LIKE most fashion groups still grappling with the ravages of Covid-19, the Davao Fashion Design Council (DFDC) is responding to the pandemic with dynamism. In September 2020, it conducted a series of e-learning sessions for Davao creative communities with the International Trade Center|SME Trade Academy, an e-learning institution founded by the World Trade Organization and the United Nations to support SMEs in becoming globally competitive.
Last February, the DFDC mounted Midnight Summer Dream: A Debut Fashion Exhibit at Dusit Thani D2 Davao and Lubi Plantation Resort. And this March, they supported #TindogDabaw, a fund-raising drive for fire victims, in cooperation with the LGBTQ Davao City Council. If the confusing protocols allow, they are set to participate in Panasonic Manila Fashion Festival in late April.
The group is composed of Dodjie Batu, Benjie Panizales, Aztec Barba, Bamba Limon, Windel Mira, Egay Ayag, Edgar Buyan and Emi Englis. Two other members are based in the UAE: Garimon Roferos and Popoy Barba. DFDC is part of the Philippine Fashion Coalition (PFC), with fashion director Jackie Aquino as president, which “aims to unite all sectors of the Philippine fashion industry under one umbrella with the mission to create a road map of recovery and growth for all.” Batu is on the Board of Trustees and held chairmanship of the membership committee.
Mindanao fashion recently suffered a tremendous loss: the death of its fashion czar, Alfonso “Boy” Guinoo. His closest industry “daughter”, Aztec, shared some sentiments: “Since I was a kid, I already knew Tito Boy because he was my mom’s friend. I saw how his career flourished. He was very popular especially to the elites of Davao. From the time he knew I was in the fashion industry, he told me, “Iha, be good ha and always put your feet on the ground like your Tito Boy.” From then on, he was an inspiration to all of us. Our bonding continued during the visit of some 2016 Miss Universe candidates that shook the Davao fashion scene. [He fought with us for Davao designers to be included in the fashion show. And succeeded.] His legacy of promoting Mindanao fashion is immeasurable. I will truly miss Tito Boy.”
What keeps the members excitedly busy is their “Homage to Davao” box. “The box contains a Kadayawan jacket with Pag-asa the Philippine eagle as a dominant print, and three face masks, all sublimated in neoprene material. The third accessory is from our collaborative partners. The first wave was the “Araw” brooch. The second edition was an artisanal brooch from Kay Fanlo,” says Buyan. “The third and current wave is a Bagobo Tagabawa tangkulo. Orders for the box can be made through our web site or through the council members.”
When the lockdown/quarantine loosened in mid-2020, the DFDC saw how the pandemic slowed down and even stopped production of some of their ateliers and even those of their creative partner communities that they’ve been supporting through the years.
“We realized there was a need for us to do something not just for our own work force to thrive again but also for the communities which are displaced, specifically the Indigenous People artisans we have been collaborating with artistically since Day 1 of the council’s existence,” Panizales explains.
Some of these communities are the Bagobo Tagabawa Heritage Center (Lubogan Toril, Davao City), Association of Mandaya Women of Andap (New Bataan, Davao de Oro) and T-boli Center of Datu Danwata (Malita, Davao Occidental).
“We have been looking into other groups of creatives as well that are not necessarily IPs but whose works are worth promoting and could be a source of pride for the region, and, most importantly, creative groups that build each other up. We have to see that community effort survive and sustain the craft they are into. That’s how we choose our partner community. We are hoping to reach consecutive waves so that we could also tap more communities and include their products to our ‘homage box’ in the future,” adds Panizales.
“Through the sales of our ‘Homage to Davao’ boxes, we were able to give relief goods to fire victims and school supplies for their kids. It also helps our community partners support their products. Plus our industry members like the sewers, etc., are given projects to do,” says Batu, the DFDC president. “Basically, the Homage Box is the lifeline that has helped the fashion industry in Davao since events have been kept to a very minimum. In fact, Kay Fanlo is our past winner from DFDC’s Habi Kadayawan accessory competition. With our collaboration, we make sure our winners continue with our Design Ideation and Business Incubation initiatives.” n