Building an ecosystem of weavers, designers, seamstresses, entrepreneurs, and consumers to revive a forgotten symbol of identity
Weaves are making a slow (very slow) comeback. With people commonly associating weaving with the commercial label of “tribal prints,” more entrepreneurs are finding slivers of opportunity in startup businesses that also promote the craft.
“Wear your tribe with pride” is the slogan of a Cebu-based social enterprise Alternative Nest and Training/Trading Hub for Indigenous/ Ingenious Little Livelihood seekers, or ANTHILL for short. Founded by motherdaughter duo Annie and Anya Lim, ANTHILL began six years ago as a hub of local weaves where people went to purchase materials in yards for their personal projects or respective businesses. “We have a bigger mission that is for a lot of people to wear local weaves and use it. The common mindset is weaves are expensive but have poor quality. And that’s not how we want to position our weaves. We want to make them accessible for people and to educate them about their value,” says “Princess Ant” Anya Lim.
Since the beginning, they wanted to bridge the gap between weavers and the rest of the Filipino people—to tap communities to continue their craft, purchase the product from them, and then sell it to socio-entrepreneurs who can make shoes, clothes, bags, or even fashion accessories with it. With a vision to celebrate a communal spirit and to mimic the values of hardworking ants, the common goal is still to work for food. Anya’s vision is to build a healthy ecosystem that will thread Filipino people from all walks of life together as a means of survival for the dying local weaving art form, and survival of these communities as well.
There is more to it than promoting the local craft. Apart from this generation’s ignorance of it, both in the urban setting and indigenous communities, weaving is a dying art because nobody uses it. There is a saying that you are what you wear. Historically, clothing has been used to identify where an individual comes from. People could easily associate signature patterns and techniques with a distinct tribe. As weaving disappears, we lose not only an art form but also our identity.
In indigenous communities, it is evident that only the seniors continue to practice this ancestral tradition. The younger ones are not interested in learning the craft since it is no longer relevant. “As a social enterprise, it’s really the social pain that you try to address and we felt that there was a huge gap with cultural continuity.” Anya says. “But more than that, as a cultural enterprise, the reason why we set up ANTHILL is to change the mindset of Filipinos.”
During Anya’s travels around Asia, she realized that weaves were still entwined in the lives of the locals. In some of our neighboring countries like Laos, Vietnam, and China, it is a custom to bring tourists to shops that sell handwoven fabric for souvenirs. Even Gandhi was a big believer in the significance of weaving and the local cottage industry. He believed in the power of the spinning wheel to not only unite people but also grow the economy.
EXPOSED TO COMMUNITY SERVICE AND LOCAL HERITAGE AT A YOUNG
AGE, ANYA LIM DISCOVERED THE ART OF WEAVING ON A FAMILY TRIP
TO BANAUE, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE.