Filipino Fashion Brands Pay-It-Forward In The Time of COVID-19

Filipino Fashion Brands Pay-It-Forward In The Time of COVID-19

In this moment of darkness and uncertainty, we want to bring a few stories of hope from the homeland.

On March 16th, 2020 the Philippine government placed the entire island of Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine” to slow down the spread of COVID-19. The measures enforced have restricted movement, not just across provincial borders, but even within city lines. Millions of Filipinos have been confined to their homes.

In many ways, the Philippines under lockdown looks like the rest of the world. People’s daily lives have migrated online: school, work, and shopping. Roads that used to be congested with vehicles are eerily empty. Malls have been closed; only establishments offering basic necessities—groceries, pharmacies, bank offices—remain open.

Officers of the Philippine National Police inspecting checkpoints in Bulacan and Pampanga  (on March 19th) to ensure that proper procedures are being followed.
Officers of the Philippine National Police inspecting checkpoints in Bulacan and Pampanga  (on March 19th) to ensure that proper procedures are being followed. Photo courtesy of Philippine National Police - Police Regional Office 3 (via Wikimedia Commons).

 

There are also ways in which lockdown in the Philippines has been much more intense. Curfews and military checkpoints dictate when people go out for groceries and who gets to go. Each household is typically issued only one “quarantine pass” to present at checkpoints.

In short, business is obviously not as usual. Million-Peso conglomerates and small enterprises alike, across all industries, have had to pivot. The face of fashion, especially, has changed significantly in less than a month.

With malls and stores closed, sales have migrated online. With local deliveries limited to “essential goods” (foodstuffs, medical supplies, and relief goods), brand-owners have put their creativity to work and redirected their production. With garment workers stuck at home, companies have shifted to a decentralized supply chain.

When we first heard the news of a lockdown in the Philippines, our primary concern was for our partners and artisans. We’ve been keeping in touch and tuning into updates. And, as the situation has unfolded, we’ve found a lot to be hopeful for.

To what could be called the most challenging of times, the Filipino fashion industry has responded with the best of its creativity, resilience, and compassion. This is how our friends and partners in the Filipino fashion industry have pivoted in response to COVID-19:

Rags2Riches

The Puso Hardin Handbag by Rags2Riches. A reminder of summer collections past.
The Puso Hardin Handbag by Rags2Riches. A reminder of summer collections past. Photo by Rags2Riches.

 

Rags2Riches “makes things that matter and weaves joy into every story”. They’ve remained faithful to this mission. With their latest collection, Rags2Riches is determined as ever to bring a little light into the world.

On April 6th, Rags2Riches launched Sol, their Summer 2020 Collection, through an Instagram Live with Co-founder & President Reese Fernandez-Ruiz. Each bag and garment from Sol is creatively designed to be worn multiple ways—further proof of their commitment to style and sustainability.

Sol is currently only available for pre-order until quarantine measures are lifted in Luzon. These pre-orders provide continued livelihood for their partner artisans during the lockdown. Profit from the collection has also been donated to frontliners in the form of cash and PPEs. So far, they’ve sent their first batch of donations to Rock Ed Philippines’ Frontline Feeders initiative, providing 148 meals for frontliners!

Even from home, it’s been a busy month for the Rags2Riches production team. Their partner sewers from Payatas, Quezon City have kept their hands at work by making reusable face masks and filters.

Since the beginning of enhanced community quarantine, they’ve made 5,068 reusable masks from the safety of their home! This means protection for non-medical frontliners and that surgical masks go to those most at risk: health workers.

Rags2Riches Face MasksRags2Riches Face Masks are now available on Cambio & Co.

Thanks to a community of advocates, sheer grit, and creativity, these initiatives have sustained Rags2Riches’ cash flow. Their entire team of employees and workshop artisans have received their salaries despite the lockdown!

Read all about Rags2Riches’ impact as of April 21, 2020 here.

En Route Handcrafted Accessories

Bright and colourful mornings with En Route Handcrafted.
Bright and colourful mornings with En Route Handcrafted. Photo by En Route Handcrafted Accessories.

 

En Route Handcrafted Accessories empowers women in Davao to become artisan-entrepreneurs through sustainable fashion. Their upcycled bracelets and necklaces give a new life to secondhand t-shirts sourced from local thrift shops.

En Route has been using their platforms for updates about the artisans they work with and to round up support for COVID-19 relief efforts in Mindanao.

One of the initiatives they’re actively promoting is Kapit Mindanao, a fundraising campaign to support 20 youth-led organizations all across the region. This collective effort funds programs to provide PPEs to frontliners, grocery packs to daily wage earners and indigent communities, cooked food for the homeless and lowest income families, even sanitation tents for relief workers. 

The artisans who work with En Route Handcrafted have been on both the receiving and giving end of aid. Ate Rose, an artisan, used her crafting skills and free time to make face shields for healthcare workers in her local community!

Learn more about Kapit Mindanao here.

AMAMI

Gold filigree jewelry by AMAMI, handcrafted and designed in the Philippines. The stuff of our daydreams.
Gold filigree jewelry by AMAMI, handcrafted and designed in the Philippines. The stuff of our daydreams. Photo by AMAMI.

