I’ve been itching to explore Cebu-based boutique ANTHILL for quite a while now, so when I happened to be in Cebu for a fashion shoot recently, I grabbed the chance to drop by this awesome little boutique that showcases local weaves in a fashion-forward way. ANTHILL (short for Alternative Nest and Trading/Training Hub for Indigenous/Ingenious Little Livelihood seekers) is “a social and cultural enterprise showcasing Filipino hand-loomed fabrics and its contemporary application to everyday lifestyle products.”
If you love colorful tribal weaves, you will go gaga in this fabric gallery, where rows and rows of handloomed fabric are waiting to be transformed into a custom-made dress (get yourself measured on the spot!), or are ingeniously incorporated into everyday essentials (Skirts! Bowties! Coffee tumblers! Luggage tags!). ANTHILL’s managing director and “Princess Ant” Anya Lim tells us, “ANTHILL supports and establishes community-weaving enterprises to promote and preserve homegrown skills, living traditions and enable the appreciation and transmission of Filipino weaving culture to the younger generations. In this hub, fabrics are more than just ingredients to fashion; it is a way of life, it is where culture meets style.”
Find out more as we chat with Anya about ANTHILL and her passion for homegrown products:
What is the story behind Anthill, and who are the people behind it?
My mom and I co-founded ANTHILL but this year, I am taking charge of entire operations already. My mom is a pioneer of the Jesuit Volunteer Program after she graduated from Ateneo, she then later on ventured into business and has had over 20 years of experience in the fabric industry. I came from the development sector working on fundraising/ resource mobilization and advocacy communications. My mom was encouraging me to start my own business but I wanted it to be something that would still allow me to do field work. Growing up, the family has also been a lover of things handmade. I was blessed to be raised with parents who had such love for our culture also. We had suman, mangga and hot chocolate for breakfast, taho/ ginataan (binignit) for snacks, our playmats were banig, my walker was a bamboo one made by a local craftsman. I had a rag doll not a Barbie doll. I remember we didn’t have those huge flower vases, instead we had something made of buri and rattan. Our seats were rattan. Everything at home was Filipino and had a story to tell and was made by talented craftsmen in cottage industries near our place. My parents were my greatest influence as to why I love things homegrown.
Two things prompted me to push to push hand-woven fabrics and fabric by products: (1) Realizing that its already a dying culture after going back to a weaving village in Banaue where all the younger generation chose and turned into becoming tour guides instead of learning the craft from their elders and (2) My first trip to India and seeing how much appreciation they have for their traditional wear and discovering Gandhi’s great love for his “charka” / spinning wheel. He said “the exit of Charka drained the creative talent and what little wealth spinning brought them. The Charka restores the villages to their rightful place.” I dream the same for our weaving communities, especially for the younger generation of weavers, that they may be able to realize and value the richness of their skill and tradition so that they may no longer migrate to urban areas or feel that they do not have enough.
Our mission in ANTHILL is to enable Filipino weaving communities to preserve and promote the tapestry of hand loomed fabric traditions and apply them in contemporary lifestyle products/ essentials accessible to all.
What items do you carry, and what is your price range? What is your star product?
Our product categories range from Home Wear, Office, Travel, Fashion and Accessories. We have items as low as P250 (our luggage tags) and as expensive as P3500 (made-to-order dresses). Our star product the past years has been our Travel Envelopes and Luggage Tags which a product of a collaboration with Fab Manila on our first year. The price is accessible to many and it allows the market to own something that is made of handloomed fabric, which is at the same time functional.
How is ANTHILL a social enterprise, and who are the communities you support? Why are you passionate about supporting them?
Thank you for asking this question. We are both a social and a cultural enterprise. As a social enterprise, we disrupt existing economic systems and address the social problem of cultural degradation and urban migration by tapping into undervalued skills such as weaving and putting them in spotlight. We implement a Community Enterprise Development Program (CEDP) among our direct partner communities in Bangued, Abra and the Daraghuyan Bukindon Tribe. We specifically target the younger generation of weavers and tribal youth by providing enabling environments for them to learn the skill and continue the tradition. We are still in the first phase of our CEDP is Business Development. Here, (1) we engage the young by providing practice or training looms they could sit on to learn how to weave. (2) We build their capacity and skills by helping in product design and innovation. This could be as simple as teaching weavers proper colour combinations. (3) We provide market access and we seek out clients to increase demand for the fabrics so that weavers will be enticed to pass it on. (4) We also slowly introduce business systems and processes and establish the framework of their community enterprise model.
As a cultural enterprise, we work on changing mindsets and we promote cultural preservation and innovation. We work on making indigenous fabrics accessible to many. We work on making it relevant to contemporary times so that it could be something they could integrate in their lifestyle.
Aside from just offering pretty designs, what should people know about your products?
The fabrics from Abra are made of scrap thread the weavers buy per kilo at a nearby town. This makes the material more sustainable having to use no energy and water. In the Darghuyan-Bukidnon Tribe, all our products use natural fiber such as Abaca and Gintawan plant in their products. The tradition of weaving, though done in their own individual homes, connects the apprentice to their master, the young to their culture and brings the communal spirit alive.
Where are they available?
Our website is currently down for maintenance as we are currently revamping its look. They are currently available only in Cebu at The Emporium, Mactan International Airport, ANTHILL Fabric Gallery, and The Chillage Store. We aim to be able to distribute our products this year in Manila and have our website up and running by April.
What are your personal favorite lines/designs/pieces?
I love our recent collaboration with SEPA Cebu for our Holiday Accessories. She ingeniously combined the use of our Metallic Hablon fabrics from Abra and the Gintawan branches from the Daraghuyan- Bukidnon Tribe. I love how one can merge the application of materials from both our communities. Products and designs like convey the essence of what ANTHILL represents- community, culture, change and creativity. It’s a one of a kind piece collection that was very well thought of.
I also love our theme this year: Tapestry. We started with the tumblers for Bo’s Coffee and the Tagpi Skirts. You’ll see more of the tapestry application throughout the year.
How often can clients expect new collections/designs?
We’re trying to get on track in releasing our collections. We’ll release for Spring/Summer, Corporate and then Holiday.
What future projects can clients look forward to?
We have an upcoming collaboration with Suelas for summer and we’re hoping to have a trunk show in Manila by then. (Target date is March 28—visit ANTHILL on Facebook for more updates!)
ANTHILL Fabric Gallery is located at Pedro Calomarde cor. Acacia St. Gorordo Avenue, Lahug Cebu City, Philippines. Phone 032 5054175. ANTHILL is also available at The Emporium, Mactan International Airport, Cebu, The Chillage Store, and soon on www.anthillfabricgallery.com.