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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Women Legislators Support Local Fashion: Walk the talk in the time of COVID
27 July 2020 12:30:52 PM

By Stella Quimbo, PhD

When Amina Aranaz-Alunan, president of the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines, and Rajo Laurel, one of the top Filipino fashion designers, presented the current state of the local fashion industry to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Economic Affairs last July 17, it was made clear to the representatives that COVID-19 has badly hit the industry. Demand for “slow fashion” is practically gone. Demand has now shifted to essential wear such as PPEs and lounge wear, for which margins are minimal. Meanwhile, designers are doing everything they can to keep their workers. And this is a luxury for the relatively established designers. For the new designers, there is no other option but to close shop.

According to Rajo Laurel, as he explained how designers cope with the pandemic and the huge uncertainty that they face, “we decide on a month to month basis.”

ARISE, Philippines

The Committee on Economic Affairs was the main workhorse for the ARISE bill passed by Congress on third and final reading last June 4. The ARISE bill provides for a 1.3 trillion peso economic stimulus plan for the nation, with the aim of promoting business continuity and reviving business, consumer, and worker confidence so that the economy is re-opened safely and ultimately, so that Filipino workers are protected from layoffs.

The ARISE bill, if it becomes a law, would provide temporary relief for small businesses largely through wage subsidies, interest-free loans, credit mediation, and credit guarantees, as well as longer term recovery interventions such as training, technical assistance, and necessary infrastructure such as those boosting connectivity.

Rep. Sharon Garin, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic Affairs, explains the impetus for the initiative: “After listening to Amina and Rajo and discussing the effects of COVID-19 on the local fashion industry, we cannot sit idly by. While the ARISE bill still has to go through the rest of the legislative mill (Senate and the President’s approval), the Committee, in cooperationwith the Association of Women Legislators Foundation, Inc. decided to launch a campaign to support local fashion and Philippine products in general. The industry is badly hit, perhaps wecan help a little by showing our support for them and reminding our kababayans to Buy Local. Our products are unique and beautiful. Every product made during the time of COVID represents a sense of nationhood and our commitment to resilience, as a nation.”

PFC SONA Brooch: “Araw”

The Philippine Fashion Coalition (PFC), an umbrella organization of fashion professionals from various sub-sectors (which include Aranaz-Alunan and Laurel as advocates). created the PFC SONA brooch, designed by a young Filipino accessory brand that works with various Gawad Kalinga communities. The brooch is formed in a half-sun silhouette signifying both hope and unity.

Rep. Lani Cayetano, wife of Speaker Alan Cayetano and president of the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc., notes: “Sa gitna ng pandemya, sisikat din ang araw… kailangan langmagtulungan ang gobyerno at pribadong sektor. This year’s SONA is truly historical. The backdrop is a global pandemic. Many are suffering from economic hardship. Businesses are closing, industries are dying. Let’s use every opportunity including the SONA to join hands and support each other.”

The brooch comes in two colors, cream and blue. Of the blue version, the PFC explains: “It reflects and represents the deep waters surrounding our thousands of Philippine islands. It symbolizes confidence despite challenges, profound wisdom, stability, and unity. Indigenous Inabel fabric is also incorporated into the traditional eight sun rays as the Philippine flag, but interpreted in a half-sun symbol that is meant to show that we are always collaborative and become relevant when complemented and made part of the story, and succeedingly, history.”

The brooch is the product of the diverse membership of the PFC and symbolizes a collective aspiration. “The industry’s multitude of workers – from the weavers and raw material manufacturers, sewers, cutters, beaders, embroiderers, sales and logistics personnel, designers, creative professionals, and brand owners – are represented in this carefully curated box that contains pieces to celebrate our industry, our culture, and our collective hope.”

Other designers who joined the project by providing tops and accessories appropriate for SONA participation via Zoom include Marga Nograles of Kaayo Modern Mindanao, Vania Romoff, Vic Barba, Gabbie Sarenas, Philip Rodriguez, Randy Ortiz, and Jor-El Espina. Accessories designers, Carla Cruz of Tropik Beatnik, Beatriz, Stride Collective and Twinkle Ferraren also contributed to the project. JC Buendia served as overall coordinator.

Show of support

Of the 301 legislators, 86 are women, a number of whom hold important positions of leadership in Congress, including Baby Arenas, Vilma Santos-Recto, Loren Legarda, and Evelina Escudero who are Deputy Speakers. The women legislators form the Association of Women Legislators Foundation, Inc., which is led by its President, Deputy Speaker Baby Arenas. She said: “We hope to make this year’s SONA memorable and relevant by the simple gesture of wearing the Araw Brooch. I hope that the women legislators are inspired to continue working for the nation’s swift recovery and our kababayans are reminded not to lose hope and continue praying for our nation. God bless the Philippines.”