When you ask a Cebuano what they know about Argao, their thoughts will immediately jump to one of two things: torta (a sweet, sort of sponge cupcake) or tablea (pure chocolate tablets). But unknown to many, there exists a weaving industry that still thrives today: Hablon.
Hablon is a traditional weaving process that makes use of a handloom, and materials such as abaca fibers, polyester, tingkal (cotton strands), and other local materials.
The finished products are usually in the form of mats, scarves or blankets. The art was considered to be dying out years ago, until Cebuano fashion designer Dexter Alazas found a way to breathe life back into it.
In his early days in fashion, Dexter had already heard about the weaving industry in Argao, and had hoped to use the material during MEGA Magazine’s Young Designers Competition in Manila back in 2000. However, research took up too much time, and he ended up not pursuing it.
Years later, he found hope when he started designing for Cebu’s Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, to whom he’d mentioned wanting to work on his dream. He shares that one day, she called him up out of the blue and broke the news that he would finally get the chance. He met with then Argao Vice Mayor Stanley Caminero and the rest, as they always say, is history.
Dexter developed the material and worked with different patterns and textures, mixing it all to come up with a beautiful fabric. He’s worked with women weavers of Argao, learning straight from the source of the tradition. By playing with graduated hues of color, he made bigger and bolder patterns that are modern takes to this traditional look.
“Practically anything can be woven, that’s how versatile the process can be,” he says.
Versatile indeed, considering how he’s used it in his garments—from casuals to formals, and particularly in resort silhouettes for a collection that includes shoes, sandals, bags and even a bridal gown.
When asked what sets the process apart, Dexter says, “You use fibers. Basically you can create your own original material, be it in color or texture.”
Dexter advocates for sustainable fashion using local materials. His Amano collection proved how Hablon, a once-dying art, could be married with contemporary techniques in fashion. This year, he plans to introduce Hablonuevo, his attempt to rebrand the Cebuano-made material in its own distinct identity.
Dexter hopes that his fashion-forward take on fabric innovation using local materials will serve as a way to sustain his advocacy. It would encourage not just designers, but also the local government units and non-government organizations to help and invest in the Hablon industry.
For orders and inquiries, you can reach Dexter Alazas through his official Facebook page, or at +63 999 301 8691.