When Hindy Weber met an albino carabao in Chiang Mai

Published February 19, 2021, 9:32 AM

by AA Patawaran

How this designer by trade came to realize that her work in fashion need not be inconsistent with her personal advocacy as champion of the good Earth

Eight years ago, Hindy Weber met an albino carabao in Chiang Mai. It was a meeting most probably predestined, for which she might have prepared since 2007 when she and her husband Gippy Tantoco set up a small backyard farm, Holy Carabao, because they wanted to make sure they knew where their food was coming from or since 2009 when, leaving nothing behind, she and her family moved out of the city and into the farm, where she and Gippy and their four children now spend each day of their lives, often barefoot on the soil, free as the wind from the distractions of urban living. It was while learning to plant rice, the final step to living in a farm, though she had long been growing her own food before then, that Hindy met the albino carabao.

  THE ALBINO CARABAO Hindy Weber riding an albino carabao at the Four Seasons Hotel in Thailand eight years ago

“That was for ‘Asia’s Most Stylish’ shoot for Philippine Tatler,” recounts Hindy, a designer by trade, for which she schooled herself at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “It was two days of high fashion, glamming it up with international photographers and an international glam team, but I decided to stay behind for a few more days to relax. The resort was beautiful, exotic, and totally in sync with my lifestyle. Planting rice was one of the activities they offered to their guests. I had already been growing food back home. I just wasn’t used to seeing it done at luxury resorts. The albino carabao was a welcome surprise.”

  BEAUTY OF MOTHER [AND] NATURE Hindy Weber is a fashion designer, biodynamic farmer, an entrepreneur, and a loving mother and wife

The trip to Chiang Mai, though Hindy didn’t know it then, was a sneak peek into her life of fashion, food, and Earth, which at some point, to her, were at odds with each other. In fact, soon after the trip, she turned her back on fashion. “I’ve always been a nature and animal lover since childhood,” she says. “In fact, I wanted to be a scientist, a zoologist to be exact.” When she founded Holy Carabao five years prior, she considered it a “turning point in my life when I took a much more public stand on environmentalism vis-a-vis having a career in fashion.” One had to give and she gave up fashion, despite her success, having spent over a decade in pursuit of it with her own eponymous fashion label and as an in-house designer in charge of many brands at Rustan’s.

‘I am not seeing anything from the government that remotely resembles a long-term holistic approach to public health and environmental sustainability. It doesn’t take much to make positive changes. And in fact, it’s even cheaper.’

But the albino carabao, like a woman in a standout dress, must have carried a message Hindy didn’t see at the time—that her passion for fashion need not go to waste. It is only eight years later that she got the message, although she launched Hindy Weber Every.Day, her new ecological and ethical fashion label, in 2019. “I am back in pret-a-porter after an eight-year hiatus. I never thought I would do it again because the machinations of the fashion industry were something I no longer wanted to contribute to,” she says. “But I found sources that provided ecological textiles, toxin-free dyes, and that sparked my interest again. It’s fashion I can live with—totally intertwined with my advocacy for people and planet.”

Hindy is one of those rare authentic souls, who walk the talk, and now she’s come full circle—a fashion designer, biodynamic farmer, entrepreneur, who finds nothing in those many hats she wears that is inconsistent with her personal advocacy for holistic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly living.

But how has the pandemic affected Hindy? “It’s made me an even bigger science geek! I have spent many hours researching and studying. I might as well be a doctor or scientist with all the hours I’ve dedicated to learning about viruses, immunity, health,” she beams. “I also learned how to bake bread! Ain’t that a surprise?! Just another one of those quarantine bakers.”

In a way, the pandemic is a big lesson on mindful living and a reminder that health is wealth, whether of body, mind, soul, or planet. Hindy has long been advocating these lifestyles before they became the thing. “What can I say but finally!” she laughs. “I’m glad more people are aware of these very crucial issues we face today.”

And yet, and yet, Hindy hopes for even more mindfulness. “I’m very wary about a kind of extreme reaction to all of these,” she laments. “People’s desires and demands will come back with a vengeance. We are already seeing it with ‘ultra fast fashion.’ Also, people want quick fixes when it comes to their health—and quick fixes is what always gets us in trouble. I am not seeing anything from the government that remotely resembles a long-term holistic approach to public health and environmental sustainability. It can be so disheartening. It doesn’t take much to make positive changes. And in fact, it’s even cheaper. But the decisions being made are entirely too myopic. If we want true and lasting health, there are only a very few policies that need to be made, and yet they are not done.”

Maybe, a unicorn is no longer what we need. Maybe what we need is an albino carabao to remind us, as it did Hindy, that the good Earth is all the good we need.