By Maya M. Padillo ,Correspondent
DAVAO CITY-based designer first worked with indigenous crafts in 2016, when won the first Stellar Young Designers Competition in 2016, organized by the Davao fashion Design Council (DFDC) and Abreeza Ayala Mall, for gender-bending pieces which featured the embroidery of the T’boli indigenous group.
But it was during a later visit to the home of Bagobo Tagabawa weaver Vivencia Mamites in Bansalan, Davao del Sur, and artisan Bae Arlyne Salazar from the same tribe that he was awakened to the beauty and potential of their crafts.
“It was at that moment I realized the rich culture of Mindanao and the possibilities it gave me with the direction of Philippine fashion,” Mr. Limon said in an interview with BusinessWorld as he launched his first solo trunk show, dubbed NIñOFRANCO’s, at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao.
The show, one of the hotel’s highlights for this year’s Kadayawan sa Davao celebration, featured the artisanal works of various indigenous peoples (IP) such as the Bagobo Tagabawa, T’boli, B’laan, and Tagakaolo.
Members of these groups do the embroidery and beading for Mr. Limon’s clothing line.
“I send the materials to them and dictate the color also. I don’t want to seem like that I am the designer because these are traditional patterns — they (IPs) own it, they are the artisanal designers. I brand myself as ‘creative director,’” he said.
In turn, he considers his contribution to their craft as the mainstreaming of traditional designs into practical, wearable clothes.
“I am leaning more on contemporary ethnic design that is something that can be worn everyday because when you buy directly from them (the artisans), it’s costumes,” he said.
The young designer-entrepreneur said he is also happy knowing that he is helping IPs with their livelihood.
Among those he works with are the Sarangani-based Tagakaolo community headed by Biya Narcisa Galgo Celestino, and the B’laans under the leadership of Rebecca Ayao and Maribeth Ditan.
“We also got to experience the Gaginaway Festival in Malita, Davao Occidental and we met the Tagakaolo artisans Ma’am Lita Labis and Imelda,” he said.
“This artisanal journey made me learn the importance of proper education on how to appropriate our culture on contemporary design. It is important to know the story of these ethno-linguistic groups in order to sync with your own artistic touch, in turn creating a successful collaboration,” said Mr. Limon, a graduate of the Philippine Women’s College in Davao.
His brand NIñOFRANCO accepts made-to-order requests and these designs are not replicated.
He said he is proud that his collection has been noticed by showbiz folk such as Marian Rivera and Boy Abunda, as well as Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
The NIñOFRANCO line is among those featured at the Marco Polo Davao’s 4th Fashion and Fusion show at the hotel’s lobby, alongside the accessories of Maan Chua, photography and visual arts of Jowe Posadas, floral arrangements from Happy Succulents, fixtures from T’nalak Homes, and the antique collection of architect Jose Racho.
As part of the fashion show, Philippine Eagle stuffed toys dressed in limited NIñOFRANCO Tangkulo-inspired scarves were auctioned off. The proceeds from the auction will go to the Philippine Eagle Foundation, which is supported by the Wharf Hotels together with the Marco Polo Hotels and Niccolo Hotels through various fund-raising projects and other initiatives.