LAOAG CITY, Philippines – It is said that traditional weaving in the Philippines is on the decline, but for 20-year-old Stephen Jas Domingo, owner of local clothing brand Aramid, we can still help preserve our culture by incorporating it into our clothes.
Domingo established Aramid (the Ilokano word for creation) to promote Abel Iloco and Binakol — both local woven textiles from Ilocos Norte. He incorporated these local textiles into products such as t-shirts, hoodies, berets, pants, and wallets.
Since most of what Filipinos wear is inspired by the West, he thought of establishing a clothing line that was unique and had a touch of Ilokano culture.
The beginning of Aramid
Aramid was originally a group project for a senior high entrepreneurship class in 2017.
“We were required to develop a business plan and a product,” he told Rappler.
Since he was interested in culture, including the local weaving industry, he thought of developing a business that involved this.
“I instantly thought of our [local] fabrics and how I might include something modern,” says Domingo.
The products that his group first sold were bracelets, basic t-shirts, and wallets.
In 2020, three years after the project was launched, Domingo decided to officially set up Aramid.
Deciding to go full-time, however, was not as easy as he thought. He even decided to stop his studies temporarily to pursue his dream business.
“Obtaining that degree was only one part of a larger goal; I had other ambitions, one of which was to start Aramid,” he shared.
He was supposed to be in his second year as an architecture student in a private institution in Ilocos when the pandemic began. Fast-forward to October 2020, and Domingo was already presenting to the public his first four t-shirt designs under Aramid.
Immediately sparking the interest of locals, Aramid was invited to many pop-up events sponsored by the provincial government.
From then on, Domingo decided to release new designs, this time inspired by Ilokano poems and icons such as Juan Luna.
What’s next for Aramid?
“Our culture is extraordinarily rich, and we still have so many local stories to share and so many visions to work on,” said Domingo.
He is positive that his clothing brand can serve as a vehicle to keep Ilokano culture and the weaving industry alive for the next generations, since he has been collaborating and helping local weavers in the community.
“One of the brand’s goals is to assist and generate jobs in the community,” Domingo said.
He added that seeing how the weavers worked inspired him to continue – despite others’ belief that weaving was already a dying industry.
“Working with local textile producers is more fun than I anticipated. I’ve learned a lot from them, such as how they weave and why they do it, and their replies are always that they enjoy [doing] it,” he said.
Consequently, Domingo said that he plans to keep highlighting Filipino culture through his clothing brand so that more people will notice and appreciate their heritage.
“Using our local textiles not only shows our appreciation for our culture, but it also serves as a means of passing on our tales to future generations,” he said. – Rappler.com
Edmar Delos Santos is a Rappler intern under the Life & Style and Entertainment section.