The Filipino Influence

Let’s talk about Black Panther. Specifically, let’s talk about how the film’s all-female military force, the Dora Milaje, were made to look battle-ready and runway-ready at the same time.

Visual development illustrator Antonio Francisco took inspiration for the Dora Milaje mostly from Kenyan, Tanzanian, and South African tribes—but also incorporated his own Filipino roots. It’s a source of pride to note that Black Panther’s widely-praised costume design was partly inspired by traditional Ifugao clothing, proving that Filipino fashion has mainstream appeal.

But that’s not news. Filipino designers have been making waves on the international stage by showcasing the uniqueness of Filipino style for decades. The question is, how much effect has Filipino fashion had on those watching? Let’s unravel that by exploring how far the ripple has reached in terms of influencing international designers.

Christian Louboutin’s Manilacaba
There’s a lot to unpack in Christian Louboutin’s latest Treasure Tote, the Manilacaba. Inspired by the celebrated designer’s trip to the Philippines last November, the Manilacaba perfectly channels the cacophony of noise, energy, and clashing colors that is Manila.

Specifically, the tote is inspired by jeepneys and the way every inch of the iconic Filipino vehicle is covered by insufferably vibrant decorations. The Manilacaba features a jeepney and Louboutin’s initials embroidered on the front panel, framed by patterns made by iridescent sequins edged in red.


Christian Louboutin
Louboutin’s signature spikes are found on thin leather straps looping around the handles. The design inspiration reaches all the way to the eye-popping inner lining of the bag, which is printed in a psychedelic pattern of jeepneys crammed together in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The woven textile side panels are made by Filipino women artisans from the GREAT (Gender Responsive Economic Action for the Transformation of) Women in ASEAN initiative, which aims to economically empower women artisans in Asia. Aside from supporting the industry with equitable wages, 10 percent of the proceeds from each Manilacaba will go to the initiative. Co-founder Jeannie Javelosa calls the blending of the weavers’ age-old craft and Louboutin’s innovative design “an inspiring story of mutual respect.”

Viktoria Hayman’s Mother-of-Pearl Jewelry
Florida-based designer Viktoria Hayman’s signature style involves the use of natural, exotic materials in her eponymous jewelry line. Russian-born but a well-traveled woman of the world, Hayman’s wanderlust influenced her penchant for using materials from all over the globe like shells, pearls, wood, horn, semi-precious stones, and knotted leather.

A staple in Hayman’s brand of natural, wearable art is mother-of-pearl, so called because the material comes from the shell of pearl-bearing mussels and oysters. Hayman’s mother-of-pearl creations are sourced and assembled right here in the Philippines.


Viktoria Hayman
When working with mother-of-pearl, it’s best to follow the form of the material in order to use as much of it as possible. Hayman’s jewelry lovingly embrace the natural curves of mother-of-pearl, begetting large, chunky pieces that rejoice in creating languid, freeform curves and circles. The resulting style is bold, eye-catching, and unafraid to take up space.

Viktoria Hayman’s bold statement pieces have been worn by the likes of Sofia Vergara.

Mestiza New York’s Vintage Filipino Gowns
Last on the list is Mestiza New York, which began as the solution to a problem – designer gowns being out of the price range of practically everybody. While the brand has grown reputable enough to appeal to A-listers like Kate Walsh, Chrissy Teigen, Madelaine Petsch, and Ashley Graham, Mestiza’s main mission is their vision of making elevated fashion accessible to the average millennial girl.

The word mestiza is used in the Philippines to mean a Filipino woman of mixed ancestry. The brand name reflects founders Alessandra Perez-Rubio and Louisa Rechter’s mixed Filipino-American heritage, which they credit for their distinct perspective in fashion. Mestiza’s designs draw inspiration from photographs of the Philippines in the 1960’s—sometimes by the fashion choices of the founders’ own families during that era. Their dresses combine vintage elements—like architectural silhouettes, bejeweled embellishments, and lush fabrics like lace and hand-woven silk—with contemporary taste.


Mestiza New York
Mestiza uses authentic hand-woven Filipino fabrics, thanks to their partnership with Habi Philippine Textile Council. The brand supports the centuries-old Philippine textile industry by sustaining the cotton farms and providing female textile weavers with fair employment and a reliable paycheck for their craft. □
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This article was originally published in The Manila Times on June 9, 2018.

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