Meet the female entrepreneurs behind Catriona Gray’s Yakan ensemble

Published October 19, 2020, 10:30 AM

by Kerry Tinga

You don’t have to go all the way to Zamboanga to support the Yakan women; this family-run brand turns indigenous fabrics into everyday wear

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray shared with her followers some photos of her visiting Yakan weavers in Zamboanga City. Practicing health precautions while still promoting local craftsmanship, Gray wore a red facemask that matched with her hand-woven top, both made from indigenous Yakan fabrics.

Posting on Instagram, her caption reads, “You can directly support the Yakan community in Zamboanga, [which] is made up of 40 families, by purchasing their handmade and hand-woven products.”

The comments blew up with local and foreign fans in awe of the beautiful skill and craftsmanship. Many were asking where exactly they could order the Yakan facemasks and stylish pieces. Well, look no further.

The fully female- and family-run brand PNay transforms hand-woven indigenous fabrics into everyday, contemporary wear that seamlessly blends with the rest of your closet. At PNay, Yakan fabrics are used in casual designs, like the Tali top that Gray wore when meeting the Yakan community.

Pamela Ledesma-Meily, whose goal was to keep the weaving tradition of Zamboanga alive, founded PNay in 2018. While there is so much tradition and history in the craft, she knew that the fabrics had to be incorporated into everyday, contemporary wear for the demand to be regular and sustainable. She soon brought in her nieces Llana Ledesma, 29, and Carra Arriesgado, 30, to help her out as the business started to expand.

“It was started by our Tita, and now is driven by a younger generation,” says social media manager Carra. “But our Tita still feels young.”

“Having been born and raised in Zamboanga, my Tita was exposed to the Yakan fabric early on,” Carra continues. “She said she was always fascinated by the vivid colors and how the ladies with strands of threads in front of them could magically turn them into colorful, geometric, almost endless yards of fabric. As for my cousins and I, it was only through PNay that we became aware and really started to appreciate the Yakan fabrics. It has opened our eyes to local indigenous crafts. Now, whenever we go home to Zamboanga, we make it a point to visit the Yakan village.”

Ensuring that her nieces-slash-staff understood the skill and effort put into every square inch of fabric, the PNay team was made to undergo weaving lessons. It took three days just to set up the loom properly.

“I have come to really appreciate the workmanship, the time, and the effort Yakan women put into these fabrics,” says marketing manager Llana. “Every detail is carefully woven to become a piece of art.”

Back in 2018, PNay was part of the Zamboanga exhibit at Manila FAME. A member of Habi Textile Council was immediately drawn to the unique take on the Yakan fabric and encouraged them to join the Habi Fair. Today, PNay is often found in pop-ups and bazaars, including Katutubo Pop-Up Market at the Bench Building.

“We get to showcase the beauty of the Yakan fabrics and, at the same time, introduce to our generation how these pieces can be uniquely worn,” Llana adds “We aim for our generation and the next generation to appreciate the traditions and culture of the Yakan tribe.”

To reach the younger generation, Carra brought in her sister Annika Ledesma, 18, to help model and promote the clothes.

“As a content creator, I want to use my platform to promote local brands, especially ones from Zamboanga, because I know they are just as good as international brands,” says Annika. “PNay’s designs truly attract the younger generation, with bags, masks, and even shorts.”

The fabrics of the Yakan community are known for their vibrant colors and eye-catching, geometric designs. While they hold within them centuries worth of history, culture, and identity, they seamlessly blend into our modern fashion and design landscape. Even Catriona Gray, who has experienced the universe and beyond, knows some of the best quality and designs are right in our own backyard.