Photographs from Locano
Words by Christine Andes
Published on May 4, 2021
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Chem Torrente, founder of Locano, discusses the partnership, harks back to the brand’s beginning, and ponders on its future.
Fused by a common passion for weaving, the collaboration intends to innovate a sustainable craft that revives tradition and supports livelihood opportunities for the locals. With this, inabel (a local term for woven) is not just about weave, but an experience patterned to reinvent a handmade art that people will love to do habitually. The project recreates the traditional “habi (weaving) as a new form of hobby” and instills interest through a do-it-yourself practice.
Christine Andes: How did you come up with the project and what is its main purpose?
Chem Torrente: Spending the majority of 2020 at home made me reflect on how we can still serve our weaving community amidst a global pandemic. I stumbled upon The Art of Yarn and bravely shared the idea and expressed my enthusiasm to collaborate with its founder, Judith Basco. Judith, a modern maker and weaving teacher based in Manila, started The Art of Yarn in October 2018.
With the challenge that the community is faced with, Locano and The Art of Yarn happily take on the responsibility of telling the story of weaving, by designing an approachable way to learn and appreciate the craft of making things by hand. The Weave-It-Yourself is a series of patterns inspired by the traditional inabel symbols and woven patterns.
Christine: What materials are involved in the loom kit and how does it work?
Chem: This tutorial kit allows one to experience hand weaving traditional patterns using modern techniques. The mini-course includes a complete how-to guide, printable patterns, five video tutorials, and an online support group for updates.
Christine: What types of patterns are included and how did you decide which ones to include in the weave-it-yourself kit?
Chem: Traditional inabel patterns that are mostly inspired by the weaver’s everyday life. These include sabong (flowers), kurikos (whirlpool), bituen (stars), umaga/agsapa (morning), and sampaguita (jasmine, the national flower of the Philippines). Such patterns are also the present designs on Locano’s collections and we thought it would be a nice way to incorporate the inabel-inspired patterns and the actual woven blanket.
Christine: The project introduces traditional inabel patterns as the basis for the loom kit, is there a particular reason for this?
Chem: Inabel weaving has been one of the longest cultural traditions that we have been fervently preserving. It’s part of Locano’s blueprint and we wanted to start with what we know and what holds provenance for us.
Christine: How does the collaboration help in the overall creative direction of Locano? What are the challenges and learnings?
Chem: Locano’s new direction is committing to creating new forms of expressing our tradition. More so, it is to encourage sustainability and support our local craft by taking more time and enthusiasm in learning a skill and passing it on.
Locano started as a brand reselling and recreating blankets and beach throws. When we were exploring unique designs, one of the early challenges we faced was resistance to change and the unfamiliar. A few factors that posited limitations include lack of personal experience working with the loom, as well as structural and material limitations of our weavers. Through constant and gentle conversations with our partner communities, we collaborated and created designs together. It’s not always seamless, but we’ve been able to manage expectations, have a deeper respect for the artisans and the craft, and expand creativity further.
Christine: When and how did you discover the Ilocano inabel designs?
Chem: During a visit in January of 2015, we [my mom and I] met with my mom’s friend. She owned a weaving house in town, where they made all kinds of abel (Abel in Ilocano for “weave”; Inabel is Ilocano for “woven”; Ules is Ilocano for “blanket”): rugs, kitchen towels, table runners, and blankets. Curious, I tried out the loom and ran my hands through every piece of fabric in that place. It felt magical. I was lost in stacks of ules. I wondered why I never noticed this before. It was right under my nose!
Christine: What inspired you to focus on the inabel as the heart of Locano?
Chem: Nature has been my biggest inspiration for design. The patterns woven by artisans are a testament to how these connotative images withstand the test of time. You can tell a lot about the origin and story of a weave just by looking at the patterns.
Holding Hands (Agkibkibin): we stand together
Fishing (Agkalkalap): we’ll meet you by the sea
Flowers (Sabong): we’ll meet by the mountains
Stars (Bituen): we’ll guide you through
Locano started partnering with the weaving community of the Ilocos region in 2015. In 2020, [we] had the opportunity to work with Nanay Ely. She has been weaving since she was in her teenage years. By learning about the discipline and wonder of weaving, we can help make Nanay Ely’s and the rest of the weaving community’s aspiration of being able to teach the basics of weaving, the meaning behind the patterns formed, and appreciate the place, and people behind the craft.
“Blankets are art you can sleep with and can bring with you anywhere. Abel Iloko is a beautiful souvenir of our culture through the weaves used to combine the threads together and the function it is used for. It is a symbol of our values and inherent in what truly makes our local tradition worth telling about and worth recreating.”
Christine: How did you conceptualise Locano as a brand? What was your goal when you started it and where is it now since its inception?
Chem: In 2015, I left Vigan with some blankets and a couple of rugs and brought them with me to Manila. At first, I didn’t know what to do with them, but I felt an excitement to start something – to tell others about it. Back then, I was working a full-time job in a corporation and the frustration and burnout kept me motivated. [This] brought me fulfillment in the work that mattered to me: uplifting communities (especially women) and making creativity matter. I knew I had to start with a name, and in August, while talking to a friend, “Locano” presented itself. I am an Ilocano after all and also a bit of a loca-loca [crazy].
Locano is about love for things beautifully made, love for discovery, grounding, and provenance. It is also about love in the relationships we make and nurture with a person or place. As Locano matures, it aims to give birth to new forms of expression from things made by hand using the techniques and craft of weaving designs or patterns and turning them into textiles that you can use and share. Locano wants to redefine sustainability by making education and the right information accessible, simple, contagious, and easy to pass on.
Christine: How do you envision Locano to progress in the coming years?
Chem: Locano is for everyone and I hope it continues to resonate with people in their ways. Giving something made by hand (whether your own or someone else’s) has a way of making you feel the comfort of being cared for. It’s intimate and personal. It’s like a sign and symbol of showing that you care. It’s like the kind of love you see and receive from loved ones, that you also want to give back. It will continue to blend creativity and culture and build a stronger community of local purveyors and advocates.
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