Philippine indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) is one of the oldest dyes in civilization and one of the most widely used natural dyes in the whole world due to its excellent colorfastness properties. In the Philippines, indigo was once extensively used in the weaving industry including the abel of llocos and the Abrenian fabrics.
The Philippine indigo has been part of the Galleon and Chinese trade in northern Philippines, centuries ago; however, the successful production of cheaper synthetic indigo eased it out of the market and caused its rapid decline not only in the Philippines but also all over the world.
In the Philippines, the former First Lady Amelia "Ming" Ramos initiated the effort to revive indigo dyeing. She became the Patroness of natural dyes and spearheaded the Katutubong Kulay Project of the Katutubong Filipino Foundation in the early 1990's. The transfer and commercialization of the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) developed technology on indigo in Abra revived and upgraded the age long tradition of using tayum, the local name of indigo in Abra. In fact, a town in Abra was aptly named Tayum, reportedly because of the abundance of naturally growing indigo in the place. Tayum is where Abra's Natural Dye Center is located.
Among the PTRI technologies on natural dyes, indigo is most commonly requested for dyeing services and prototyping by interested clients. Indigo in textile silkscreen printing has likewise broadened the horizon for the developed indigo powder. The versatility of indigo as a dye and as a pigment for printing provides the impetus for the continued advocacy in popularizing Philippine indigo in both local and international textile scene.
Indigo is among the four priority natural dye sources included in the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARD) assisted project of the Aklan State University (ASU). An area which is in the school campus yields sufficient fresh indigo plant, which can beused as a crude liquid dye. Its powder form counterpart, however, yields even deeper and darker shades. PTRI is continuously undertaking process improvement in the production of indigo powder not only for dyeing but also for textile printing. This project also enables PTRI to help identify cultural management practices suitable for indigo growing through the assessment of the indigo ppowder and the evaluation of the dyed materials.
In addition to the Natural Dye Common Service Facility in ASU, Soumak Collection which is currently operating PTRl's Natural Dye Center in a Technology Business Incubation (TBI) arrangement is another recipient of the Institute's indigo technologies. The growing demand of Soumak Collection for indigo prompted ASU to seriously consider planting an initial one-hectare area inside ASU's Banga Campus. To date, seedlings have already germinated and will be ready for transplanting very soon. With this business arrangement being made between the two, the commercial revival of indigo dyeing is bound to stir the market.
Kingsmen Corporation likewise launched their Bahaghari Collection. The premium collection was collaboratively developed with PTRI and it showcases their new line of colored pina barongs including indigo dyed barongs to yield blue to deep blue shades including green. Mariana Fashion Apparels, makers of Miguel Barongs likewise launched their kaLiKHAsan Collection featuring naturally Barong RTW available in the mall.
Fil-Am Fashion designer Anthony Cruz Legarda and his Arkiteknik Collection has also included blue in his Fall 2008 Collection. It will feature the splendor of Philippine fabrics like pina-seda and pina in one 01 the fashion capitals of the world-New York, with Philippine indigo and other natural dyes, in collaboration with PTRI. The blue from indigo has high colorfastness ratings on pina, pina-silk, abaca, Philippine silk, cotton to name a few. Later, conquering Europe is inevitable since the quality of Philippine indigo is at par with, if not even better than the indigo from Japan, Korea, and India among many countries with local indigo traditions.