Yakang Yaka Barter: Made with Love and Loom
The first time I got acquainted with Yakang Yaka Barter was on a trip to the Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival in Puerto Galera, Mindoro in 2015. I ran into Kelly Mortensen as we were having our bags checked by security. “I love your bags! Where did you get them?” I asked of her gorgeous matching tribal printed duffel and tote that were perfect for weekend gypsetting. “It’s my business!” she said as she ran off to catch her ferry.
Shoes by Yakang Yaka Barter
Inspired by tradition and intertwined with the contemporary, Yakang Yaka Barter is about promoting the indigenous crafts of Mindanao by creating sustainable and ethical fashion made by weavers in Zamboanga, Mortensen’s mother’s hometown. A Filipino-American who was raised in the United States, Kelly moved back to the Philippines in 2006 where she became involved with tourism and volunteer work in conflict areas in Mindanao. In 2011 she founded the company KMCM Trading to promote and sustain the indigenous weaving traditions of Mindanao. Meaning “never give up,” Yakang Yaka Barter established itself in Asia by joining various trade fairs, bazaars around the metro and the Sunday Legaspi Market to sell and promote its various bags, shoes, knitted scarves, travel accessories and more. Yakang Yaka Barter also collaborates with stores and designers, such as jewelry designer Natalya Lagdameo for her Gifts and Graces teddy bear project that partners with street children and poor urban women.
Textiles weaves of Mindanao
“The weavers are the story tellers through their tradition designs. We assist by telling their stories through our contemporary outlook. We hope to highlight our Filipino artistic legacy to be passed on through our next generations,” says Mortensen. Yakang Yaka has become partners with the various Mindanao weaving communities such as the Yakans of Basilan, Tausugs of Jolo and the Badjao’s of Sulu/Zamboanga. They are offered food and shelter and eventually, education in business and marketing for their weaving craft. Yakang Yaka’s manufacturing company helps sustain their livelihoods and helps promote fair trade.
Cotton Ilocos – a project of HABI to revive cotton weaving
Aside from working together with the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Yakang Yaka is also a Likhang Habi Textile Council board member, whose main mission is to help sustain the art of textile weaving in the Philippines and revive cotton weaving in the country as well.
Recently, Yakang Yaka Barter joined the Fashion Revolution Philippine campaign #whomadeyourclothes which promotes ethical fashion. The first Conscious Festival in Asia, founder and British fashion designer Carry Somers was invited to the Philippines to be a guest of honor and speak about the aesthetics of ethics and sustainability of fashion at the School of Fashion and the Arts.
A deluxe room at Coast Boracay featuring indigenous weaves
In addition to the original fashion items she produces, Mortensen has delved into the world of home décor, such as pillows and bed runners made of indigenous weaves, as seen in Coast Boracay’s rooms. She also travels around Southeast Asia to help textile weavers in the region further sustain their crafts.