Creative Definitions – Weaving a Bright Future

The husband-and-wife team of Michael and Johanna Claparols started selling Negros-made products in Manila in 2008. At first, they were strictly selling retail. They found suppliers in Negros for products they thought would have a demand in Manila. The endeavor was motivated by entrepreneurship, that Negros products would sell, but more than that, that they’d sell and develop the local community as well. The Claparols could have sold any product, but they chose products of Negros because they really believed that the products were worth it and were under-represented.

This changed in 2016. Habi, the Philippine Textile Council of which Mike is a member, issued a directive to revitalize the textile industry. According to its website, Habi “emphasizes the importance of preserving know-how about indigenous textiles but at the same time modernizing the textile industry. In the course of working towards this objective, Habi discovered the need to reinvigorate the Philippine cotton industry”. Mike’s experience working with Negros producers made him realize he was in a unique position to that for Negros.

Mike and Johanna evolved from resellers to producers. They formed Creative Definitions with a vision to create sustainable textile and textile-based products for the global market. They continuously support communities they are in partnership with. They set-up workshops to allow their weavers to train the next generation. They are working with farmers to encourage them to grow cotton and other fibers so that their materials can be sourced locally and benefit those same communities. They recognize that their work requires long-term commitment for communities to become self-sufficient, armed with sustainable practices, continuous product innovation, and processes that are environment-friendly and efficient.

In the 50s and 60s, the Philippine textile industry started using polyester as it was cheaper and stronger. The farmers who used to grow cotton changed crops as demand fell. Habi is now encouraging weavers to go back to using natural materials. Creative Definitions found out that Negros weavers are ahead of the game. Negros weavers still know how to weave cotton while other weavers had to relearn or rediscover the techniques.

Bath Towels



On top of that, Mike and Johanna discovered that Negros weavers are open to new ideas and techniques. For example, they are accommodating to more modern designs and colors. They have easily incorporated earth tones, pastels, and other colors. Traditional weavers tend to stick to the same color palette of red, blue, black, yellow, and green. Negros weavers are also open to using newer materials, and eager to blend cotton with pineapple and abaca fibers. And they can customize designs to match a customer’s specifications.

Creative Definitions started in Kabankalan with nine weavers. It has since expanded to other communities, including Negros Oriental, bringing the total number of weavers to 25. Mike and Johanna have encouraged them to use locally-grown, all-natural cotton.

Cotton as an all-natural material has an almost negligible impact on the environment compared to polyester, which incorporates plastic. Cotton also makes sense in the warm, humid, tropical climate of the Philippines.

Luningning Scarf

There have been other beneficiaries beyond the weavers. Committing to using natural fibers has revived the local cotton industry. Cotton is a major product of Negros Oriental and this shift has given them a new market for their products. Creative Definitions’ innovation in blending cotton with pineapple and abaca fibers has also been a boon to those industries. Creative Definitions wants to take all these to the next level, eventually opening a yarn processing facility, with the assistance of the Philippine Textile Research Institute.

The shift to using less plastic is becoming a hot-button topic. The ecological impact of plastic, especially plastic waste, is finally reaching public consciousness. Creative Definitions is eager to lead the trend to move away from plastic and into natural and sustainable products.

Lounge Shoes

Ecological impact invariably redounds to social improvement. Creative Definitions is invested in its weavers earning more than minimum wage. The company commits to adopt fair trade principles and practices, where the weavers are equitably compensated for their work, and enjoy an improved standard of living. Most companies just think about the ends, what is produced. Creative Definitions is building relationships with its workers.

Hablon Comfo-Seal Masks

The Claparols have always been computer-savvy. The pandemic lockdowns just put their online presence into high gear. Being based in Manila meant that, unlike before, they could not fly to Negros and everything has to be done virtually. Communication is key as instructions and specifications have to be exacting and clear from the clients to the weavers.

Johanna created a website to widen their reach and be more readily available to international clients and customers. The one disadvantage is that customers cannot feel the product, something that Mike and Johanna believe is very important to buyers.

As a member of the Association of Negros Producers (ANP), Creative Definitions is using its online savvy to take part in this year’s Negros Trade Fair. In fact, the setting up of the online marketplace of The Negros Trade Fair was spearheaded by Mike himself, who sits as Chairman of the fair.

Creative Definitions has its eyes set on the future. There are plans for a textile research and production center in Negros. Michael and Johanna feel it is important to research other fibers that can be incorporated. Innovation – new fibers, new yarns, new techniques, new processes, new designs – is key to keeping the industry healthy and thriving. They especially want to research ways to bring down the carbon footprint of the industry and increase its sustainability. Their ultimate goal is to make the whole Negros Island a center of innovative and sustainable textiles.

Traditional weavers and indigenous fibers combine into world-class textiles at

Text by Jubal Gallaga

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