are very wearable and also hip and cool and very beautiful. It’s not only just wearing them. You’re also helping farmers, weavers and your heritage. So in the next few years, I hope Filipinos will be more focused on wearing something of their own.

Emcees Randy Persaud and Cristina Carpio with the Alano Guizhou Art Ensemble

Emcees Randy Persaud and Cristina Carpio with the Alano Guizhou Art Ensemble

Michelle: What are five words you would want people to use to describe your style?

Aisha: My style is almost like my mom’s. The pieces are very wearable, they’re sexy, they’re unique. I can’t say they’re traditional but they are indigenous because we use indigenous fabrics…let’s say it’s Filipino.

Michelle: So what’s next? Where are you off to next?

Aisha: My mom will be having her show this June for the Mabuhay Festival and I’m still going to be with her because we’re a team and we have shows in Vancouver and Calgary coming up.

For more info, visit their Facebook page:

Diem Huong’s Viet Fashion Group (Vietnam)

Diem Huong’s Viet Fashion Group (Vietnam)


Diem Huong’s Viet Fashion Group (Vietnam)

Diem Huong’s Viet Fashion Group (Vietnam)


Eco Couture by Elina Ten  (Korea & Kazakhstan)

Eco Couture by Elina Ten
(Korea & Kazakhstan)


Sachiko’s Kimono Show (Japan)

Sachiko’s Kimono Show (Japan)