A MAXI DRESS, a sarong, a wide-brimmed straw hat, aviator sunglasses, a new swimsuit — these vacation essentials are all one needs to be set for summer. Using handwoven products adorned with unique patterns and bold colors might just do the trick to help one’s getup stand out. What is even better, by wearing that unique design, you have helped a local artisan earn his/her living too.

The fashion brand Lara (“to weave” in Waray) began as a project by Governor Sharee Ann Tan of Samar to help the workers of they Basiao Native Weavers’ Association (BANWA) in Basey, Eastern Samar who were dealing with the damage caused by typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in 2013.

Ms. Tan said that weaving was the first industry that thrived after the storm. “After (typhoon) Yolanda, I gave 10 hectares of land for the planting of raw materials,” Ms. Tan told BusinessWorld during the launch of Lara at the Fashion Hall at Mandaluyong City’s SM Megamall on March 10. She said that after a year, she went to an agricultural fair in Samar and was approached by the local weavers who told her that they had already made woven products out of the raw materials from the previous year.

“When I was looking at the designs, they were not really of good quality,” Ms. Tan said, describing the designs as “souvenir-like.” She suggested that product development be done so that the designs would be more fashionable.

The end result was the can be seen in the current lineup of Lara products which include visors, floral and tribal pattern-designed handheld and sling bags, backpacks, shoes, slippers, and women’s accessories, many of which come in bold colors.

Ms. Tan said that the prices range from around P2,000 to P4,000.

The products are handwoven from dried tikog, a jointless grass that is sturdier than pandan or buri, and which grows abundantly in Samar.

Ms. Tan noted that with the livelihood project “we’re helping around 2,000 farmers, weavers, and embroiderers. This is a dream come true for the weavers. People will see and appreciate their work of art,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Asked if the provincial government has any initiatives to preserve the weaving tradition — local traditions of this sort are dying out all over the country — Ms. Tan mentioned plans to incorporate it through education. “Our local weavers are old, that’s why we linked with TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) and DepEd (the Department of Education) so we can teach the school children in the K-12 program.” She noted that modules will be given to senior high school students in three municipalities — Marabut, Basey, and Sta. Rita. The products produced by the students will be considered as their school project.

“We will buy them, we will pay the labor, and we will provide the materials,” she said.

Ms. Tan also said that they are currently looking for a location in the national capitol region where they can sell Lara products and are targetting the Makati City area. The products are currently sold only online.

Lara was launched as part of the Spark Samar tourism campaign.

For inquires about the products, call 0917-589-6917, e-mail larasamarph@gmail.com, or follow Lara on Instagram (@larasamarph). — Michelle Anne P. Soliman