Fashion inspired by children’s songs and play

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DEPENDING ON where you place the accent, the word saya in Tagalog can mean two things: it can mean a skirt when emphasis is on the first “a,” but when you pronounce the “a” a little bit longer at the end, it means happiness. A fashion show which will be held on Sept. 22 at the Grand Hyatt Manila brings both meanings together with Baro at Sayá by Awit at Laro.

Baro at Sayá is the follow up to Awit at Laro, which was spearheaded by UNICEF Ambassador Gary Valenciano and Tukod Foundation’s Bambi Mañosa-Tanjutco. It was launched last October as a UNICEF fundraiser for its anniversary and as a campaign to promote Filipino culture and celebrate the spirit of play by reintroducing traditional games to the youth through music and the arts. Events included the Awit at Laro album launch and concerts in 22 Ayala Malls around the country, as well as art exhibits at Greenbelt 5 and Alabang Town Center.

This year, the campaign brings innately Filipino elements to the catwalk, where designers draw inspiration from the Awit at Laro songs to create modern outfits using indigenous designs and weaves set against the backdrop of Filipino traditional games and Original Pilipino Music.

Designers for the gala will include Len Cabili, Ito Curata, Rhett Eala, Zarah Juan, Marga Nograles’ Kaayo, Anne Marie Saguil, and Paloma Zobel’s label PioPio, all led by Rajo Laurel who serves as overall fashion consultant for the project.

Each artist took inspiration from the Awit at Laro song that was assigned to them. Mr. Laurel, who will also be one of the designers for the show, was quoted as saying in a press release: “I have always believed in the foundation from day one. I love what it stands for and I am always inspired by organizations that foster the same values and morals as I was brought up with. So it was really a natural progression. I am so privileged to be part of such a special and worthwhile endeavour.”

He continued, “I actually made my own fabric for the collection and asked my nephews and nieces to help. One weekend I brought some fabric and paint and we just had a blast. I wanted to truly incorporate the sense of play in the collection and what better way to do this by literally playing with my nieces and nephews.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Cabili will highlight her children’s line, saying that the revival of games we grew up with is something close to her heart. “The theme is really unique and fun, we focused on our core competencies and found a way to relate it to the whole thrust of the project”, she said.

For Mr. Curata, the project brought back childhood memories and the moments he spends playing with his son. “It brought out so many emotions in me, and I was challenged because designing with a Filipino game in mind brought me out of my design comfort zone. I am also very excited because the project is extremely worthwhile.”

Mr. Eala will show off the stately side of Filipiniana. “Our pieces combine several fabrics and techniques of embroidery to highlight our mixed cultures, making you stand out. Each piece was made to reflect the rich culture that we represent made wearable and relatable for the modern woman,” he said.

Ms. Juan likewise experienced the joy of play, as she turned to playing piko with her team for inspiration. “This collaboration is a celebration of who we are as Filipinos. It is deeply rooted to our culture and heritage which makes it inspiring and exciting.”

Ms. Nograles will highlight traditional weaves in her work. “We took inspiration and put together our favorite weaves that represented Filipino song and play. Then we mixed some hand beading and embroidery by the indigenous [people] that we work with and topped it off with fun Filipino accessories. Each piece we will present will tell a fun and unique story,” she said.

For Anne Marie Saguil of Amarie, “The design process for the collection was quite different and a lot of fun for me because childhood, fun and play was the central theme for the clothes’ colors and silhouettes. As a result, the collection took on a younger playful vibe but still always suitable for the adult modern Filipina.”

For Paloma Zobel’s PioPio, the collection is all about the Filipino family — appropriate, as Ms. Zobel is part of one of the country’s most famous ones. “We thought it would be fun to include the Mañosas, our brand ambassadors, in all stages of this project,” Ms. Zobel said. “Awit at Laro is all about family, generations, and going back to this holistic child-like mentality where we showcase the importance of playing and our traditions. By allowing our brand ambassadors to help in the designing process, from picking fabrics to designing their dream outfits, we carried through this theme of getting back in touch with our roots and using art and creativity to help bond families and friends.”

This year’s Baro at Sayá fashion show is a fundraiser for UNICEF, Museo Pambata’s renovation project, and Tukod Foundation’s “Pamato sa PagtuturoAwit at Laro workshops for teachers.

As the models walk down the runway, they will be accompanied by the Awit at Laro album’s song that inspired the designer’s collection. Guest artists for the night include Gary Valenciano, the Awit at Laro album producer, Darren Espanto, and the TNT Boys. Also participating in the show is Sofia Zobel Elizalde’s STEPS dancers with choreography by James Laforteza.

“You can expect to see fun, playful and beautiful creations that go across generations. We are working with extremely talented designers whose inspiration runs deep. They create not only for themselves but to help inspire and uplift the Filipino people in more ways than one. We are also working with families to be our ambassadors to help represent what the Baro at Sayá fashion show represents: families that also want to give back to our communities and to our children,” said Kat Mañosa, Project Head of Baro at Sayá.

Baro at Sayá aims to give children the opportunity to appreciate the Philippines’ indigenous fabrics in order to raise a generation that gives value to sustainable fashion. Ms. Mañosa-Tanjutco, who also serves as Creative Head of Baro at Sayá, said that it is possible for a new population — one that is younger and larger in number — to wear these textiles. “I think that is possible, because it’s pretty much the law of supply and demand. The more you [want] it, the more it is available. Then the prices start to go down, because you have [more] people doing it: more communities creating and weaving,” she told BusinessWorld.

“It is available — it’s just a way of how to make it creative, and how to make it very interesting for the young people to wear; for the youth to take on and accept.”

Speaking about how games help in establishing identity, Ms. Mañosa-Tanjutco, said, “It is who we are as Filipinos. It’s our culture of values, and the way we are, basically as a people, is seen in our games.”

“Everybody has a story about a Filipino game that they used to play,” she said. “I think we all need this as a people,” she said about reintroducing traditional games to younger generations. “We need to learn how to play again.”

The Baro at Sayá by Awit at Laro fashion show will be held on Sept. 22 at the Grand Hyatt Manila, BGC, Taguig City. For ticket reservations and other details contact Ann Loren Yu, Executive Director of Tukod Foundation Inc. at 0917-123-2724. The fashion show is co-presented by Grand Hyatt Manila. — Joseph L. Garcia