PROS­PER­ING

Be­yond the school­room and th­e­sis woes

Sun.Star Davao - - FRONT PAGE - BY STELLA A. ESTREMERA / Colum­nist

Now that she’s al­ready the Miss Uni­verse, her in­flu­ence made a huge im­pact and many peo­ple started to ap­pre­ci­ate and pa­tron­ize lo­cal made prod­ucts. For me, she is the best am­bas­sador for cham­pi­oning con­tem­po­rary pieces with a touch of our cul­ture. WIL­SON NINOFRANCO LIMON

HIS name first came to our col­lec­tive con­scious­ness when he copped the Grand Prize of the Stel­lar Min­danao Young De­sign­ers Com­pe­ti­tion by the Davao City Fash­ion De­sign Coun­cil in Au­gust 2016.

It has been a steady rise in the fash­ion world hence, but the big bang came when Miss Uni­verse Ca­tri­ona Gray posted a selfie wear­ing Wil­son Ninofranco Limon’s cre­ation last Jan­uary 5, 2019 and hav­ing only good words about it, and that wasn’t the first time that she donned the la­bel.

“Dropped by the @mis­suni­verse head­quar­ters to­day su­per jetlagged but gi­ant cups of tea and cof­fee are get­ting me through! In a denim skirt hand-em­bel­lished with mother of pearl by the Ta­gakaolo tribe @ninofranco.ph @ton_lao,” Ca­tri­ona posted on In­sta­gram, and we bet, just about ev­ery fash­ion de­signer was wish­ing he or she was at Limon’s place at that time.

Limon’s story is where ev­ery stu­dent of art and de­sign, and any dis­ci­pline in fact, can take in­spi­ra­tion from.

The fame that he is en­joy­ing now and the build­ing blocks that led him to this new phase in his very young ca­reer was born when he was as­signed a th­e­sis sub­ject. Ev­ery col­lege and post-col­lege stu­dent knows the ag­o­nies we go through in th­e­sis such that many just move on and for­get about it once passed. Not Limon.

“My love af­fair with the ethno lin­guis­tic group started al­most five years ago when

I was work­ing on my grad show th­e­sis col­lec­tion for my Bach­e­lors De­gree at Philip­pine Women’s Col­lege of Davao. We were tasked to rein­vent the tra­di­tional and the eth­nic into con­tem­po­rary wear­able pieces,” he told Sun.Star Davao.

He was as­signed the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe, the tribe re­sid­ing on the foothills of Mt. Apo, who have through time been pro­tect­ing the coun­try’s high­est peak as their an­ces­tral do­main. “Tagabawa” means “of the south”, Bagobo-Tagabawa means they are the Bagobo tribe of the south re­fer­ring to the border­lands of Davao City and Davao del Sur.

“The name of the tribe is fa­mil­iar but I didn’t have prior knowl­edge as to what they do so I went to their cul­tural of­fice in Lubugan, To­ril to ask their en­dorse­ment on who to in­ter­view re­gard­ing their arts and crafts. They en­dorsed me to Bae Ar­lyne Salazar, the tra­di­tional ar­ti­san for bead­ing. I also went to Bi­taug in Bansalan, Davao del Sur to in­ter­view the weaver Viven­cia Mamites.”

From there, it has been one im­mer­sion to an­other as Limon was drawn into the folds of the indige­nous peo­ples com­mu­ni­ties, mes­mer­ized by the col­ors and pat­terns, and learn­ing more about their ways and crafts.

He has Prof. Emi Englis, PWC’s Pro­gram Chair for Fash­ion De­sign and In­dus­trial De­sign, to thank for teach­ing the fash­ion and de­sign stu­dents the pro­to­cols on how to fa­cil­i­tate in­ter­views and im­mer­sions in the com­mu­ni­ties. Along with it came the les­sons in get­ting free prior and in­formed con­sent to use spe­cific de­signs and pat­terns and en­gage with the com­mu­ni­ties through liveli­hood op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The #ninofranco la­bel is now work­ing with five IP com­mu­ni­ties: the Bagobo Tagabawas in To­ril and Bansalan, the Ta­gakau­los and Blaans from Malun­gon Sarangani, and the Tbo­lis from Lake Sebu South Cota­bato.

“Our part­ner­ship helped them earn for a liv­ing in with­out hav­ing to leave their fam­i­lies,” he said.

He is over the moon with Ca­tri­ona’s post and only has good words for the 2018 Miss Uni­verse for her help in spread­ing the ad­vo­cacy in pro­mot­ing and pre­serv­ing the tal­ent of our ar­ti­sans since she was still in the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Now that she’s al­ready the Miss Uni­verse, her in­flu­ence made a huge im­pact and many peo­ple started to ap­pre­ci­ate and pa­tron­ize lo­cal made prod­ucts. For me, she is the best am­bas­sador for cham­pi­oning con­tem­po­rary pieces with a touch of our cul­ture,” he said.

He looks at this boost as a chal­lenge to cre­ate and im­merse. He is work­ing on new de­sign pat­terns and sil­hou­ettes and in­tends to reach a much big­ger au­di­ence this year, be­cause it’s not every­day that a fash­ion de­signer is highly en­dorsed by the reign­ing Miss Uni­verse and there are the com­mu­ni­ties who are greatly ben­e­fit­ting from his suc­cess.

2018 Miss Uni­verse Ca­tri­ona Gray’s In­sta­gram post on Jan­uary 5, 2019.

Ta­gakaulo Ar­ti­san Biya Ce­lestino Galgo who was the one who em­bel­lished the skirt made for Ca­tri­ona Gray.

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