In the Philippines, sustainable designers create compelling alternatives to fast fashion
“When we encountered this situation, we thought, of course, it would be nice if we could just link artisans to the market or provide them with training,” Ferdinand-Ruiz recalls. “But what would really be life changing would be to have a business that could do that for a long time, because that’s the essence of a livelihood. You need to earn a living for a whole year, every year.
In the decade and a half since, Rags2Riches has reimagined garment manufacturing in the Philippines, collecting fabric scraps from Manila’s many textile factories and sending them to hundreds of urban artisans, including many are stay-at-home moms living in poor neighborhoods across the country. By working with these artisans, the brand has also rekindled the popularity of artisans’ decades-old basahan-tela technique, where scraps of fabric are quilted to create new products, such as bags, wallets and designer items. the House.
During the pandemic, however, Rags2Riches has had to step away from their favorite cult bags and accessories. “When the pandemic happened, the demand for bags was really low,” says Ferdinand-Ruiz. “But luckily people still needed to dress up, even if it was just for Zoom or working from home.” The new line, On Repeat, takes the same ingenious sensibility inherent in its basahan-tela accessories and applies it to apparel design. The result is a proudly multifunctional collection, designed to be worn in different ways and for multiple occasions. Take, for example, the Sayaw dress, which can be worn 10 different ways thanks to its removable skirts and straps. With more material needed, On Repeat also prompted Ferdinand-Ruiz to rethink his manufacturing techniques. The garments are an amalgamation of recycled textile waste, organic materials such as linen and cotton, and woven fabrics sourced from indigenous tribes – a true showcase of low-waste options found in the Filipino fashion industry.
“We are really happy that fashion can be this force for good,” says Ferdinand-Ruiz. “When you create something of value and you create a design that people love, you can carry a lot of advocacy into the product. You can carry people’s lives with this product
“Fashion has always had an outward view of the tropics,” explains Toqa’s creative director, Isabel Sicat. “It’s this superficial mimicry that lifted the aesthetic without any base or skin in the game for people here.” Aiala Rickard, its co-founder and co-creative director, adds, “It was always about cruise or resort wear from a tourist’s perspective – never from an islander’s perspective.”