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LOLA : The story of Josepha Norona

By blending Filipino and American culture, I am exploring my family history and heritage through denim and woven textiles.

My lola immigrated from Iloilo to Angel island when she was seventeen. Hearing that America was a place of opportunity and safety from the communists which would show up at her door. Her and her family immigrated to America and built a life that integrated their traditional Filipino lifestyle into their new home and culture of America. In honor of my lola’s journey and her new life in America.


I created a collection that blends both Filipino and American textiles and silhouettes. When she first arrived to America around 1945, the time of the post-World War II high in the states. A time of prosperity and having the “ideal” cookie cutter lifestyle with a family, job, house and stability. All of which could be achieved through hard work and opportunity. When my lola came to America, she had to find her own American dream and work hard to achieve it. In order to represent the hard working American idea/lifestyle, I chose denim as my main fabric. It is a fabric that represents humbling work and an all American lifestyle. The denim I used was kindly donated by Calik Denim, a turkish mill from Malatya. Alongside denim I created my own textile inspired by the traditional woven textile from IloIlo, Philippines called hablon. Hablon is a brightly colored loom woven plaid and is the main fabric for the balintawak, the traditional outfit. I explored handweaving using a loom and created my own version of hablon. I also experimented with felting, embroidery, dyeing and dremeling in order to create my own version of hablon through various textures. Through this process I wanted to maintain a level of craft just as someone in the Philippines does. The hours put into the fabric is something that I want to be known as to me the value in these pieces comes from the hours of care put in through hand making.