BY FIEL ESTRELLA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KENNETH ABALLA
The fashion brand’s new creative hub in the heart of Makati’s central business district promotes local creators and personal growth.
Since it was established in late 2016, Piopio has been reframing how we perceive — and wear — traditional weaves and Filipino artistry. The brand directly works with communities to create its one-of-a-kind pieces, and in the process has highlighted the painstaking, amazing work the goes into each weave and pattern and why this art form has a place in contemporary fashion, from beachwear to intricate jackets and skirts.
The place Piopio calls home is Kalye Artisano, a haven for artists in El Nido, Palawan. This year, however, they opened Kubo in Makati’s Legazpi Village, bringing a much-needed breath of fresh air and la vie bohème to the city’s central business district. Aside from housing Piopio’s latest collections, it also functions as a hub for events and collaboration and carries products that are Philippine-made, with social impact.
“Throughout our journey with PIOPIO, we came across a lot of artisans and entrepreneurs who had voiced their concerns about the lack of physical spaces in Manila that allowed for the exchange of ideas or even the opportunity to showcase their local products,” explains founder Paloma Urquijo Zobel.
“We opened Kubo with the hopes that it could become a home for local brands and entrepreneurs as well as a space that would allow for the sharing of ideas and knowledge through workshops and other social events.”
The brands that Kubo carries include Obrano, creator of heritage goods like handcrafted leather and weaves, and Strange Mercy, which applies graphic design to tees, scarves, wall decor and totes, and woven throw blankets, to promote empowerment and self-love. There’s also Finn the Label, which makes natural, cruelty-free, and sustainable personal products, and Tala, which prides itself on ethically produced slow fashion by women and for women of all shapes and sizes. Finally, there’s Anthill Fabric Gallery, a social and cultural enterprise that also works with artisan communities and helps with their livelihood. Kubo recently held its first official workshop as well, a pottery class with instructor Maui Mirasol of Ili Likhaan Ceramics where attendees got to make their own mug and practice mindfulness.
Every aspect of Piopio and Kubo aims to raise awareness and appreciation for our culture, with utmost care and respect. Having run into criticism in the past for alleged cultural appropriate, Urquijo Zobel explains that every day is a learning experience, and they’re always open to improvement. “Our challenge daily is to stay as truthful to our culture and traditions without offending anyone but still making our pieces relevant and more accessible to a new generation,” she shares. “We truly feel that by allowing these textiles to take on more current shapes and forms, we are helping them to be enjoyed and shared by more individuals, than would be otherwise. We repurpose these textiles in the spirit of respect, and in an effort to keep our traditions alive and more relatable, while supporting our artisans and ensuring that their craft lives on.”
In their efforts to integrate the weaves to modern fashion, tradition always comes first. “We source fabrics first and then design the pieces around the fabrics and not the other way around in order to make sure we highlight the craftsmanship and respect the weavers process.”
“Our relationship with our artisans goes beyond just the buying of fabric,” Urquijo Zobel continues. “We have spent countless hours in their homes, meeting their families and learning about their stories. Now that we have developed a good relationship with our weavers, we are now focusing more on product development. Experimenting with new colours and patterns. Allowing the weavers to explore beyond their comfort zone.”
At its heart, Piopio is about getting back in touch with the Filipino culture and identity, through experience and immersion, particularly with what our very own creators and producers have to offer. “We love our quirky beautiful Philippines and we were tired of having other cultures used as tourist draws in our own country,” says Urquijo Zobel. According to her, it gives everybody a sense of place. “We have observed that people are hungry for true and meaningful immersive experiences. People want the opportunity to disconnect from work and technology and reconnect with a holistic lifestyle.”
“Piopio aims to create the opportunity for these exchanges to happen,” she continues, “and for people to be able to experience things they might not get the chance to on a normal day basis.”
Kubo by PIOPIO is located at Esteban Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City.