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LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – A 31-year-old designer in Albay is slowly making a name for herself by specializing in formal wear made from “pinukpok” or abaca fiber.
Jean Alta is the woman behind Kutur ni Jean. Her pinukpok creations have been shipped across the country and have reached as far as the United States.
Pinukpok fiber is made by manually pounding abaca strands, which are then handwoven into fabric.
She started her venture 3 years ago when Fr Rex Arjona asked her to make the barong Tagalog of his brother who was getting married in Cebu, as well as for their father. He said their family wanted to showcase pinukpok and to introduce Cebuanos to Bicol’s culture through it.
“That was the time I started designing and sewing pinukpok fabric,” she said.
Alta recalled that when Arjona posted photos of her clothes on Facebook, they went viral. After that, several city and provincial councilors in Albay became her clients as well.
Last year, she dressed up international beauty queens like Miss Earth 2018 candidates from Myanmar and Ireland. At this year’s Miss Earth competition, 32 of the 93 candidates would be arriving in Legazpi City on October 5 for a swimwear pre-pageant event. Alta was tapped to dress the candidates from Belarus, England, and Zimbabwe in her pinukpok creations.
Pinukpok, which is made from abaca, is produced manually. It is being marketed exclusively for formal high-end wear fashion events.
Alta learned her sewing skills at the age of 9 from her mother, an impoverished seamstress.
Before venturing into Kutur ni Jean, Alta worked as the secretary of a school principal. She obtained her information technology degree from Divine Word College of Legazpi.
She later quit her job to set up her shop in September 2016. She started with one sewing machine given by her husband Dennis, a broadcaster at Radio Veritas Legazpi. Her first creation was a Halloween attire she called “Kamatayan (Death),” which was showcased during a All Souls Day event in Albay.
Alta was hardly noticed in the local fashion scene, but this changed after she used pinukpok in her creations.
To enhance her knowledge and skills, she studied Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines in Makati City for less than a year.
Asked what drew her to the fabric, Alta cited practical as well as environmental reasons for her decision.
“We want to establish a name and a finished product using our own indigenous materials from abaca. Through this, we can be able to help the women’s organization weaving pinukpok as their livelihood. We can also preserve our local source and the environment from the effect of global warming,” she said.
The pinukpok materials are supplied by the Banguerohan Bicol Small Business Institute Foundation Incorporated (BSBI), providing livelihood to displaced families of natural disasters.
BSBI received assistance from the Legazpi City government and training from the Department of Science and Technology in processing pinukpok. – Rappler.com