Feature Story – Francis Sollano


Francis Sollano

Turning trash into super-cool fashion is what makes Francis Sollano an extraordinary artist, designer and social entrepreneur. A graduate from the University of the Philippines, Francis’s designs are making waves in London, New York, Paris, Singapore and Bangkok. But more importantly, his innovative pieces made from “upcycled” trash, part of the “trashion” movement is having a positive impact on the environment and also helping local communities in his native home.

As one of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers and the Executive Director of Youth For A Livable Cebu (YLC), Francis firmly believes that he has found a way to make a positive impact on his community. He works with restaurants and shops in his hometown of Cebu to turn their garbage into wearable fashion. His creations include dresses, bags, dolls, jewellery and sculptural pieces made from recycled trash such as plastic bags, PET bottles, drinking straws and sticker paper. In a recent interview Francis explained, “I can recall my childhood playing with candy wraps and turning them into trinkets. (However) it was when I joined YLC that I started to take trashion seriously.”

Francis teaching a group of people about upcycling

As a youth group advocating sustainability, part of its programmes included upcycling and Francis said that he saw “this as a wonderful platform to introduce my art pieces and network with commercial establishments.” The initial idea to take action came to Francis about three years ago while he was driving home. It was raining heavily and he noticed that after just a few minutes his car became flooded. At the same time, he looked around and saw kids bathing in the flood water which was full of garbage. He described this as “a painful picture” And it was then that he made up his mind to do something about the situation using his creative skills – and that’s how trashion came into being.

Photo courtesy of Francis Sollano

He added, “It was never a difficult decision to choose trash as material. It is painful to see garbage littered all over our cities, much worse seeing Filipinos throw their garbage in the streets as if our country is a huge trash bin. I wish to re-ignite a culture that truthfully values our environment and to take responsibility over our waste. It would be a very beautiful country to live 58 INSPIRE APR-JUN 2016 59 Francis Sollano is a social entrepreneur from the Philippines who is proving that trash can transform societies for the better TRASHION Making a compelling statement in with products that speak the language of the earth.” In addition to allowing Sollano to express his unique artistic ability, “trashion” has had a profound and powerful impact on the society. It has enabled women in the communities to not only earn an income but also to rediscover their worth. Sollano explained, “During one of our evaluations, we found out that most women felt happier because they had found a new sense of worth in themselves, that they are able to contribute in their community and produce designs that are beautiful for the world to own. Instead of having a routinely lazy day, the women now enjoy creating trashion. Money has become secondary.”

Francis who is a recipient of the United Nations Environmental Programme Fellowship Award and Philippine’s Creative Mover 2015 Award believes that although “trashion” is a fairly new concept, there is a lot of potential for it to become a thriving industry. “The future of trashion is very promising, most especially with the new consciousness that the upcoming designers bring with them. There are also fashion brands that have started to adopt the same principles of upcycling. For our brand, we hope to preserve its aesthetic with its products as pieces of art while we aim to grow its reach in different regions across the globe,” said Sollano.

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2016 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!