 

AMAMI is more than a jewelry brand—they’re a social enterprise reviving an age-old artform that’s survived since pre-colonial times. They employ a pool of artisans, called “plateros” (or silversmiths), from Ilocos Sur who’ve trained to perfect their craft of Philippine gold filigree.

First order of business for AMAMI when the enhanced community quarantine began was to ensure artisans were healthy and safe. Next, was to offer them security to ease their anxiety through such uncertain times. AMAMI offered cash advances to the artisans and opportunities to continue crafting their jewelry from the safety of their home.

AMAMI is also extending help beyond their circle. For every purchase that was made until April 30, AMAMI was donating 10% to help raise funds for medical supplies and relief efforts. They’re also consolidating pledges—in cash or in kind—to their initiative of your choice.

To date, they’ve distributed cash assistance to daily wage workers (like jeepney and tricycle drivers) as well as delivered cooked meals and PPEs to healthcare workers.

Follow AMAMI’s Instagram for more information and regular updates!

Island Girl

Island Girl boasts the beauty of the Philippine islands in its skillfully made accessories. They’ve tapped the local artisans of Cebu to do what they do best: transform dazzling capiz shells plucked from sea or weave sturdy rattan harvested from the forest.

Their production has also been affected. Because this lockdown restricts the movement of “nonessential goods”, Island Girl can’t deliver materials to most of its artisans. Only those who can source their own materials have been able to continue crafting from home. This includes Island Girl’s sewers who’ve dedicated their services to producing personal protective equipment for hospitals in their community.

Even as they’ve closed their physical stores, they’ve pushed forward, focusing on online sales. Like our partners, previously mentioned, this determination stems from a commitment to the secure livelihood of their network of artisans.

As part of the larger community of Cebu, Island Girl is donating 50% of their profit from regular-priced items to raise funds for local relief.

Courage Cebu, their chosen fundraising campaign, is working to fund test kits for major hospitals, PPEs, food, vitamins, and other essentials for the infected and medical frontliners. They provide a detailed breakdown of budget allocation on their GoGetFunding page.

Cambio & Co

It’s been inspiring to see the work of our friends in the Philippines. As their primary partner in North America, we’ve tried to strategize ways to provide much needed financial resources.

As soon as the lockdown of Luzon was announced, we reached out to our partners to see how we could support them through this crisis. We were even able to place and receive a last-minute order with our partner AMAMI before domestic shipping was suspended in the Philippines.

In addition, we’ve pledged 5% of purchases made on our website since the start of enhanced community quarantine to Project PEARLS. Every day, they’ve been feeding and distributing groceries to hundreds of families in the Philippines’ lowest income communities.

Seeing as the Filipino fashion industry has focused their efforts on creating PPEs for Filipino frontliners, we wanted to distribute our efforts to another segment of the population hit hard by COVID-19: those living below the poverty line.

Lastly, we wanted to further involve you—our community. We launched the #WearYourHeritageAtHome campaign to boost visibility for Filipino fashion brands and foster solidarity. Though we’re apart, we are not alone.

In a time when we’re all apart and facing a lot of darkness, we’ve found strength in community.

How can you help?

Everyone’s affected by this pandemic, some disproportionately so. Big or small, there’s always something you can do to help those around you.

It costs nothing but emotional energy to remain kind and empathetic during these challenging times. Neighbours have checked in on my family every so often to see if they could get us anything during their grocery run. Our co-founders, Gelaine and Jérôme, cheer for health workers from their balcony!

Spread the word—and the love. Your kind words and support on Cambio & Co.’s socials do a lot to brighten our day. Post about the brands you’re supporting and the one’s which may need some extra help. Share their content! Likes and comments on small businesses’ social media channels help, too.

After all, behind the screens, we’re all just people who would appreciate the encouragement and solidarity at this time.

If you’re in the position to help financially, please do so. Donate to NGOs and initiatives that are helping frontliners and aiding vulnerable communities. Shop at small businesses. Buy gift cards to support brands you love.

There are so many more in the Filipino fashion industry who’re paying it forward in the time of COVID-19. You should check them out:

  • AKABA launched their own fundraiser, AmbagPH, to donate personal protective equipment produced by Mindanao’s indigenous communities.
  • ANTHILL created two new products: a Zero-Waste Reusable Face Mask and the Bayanihan Bucket (a self-care kit for the benefit of displaced workers and their families).
  • Fashion for Frontliners is a collective of Filipino fashion designers who’re using their resources to create protective full-body suits for medical workers.
  • The Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club is a group of fashion industry volunteers producing personal protective equipment. They consult doctors and infectious disease specialists on their designs; their suits are distributed through the Office of the Vice President; and their open-source tech packs are online so more people can help!
  • TELA Story is raising funds to produce personal protective equipment for frontliners in the Philippines—100% of donations goes to paying the seamstresses a living wage.

Do you know any small businesses who are paying it forward amidst COVID-19? Share them with us in the comments below and let’s start a chain of support!


Nicolette Bautista

Nicolette Bautista

Nicolette is a Manila-based creative freelancer and Cambio & Co's Community Storyteller. She's written on the digital space about mom-and-pop's, small businesses, and social enterprises. In the pursuit of her eclectic interests, Nicolette has a broad portfolio including short videos, album art, and storybook illustrations! Find her on Instagram @of_nicolette and ofnicolette.wordpress.com