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Navigating Life As A BIPOC Immigrant Through Fashion

Navigating Life As A BIPOC Immigrant Through Fashion
Fashion has always been a powerful means of self-expression, a language we all speak, regardless of where we come from. Fashion became a way to navigate my identity as an immigrant when I moved to the United States from Manila in 2010. It was a journey that led me to discover my culture and history even from afar and break free from the confines of a colonial mentality. My personal journey of self-discovery through fashion and how I founded a fashion brand that celebrates the diverse narratives of the different Indigenous communities in the Philippines.

Growing up in Manila, I was immersed in a fashion culture heavily influenced by the West. The trends, styles, and norms I followed were often far removed from how I was hoping I would understand my own cultural ancestry and lineage. It was a reflection of the colonial history that had shaped our society for centuries. However, when I moved to San Francisco, I began to question my fashion choices and their connection to my identity.

It was in San Francisco that I had the privilege of meeting cultural ambassadors who inspired me to dig deeper into the layers of colonial mentality that had been wrapped around me over the years. I realized that my clothing choices were not a matter of personal style but a reflection of a deeper identity struggle that many minorities face when trying to fit into a predominantly Western society.

One of the most significant revelations on my journey was the realization that Filipinos were often represented in a very monolithic way, with Manila-centric fashion and culture taking center stage. This limited portrayal ignored the incredible diversity of ethnolinguistic groups and traditions that make up the Filipino community. It became clear to me that our community deserved to have the opportunity to express their unique narratives and ancestral stories through clothing.

Motivated by this realization, I decided to take matters into my own hands and founded Daily Malong. My mission was simple yet profound: to provide wearers with the means to identify according to their own narratives. Filipinos, coming from different ethnolinguistic groups, should not be lumped into a single category. We all have different forms and norms based on our ancestry, and it's time we celebrate that diversity.

One of the most significant ways our brand celebrated diversity was by incorporating traditional weaving cultures into our designs. I started wearing malongs, traditional Filipino garments and accessories along with almost anything I wore. These beautifully woven pieces became a symbol of my connection to myself and a statement of pride in my ancestral connection.

In addition to wearing malongs, I began creating pieces that were representative of different weaving cultures from various regions of the Philippines. Pieces that are wearable, easy to mix and match but are deeply rooted and informed with culture. Each piece told a unique story, reflecting the colors, patterns, and techniques of a specific community. These creations allowed wearers to connect with their ancestral traditions and proudly display their heritage.

Over the years, I watched with joy as the sustainable and cultural fashion industry grew and evolved. It wasn't just about clothing; it was about empowerment and reclaiming our identity. Today, you can see many community members proudly incorporating a piece of weaving into their outfits. It's a beautiful testament to our shared journey of rediscovering ourselves and breaking free from the constraints of a colonial mindset.

Our ancestors would undoubtedly be proud of the way we have embraced our diverse stories and used fashion as a means of cultural expression. We are no longer confined to a narrow definition of what it means to be Filipino. Instead, we celebrate the multiplicity of our identities, weaving together our narratives that reflect the true essence of our community.


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