“For me and my wife, it was a dream that needed to happen,” says Lakat Sustainables’ Mike Claparols.
“The Philippines is gifted with so many fibers—30 at least—and the challenge is to convert them into something wearable,” says Mike Claparols. “My long-term dream is to make the Philippines the top producer of sustainable products.
He says that this can only be made possible if we do all the value-added processes here in the country. “At the moment, it’s the foreign companies that use our raw materials and do the processing elsewhere,” Mike explains. “I want to change the playing field to our favor.”
This sustainability-driven dream is shared with his wife Banj, and together the couple launched Lakat Sustainable Sneakers. With the goal of promoting the use of eco-friendly, ethically-sourced, and -produced materials that are found locally, the brand is first focusing on hand-woven pineapple and cotton fabrics.
The idea for the brand started in 2017 when the Claparols attended a trade fair in Hong Kong.
“We were exposed to sustainable materials that were being developed and produced for major shoe brands,” Mike shares. That same year, the two were introduced to the DOST-Philippine Textile Research Institute.
“These two events gave us the magic moment and my wife and I saw the opportunity: market for sustainable products was available and the technology was available to us locally,” Mike says.
But couple have been working on local crafts well before that. Since 2008, the husband and wife team have dedicated themselves to creating world-class Negrense products through their parent company Creative Definitions.
Their shoe brand’s name is a nod to this Ilonggo roots. Banj shares that handloom weavers “of the fabrics, source of the fibers and the way of life of the people of Negros are valuable elements that made Lakat what it is today.”
Lakat was originally slated to be launched last April, but Mike says that the pandemic postponed those plans.
“The challenges of course were many: delays in the delivery of raw materials, logistics also delayed, workers were getting sick and delays in opening up the economy,” he explains. “The uncertainties really made it difficult to move and to plan out things.”
But the two weren’t deterred. “We didn’t stop our product development process. For me and my wife, it was a dream that needed to happen,” he says. “Our dream is to bring the brand abroad.”
“The ultimate goal is to establish a sustainable value chain,” Banj adds. The brand works with farmers from Negros and Mindanao, and, in turn, directly supporting the livelihoods of those communities.
Sustainability is seen throughout the production process. The fibers for making the shoes are taken from pineapple leaves typically discarded after harvesting. Solar power is also used for the extraction these fibers.
Pineapple and cotton fibers are water repellant, and woven by hand by the Kabanklan weavers of Negros. Insoles are made using 100 percent non-woven pineapple fabric, while outsoles are produced using Mindanao-farmed rubber. The soles are also mixed with pineapple cotton fibers discarded from the yarn spinning process.
Collaboration is a must
The brand operates under the principles of slow fashion, with only limited runs, lead times, and a respect for weaving traditions.
“Since this is an artisanal product, it takes time to extract the fibers, hand weave the fabric and do the natural dyeing,” Mike says. “That’s why stocks are made available in batches. In the interim, we are open to pre orders.”
With more and more people being mindful of how the products they buy are created, the couple’s venture seems auspicious.
But for the brand and this push for sustainability to succeed, Banj emphasizes the need for collaboration, and highlights the amount of belief that already went into the launching it.
Lakat, she says, is “a product of moving things together, and it involved many people to make it happen. The brand was a hub wheel of vision, supported by spokes of people who believed that anything was possible.”
For more information, visit @lakatsustainables on IG.