Sunday, September 26, 2021

Preserving culture through fashion

(Photo by Nurainie Ampatuan)

AIMING to preserve culture and tradition at a young age could be an ambitious goal.

As a neophyte in the fashion industry, 23-year-old Maguindanaoan Nurainie Ampatuan wanted to be a game-changer with a purpose. She is currently starting up her own clothing brand, Hilyah Islamic Designs.

Before Hilyah was conceived, her desired path was actually on the medical field. Born and raised in Cotabato, she left her hometown to study in Davao City in 2013. She took up dentistry for a semester, before shifting to nursing. After studying for a year and one semester, she had to drop the course due to health reasons.

“I always have this passion when it comes to humanitarian advocacy. But my body can’t keep up with my course, which requires you to deal with the lives of patient, both physically and mentally,” Ampatuan said.

One time, she was at a hospital when a janitor gave her a newspaper while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. She flipped through the lifestyle section. She was fascinated with the newspaper spread about a fashion show held in the city.

This convinced her to take up Bachelor of Fine Arts Major in Fashion Design at Philippine Women’s College of Davao. She finished her course in 2018.

“Admittedly, I had the feeling of being a minority in the course,” Ampatuan shared.

But this did not hinder her from standing out from the rest.

She recalled how her college instructor and mentor, Emi Englis, pushed her to where she is now.

“I remember his advice. He said ‘You’re from Maguindanao. You should preserve your own culture. Maintain what you have and lift up from where you belong’,” Ampatuan shared.

She took it as a challenge. After series of brainstorming, she then thought of utilizing Inaul (pronounced as “inol”), a traditional Maguindanaon fabric used to make formal attires such as gowns, long and short sleeved shirts for men, trousers, and accessories among many others.

An avid fashion savvy by heart, she thought of utilizing the fabric to casual or street wear.

One of her designs, a sweater with Inaul as part of the garment, gained positive feedback when she posted it on her social media account.

This led her to pursue her brand, Hilyah, which she noted to have started May last year.

In the middle of her road towards entrepreneurship, she worked as a call center agent earlier this year. “At that time, I still didn’t have a clear direction of where I’d be, since I am still young,” she said.

Her mother, which she also considered as her number one mentor, convinced her to focus on her brand. True enough, she listened and now manages Hilyah, together with her family.

She also had been into different fashion shows and talks, both local and abroad. Her design amazed had wowed many fashion designers, including the iconic Filipino fashion designer Renee Salud.

“I remember how Mama Renee complemented me further when she learned I’m still very young. She said there are so many things that I will be able to discover throughout my journey,” Ampatuan said.

Mastering the design aspect and the marketing side also adds up to her pressure. “In fact, I could still recall whenever I’d be giving my calling cards to my clients, and they would be asking how am I related to the Ampatuans (on the political side),” she said adding that she was able to deal it in the long run. She said her surname did not hinder her.

Right now, she is embracing the life she has.

With Hilyah still making waves in the local fashion scene, Ampatuan hopes her brand could make “modest wear” an in trend.

Hilyah is in partnership with the Sultan Kudarat United Inaul Weavers Association (Skuiwa).


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