Abaca Bags, Sustainability, and Shopping Local

Abaca Bags, Sustainability, and Shopping Local

Hey friends, it’s Fashion Revolution Week!  In the spirit of sustainability, I’d like to take a moment to celebrate a beautiful Filipino tradition, that of abaca weaving.

Quick plug though: if you missed my IG tips on how your can support the Fashion Revolution, I’ve recapped them all in one post, out tomorrow!  For more information on what ethical fashion and FashRev’s all about, click here.

I don't know if you've noticed, but Abaca bags have taken the Instagram by storm.  These woven beauties are all up and down influencers and indie boutiques alike from Lisa Says Gah! to New Classics Studios to MAAARI, but what consumers probably don't know is that abaca weaving is actually a traditional Filipino practice!

Spencer wondering why all his play space was occupied.  

Spencer wondering why all his play space was occupied.  


Abaca fiber comes from a plant colloquially known as Manila hemp, and while it’s not actually a true hemp, it possesses unusually strong qualities that make it perfect for everyday use.  It’s even resistant to salt water, which is why most abaca fiber actually goes into making ship’s rope!  The stalks, which give the appearance of a banana tree, are harvested, dried, and twisted into twine before being woven into beautiful bags and backpacks by village weavers.  Filipina women have been walking around the provinces doing their shopping with these beauties for ages—so it’s both amusing and delightful that they’ve caught on in the developed West.

What I find so satisfying about owning an abaca bag, is that it’s made out of 100% organic materials and is therefore 100% biodegradable.  It makes them excellent reusable bags for the farmer’s market, and I don’t have to worry about them getting stained.  They’re hardy, rustic pieces, but if I wear one out, I can simply purchase a new one and let the old one compost.


On top of that, buying abaca bags in the Philippines means shopping small—whether it’s from a mom-and-pop brand on IG or from a weaving coorperative.  Incidentally, I was able to buy my abaca and seagrass directly from a weaver herself!  We happened upon her stall at a Sunday market and found out only after making our purchases that she had woven all of them herself.  So not only is this trend great for the visibility of traditional craftswomanship, it’s also helping rural working class women put food on their tables. 

Abaca bags going mainstream are a great demonstration that we can shift trends in favor of sustainability.  They’re a great reminder to shop local and support your local artisans.  By supporting small businesses dedicated to slow trade, we can boost our local economies and promote community through shared objects and meaningful transactions.  Now that sounds a lot more satisfying than a click on a website (although while we’re on the subject, check out Garmentory for a nation-wide collection of small-time boutiques that you can support on their ecommerce platform!)

So what about you?  Who are your favorite local artisans?  How can you shop small to preserve traditional crafts(wo)manship?