“Malingkat is a Tausug word that means beautiful; a fitting name for a brand that aims to highlight the beauty of Mindanao, and of the Philippines one weave at a time.”
Faw Maridul is the founder of Malingkat Weaves, a social and cultural community based in the Philippines. We recently sat down with Faw, as she shared her stories of the tribes and communities behind the loom.
What’s keeping you busy at the moment?
We're getting ready for the holidays and have started launching new products, like our t'nalak catchall tray, the Thoughtful Totes collaboration with local artists, and soon, our first home scents collection.
Our product development takes quite some time, and these have all been in the works for months already. We're happy to be adding new items to our product lineup in time for the holidays.
What makes your products and weaves so distinct from others?
More than the products itself, I think what sets Malingkat apart is our story and the stories we tell beyond and behind the woven pieces.
It also helps that our focus is on Mindanao weaves and communities and our products are mostly for the home. Not too many brands are doing Mindanao home decors and soft furnishings. We also do a lot of neutral, muted, and subtle color palettes versus the traditional bold colors weaving tribes are known for.
Tell us about the lightbulb moment for Malingkat, and how you brought it to life.
I've always loved local products and I'm really fascinated by the practices and traditions behind them. I'd like to think that Malingkat is the result of a series of fortunate incidents and opportunities at the right time.
I used to frequent all these cultural bazaars and exhibits. There, I met a Yakan weaver, and told her that whenever I find myself in Zamboanga, I'd make sure to visit her.
When we had a family reunion in Zamboanga City, I visited her and she introduced me to her niece, Norita (who now acts as our Yakan partner coordinator). While talking to them, it suddenly dawned on me that I could help sell their fabrics as table runners.(Backstory: I was looking for a table runner for quite some time and couldn't find any good ones until I got a Yakan woven runner at one bazaar.)
I went back a few months after and made the first bulk purchase. This was in the last quarter of 2017, and the rest is history. You can say it all started with the search for the perfect table runner.
How do you continue developing and growing relationships with the weavers?
We treat our weavers as partners. They are independent entrepreneurs and artisans, and we are just a conduit to bring their beautiful weaving heritage and textiles to a wider market.
We acknowledge the fabrics are their cultural properties and as such, we always check with them about the allowed usage of the weaves. We pay the prices they set regardless of the volume of our custom weave orders, and we give them proper credit and recognition at all times.
It's really all about respecting their traditions and practices and understanding the process that goes behind each woven fabric.
What inspires your products?
Function inspires our products. Things that are not just aesthetically pleasing, pretty, or Insta-worthy, but pieces you can really use whether for yourself or for your home.
We always strive to find that balance between heritage and function, style and practicality.
What are some of the most memorable moments you’ve experienced through the years?
There are quite a lot to be honest – all the community visits, finalizing designs with our lead seamstress partner Ate Liza, the long nights packing orders, etc.
Thinking about it now, it seems like every day we are around, especially during this time, is a milestone worth celebrating.
But if I have to choose just a few, it would be being one of the top 10 awardees of the BPI Sinag Program Year 5 back in 2019. It made me realize there's so much we need to do to be a sustainable and viable business; and at the same time, see how much potential there is for the brand to grow.
Another would be our partnership with the Rotary Club of Makati East in 2018, then led by the late Atty. Gian Puyo, to provide seed funding assistance to our Yakan weaver partners. This was the first sponsored project with our partners as the direct beneficiaries. We went on to do another partnership with clothing brand Nuevo Ystilo a year after.
Finally, launching our website early this year and our first small batch clothing collection with local designer Alrey Rosano are memorable too. Pivoting into making face masks last year was also a turning point for us. We were able to continue supporting our partners and even started new community partnerships because of this timely pivot.
You’ve been operating for a few years now. What's on the horizon for Malingkat?
Malingkat is turning four this month (since we launched on Instagram) and two of those are pandemic years. It has been all kinds of wonderful, scary, challenging, fulfilling, and everything in between.
In the coming years, we hope to grow our enterprise further by partnering with more Mindanao tribes and artisans, having a few more key people as part of our core team, improving the manufacturing side of the business and expanding beyond the Philippines. We really want to make our weaves and cultural products accessible to as many Filipinos as possible throughout the world. That's why we're really grateful also for this partnership with kubo.
And finally, what Malingkat weave or product holds the most sentimental value for you and why?
The foldable eco bag definitely. This was the first product we made using the fabrics from our Yakan partners, and it's a combination of two of our advocacies – environmental protection through reduced plastic use and promoting Philippine weaves and products.
It's also the inspiration behind our brand's mission when we started – making our local weaves accessible and affordable to as many Filipinos as possible and bringing our heritage with us wherever we go.
We might not always have the original design in our product lineup, but we will always have a version or an evolved design of it.
all photos courtesy of Malingkat Weaves