On Filipino Fashion, Beauty, And Culture: Why it's time we tell our story

On Filipino Fashion, Beauty, And Culture: Why It's Time We Tell Our Story

Cambio & Co. is turning five this year. We’ve gone through many near deaths, made lots of mistakes, and failed at so. many. things. But we’ve also done a few things right.

One was our early conviction that Cambio was more than a shop. Sure, we sell Filipino jewelry, bags, and fashion accessories, but couldn’t we also create livelihood? Celebrate culture? Foster community?

Answer: Wear Your Heritage. These words have been our call to action to the global Filipino community. To our surprise and amazement, Filipinos around the world have taken up our call with equal parts fierceness, pride, and joy.

I’ve loved being part of this movement. It’s taught me a lot about myself, about my family, and about the bigger role we all play in history; past and future.

What does it mean to Wear Your Heritage, in the first place?

On the surface, it sounds simple enough. Wear pieces made in the Philippines. Support Filipino artisans. Promote Filipino craftsmanship. There’s power in doing so because fashion is intimate and personal. Fashion is literally what we put on our bodies, and how our bodies then express themselves and move throughout the world.

But as we began to have conversations around Filipino fashion, we realized ‘wearing one’s heritage’ involved more than the physical things.

As a community, if we want meaningful conversations about what we wear on our bodies, we also need to talk about our bodies themselves. What do they represent? How do we feel about them? Where did these ideas and sentiments arise in the first place?

And, more often than not, things aren’t just things. Our most beloved memories and experiences manifest themselves into physical objects, like family heirlooms, a beloved piece of clothing, or a knick knack from one’s travels. Each with a story to tell.

Our memories and our stories are powerful. Our voices as a collective Filipino community are powerful.

It may seem strange to launch a new website, new look, and a new direction in the middle of a pandemic. But could it be that such a crisis actually makes our work more urgent?

Ifugao weavers at the Ifugao heritage center in Kiangan
Ifugao weavers at the Ifugao heritage center in Kiangan

Our heritage grounds us; keeps us solid; weaves us together.

When we retrace our roots and history, we can begin to unpack and understand the places and people we come from. We can reclaim our voices. We can reconnect with our heritage on our own terms.

For Cambio & Co., we understood this truth early on.

The Next Chapter: Content & Community

Six months before the virus first appeared in the news, our team was already discussing how to deepen our impact in the community.

How can we bring value, we asked, not only to the artisans we work with, but to the global community we aim to serve?

The answer came to us in the word, kwentuhan.

Kwentuhan is Tagalog meaning ‘to tell a story’ or ‘to have a conversation.’

Kwentuhan with Rags2Riches artisans

Storytelling is a core part of Filipino culture. We have a rich oral history, with tales passed down across generations from our Lolas, Titas, Nanays and more.

#WearYourHeritage continues to be our rallying cry.

We continue to create sustainable livelihood for Filipino artisans and celebrate Filipino craftsmanship. Only now we’ve expanded our mission further. We aim to also talk about our heritage in meaningful, incisive, and critical ways. We aim to document it. Share it. Educate, unpack, learn, unlearn.

For us, these changes to Cambio & Co. are part of the ongoing conversation. This is the next chapter of our evolving story as a company and as a community.

Thank you for being part of it with us.

Gelaine Santiago on behalf of Cambio & Co.

What You Can Expect:

  • A greater focus on content, community, and conversation. A new website with an expanded blog. This means more frequent, in-depth stories about Filipino fashion and culture, and an increased emphasis on Filipino beauty and wellness. 
  • Our mission to create sustainable livelihood for Filipino artisans hasn’t changed. All of our pieces are still designed and handcrafted in the Philippines by our social enterprise partners. 
  • We still need your support! Continue to shop online through Cambio & Co. and support small, Filipino-owned businesses like us.
  • Celebrate our launch with us. We are hosting in May & June a series of online events, including a Virtual Writing Workshop and our Kwentuhan Storytelling Series of online conversations about Filipino fashion, beauty, and culture. 
  • Don’t miss a story. Subscribe to our email newsletter to find out when new stories drop on our blog. You’ll also receive 10% off your first purchase when you subscribe.
  • And finally, tell your story on Cambio & Co. If you have a story you’re dying to tell, please consider writing for us. You can join the writers’ database or pitch us a topic. Learn more here.

Gelaine Santiago

Gelaine Santiago

Gelaine is a social entrepreneur, an online storyteller, and a passionate advocate for diversity and ethics in business. She’s the co-founder of Cambio & Co., an e-commerce fashion company working with Filipino artisans to celebrate Filipino craftsmanship, culture, and heritage. Gelaine is also one of the founders of Sinta & Co., the world’s first conscious Filipino wedding boutique. She was named one of RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2019. Find her on Instagram @gelainesantiago and www.gelainesantiago.co

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