“I’m impressed with how much respect they put to the fiber, as well as how they value their tradition, heritage and culture.” ── Ditta Sandico, Filipino fashion designer
The color combination seems nice. We are thinking maybe we can make it into bags or some decorations that can be hanged on the wall in the future.”── LALABAN Xinshe Banana Fiber Workshop
Designer and Craft Community
Ditta Sandico has had more than 30 years of experience as a fashion designer. She set out to work in ‘alternative fashion’, working with a fabric special to the Philippines known as abaca, a type of banana. Working with just one weaver at the start, her work has expanded to working with a whole community who hand-weave this abaca fiber, sustaining the livelihoods of a village in the south of the Philippines. Over the years, Ditta has been a wonderful ambassador for Filipino heritage as well as for responsible and sustainable innovative fashion, putting abaca fiber on the fashion landscape.
LALABAN Xinshe Banana Fiber Workshop is established in 2004. The building on the original site was built by the local Kavalan people together with traditional techniques and materials, which symbolize the togetherness of the tribal spirit. However that building was burnt half months later, the villagers resiliently searched for a new location upset, then moved to the current new location in the following year. Since 2005, LALABAN Xinshe Banana Fiber Workshop has gone through five stages, from the rooting of traditional techniques; the cultivation of human resources, skill enhancement, and product development; improvement of the tribal environment, promotion and marketing; expansion and operations until their economy is stable and independent; and keep nurturing and inheriting the banana silk weaving technique.
What kind of spark will be ignited when LALABAN Xinshe Banana Fiber Workshop, which has nearly 18 years of experience in the restoration of banana fiber, meets Ditta Sandico, who has over thirty years of experience in the Filipino fashion industry and expanded her cooperation with Abaca fiber production from one craftsman to an entire village?
In the beginning, Ditta started with large-size fabrics and fashion accessories; however, during pre-production, she encountered challenges due to the limitations of the material of Taiwan’s banana fiber. It turned out, although they were both “banana fibers,” Taiwan used one-year-old raw bananas, whereas the Philippines used three-year-old raw Abaca bananas, and therefore, the two fibers were different regardless of length, strength, or thickness. From removing leaf sheath, shredding, sun-drying, spinning, to weaving, the production process of Taiwanese banana fiber is completely manual, and each and every fiber is the accumulation of precious handicrafts. Unable to visit the workshop in person, Ditta learned the crafters’ respect and passion for the material through videos and video calls, which prompted her to take her works back to the one place of her most profound sentiments: home.
FIBER CO-CREATED PRODUCTS
Thanking Nature for Its Fiber Gifts
Regarding this co-creation project, Ditta Sandico said: “After all these years in the fashion industry, I have gradually understood the depth of emotions that can be connected by fibers.” She has named this collection Mind Connections to connect the minds using fibers. The works include a placemat and pillow—one is an accessory for “dining,” and the other represents “living room” where people gather and spend time together.
Compared to the industrialized Filipino Abaca fiber Ditta is familiar with, Taiwanese banana fiber that is completely manually produced appears to be more precious, and due to the different ways of accessing the raw materials, Taiwanese banana fiber is shorter and thinner. Based on her exploration of banana fiber, Ditta develops the Mind Connections placemat collection where she combines fiber and fabric, and introduces the brand-new idea of weaving totems to LALABAN Xinshe Banana Fiber Workshop, strengthening structure and enhancing availability.
The Mind Connections pillow is inspired by works of the community; simplified through design, the pillow not only preserves the woven diamond totem, but also symbolizes the connection between craft clusters and culture. To highlight the banana fiber, Ditta ties to the pillows playful and vibrant fiber that resembles grass growing out from the soil, enabling people to perceive the real hand-feel.
Hi! I am Ditta Sandico, Filipino fashion designer!
LALABAN Xinshe Banana Fiber Workshop
Hi! I am artisan Ms. Jian Xiang Yan!