Celebrating Filipino Fashion & Craftsmanship at Manila’s Artefino Fair

I’ve been on a journey over the last three years to get back in touch with my Pinay roots, roots that went untended and ignored the same way you might forget a plant in the corner of your home - you know it’s there, but sometimes you forget.

When I launched Cambio & Co. with my partner, that was the manifestation of my search for reconnection. Cambio & Co. is a socially conscious collection of pieces designed and handcrafted in the Philippines. We aim to showcase contemporary fashion with Filipino soul - to celebrate our Filipino heritage, spotlight uniquely Filipino traditions and processes, and to show appreciation for our fellow Pin@ys, both within the Philippines and in the diaspora.

 Gelaine and Jerome, co-founders of Cambio & Co., in the Philippines

Gelaine and Jerome, co-founders of Cambio & Co., in the Philippines

What’s exciting is that we’ve seen a similar desire for reconnection within Filipinos in the Philippines, too. During our last three years of travelling back and forth to Pinas, we’ve seen a shift towards supporting local makers and indigenous crafts. I always believed in the saying ‘wear your values’ but now there’s also the belief that we can ‘wear our heritage.’ More and more fairs and events promoting this ideal have popped up in the Philippines, and ArteFino is among the the biggest of its kind.

The ArteFino Fair brings together 100 brands across the Philippines who are each taking their own approach towards reviving Filipino craftsmanship, indigenous weaving traditions, and creating value for pieces handcrafted and designed in the Philippines (similar to what we’re trying to do for Cambio).

During our sourcing trip to the Philippines this year, we spent a full two days at ArteFino, chatting with owners and designers and soaking it all in. Here are five of the brands that stand out most to us, both the new and fresh, as well as the more established brands.

Rags2riches

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As soon as we arrived to ArteFino, we went straight for the Rags2Riches booth. Rags2Riches is one of the first brands that really resonated with us when we began researching ethical fashion in the Philippines, and they were a driving vision for us at Cambio & Co.

Rags2Riches is an eco-ethical fashion accessory brand based in Manila. They employ artisans from lower income communities in the city as weavers, and specifically use overstock fabrics that would otherwise be discarded by garment factories. Their artisans started off by weaving basahan (literally rags, in Tagalog) and evolved towards designer bags and fashion accessories in collaboration with local Filipino designers. They’ve been operating for 11 years now, have trained over 1000 artisans, and are currently in nine communities across Metro Manila.

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One of the pieces I was most excited about was their Puso clutch, unveiled at ArteFino for the first time. A friend described this bag to me as the ‘blogger It bag’ of the season. It features a unique geometric shape with fun embellishments such as straw or embroidery. This was a departure from the usual R2R design, but it still retained what makes every Rags2Riches piece so unique - its iconic signature weave, handwoven by their artisans. And made with eco-friendly fabrics.

You can shop Rags2Riches in North America on Cambio & Co. The Puso clutch is dropping in November!

Wear Your Culture (WYC)

Freshly launched last winter, WYC uses traditional Filipino textiles from different regions in the Philippines and turns them into trendy streetwear.

In contrast to some of the luxe and high-femme collections at ArteFino, WYC’s pieces are remarkably affordable with a vibe that’s young and fresh. They’ve specifically priced their pieces lower because their goal is to ‘be present in every Filipino’s closet’. Every purchase also helps support the education of the children of Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart, adding another dimension to the ‘support local’ movement.

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The piece that caught my eye was their JACOB bomber jacket featuring handwoven accents from the mountain province.  WYC also has tees and sweatshirts - all made with indigenous fabrics.

anthill fabric gallery

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One of the leaders of the ‘wear your weave’ movement is Anya Lim, founder of ANTHILL Fabric Gallery. Like Rags2Riches, they’ve been operating in the Philippines for several years and have developed a cult following of ‘weave wearers’.

ANTHILL is based in Cebu and has established several weaving communities across the country, offering employment, training, and mentorship to artisans and their children to help keep weaving traditions alive. The night after ArteFino, the team actually took an overnight bus to visit one of their communities up north in Abra.  In recent years, ANTHILL has also begun focusing on zero waste designs and advocating for heritage pieces that are also sustainably made.

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Their pieces were all unique and breathtaking (I dropped A LOT of money at this booth!), but one of my favourites are their bestselling panyo kapas which they offer in many varieties using a range of weaves. Simple, colourful, and easily adaptable to fall/winter here, I don’t think you can go wrong.

Soon you’ll be able to shop a capsule ANTHILL collection in North America within Cambio & Co., launching in October.

holicow

As we circled around ArteFino, one booth that really stood out to me was HOLICOW. The fashion world in the Philippines can be very Manila-centric, so I was really excited to discover a booth showcasing all Cebuano designers!

An acronym for Holistic Coalition Of The Willing, HOLICOW is a sustainable furniture and housewares company. They provide a platform for visayan designers to have their work be recognized, while also supporting environmental and sustainability initiatives. And their designs are beautiful and super innovative.

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I fell for their Cebuano Hablon pillowcases immediately, made with 100% Philippine cotton woven by the Habloneras de Argao, and finished with crochet details by the Crochet Community of Cebu. Even the pompoms are made from the cotton scraps remaining from the weaving.

rurungan sa tubod

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I initially came across Rurungan sa Tubod on Instagram, and was pleasantly surprised when I happened upon their booth at ArteFino. Rurungan sa Tubod is a non-profit organization that aims to revitalize the weaving industry in Palawan by creating livelihood in lower income areas through piña (pineapple fibre) weaving. They work mostly with women weavers, engaging them in the process of creating new products and testing new fabrics.

Their BinAlKay line features fun and beachy apparel made with experimental weaves, such as innovative combinations of raw materials like banana fibre, cotton, and silk.

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My favourite was their line of handwoven ikat dresses, all crafted by their artisans in Palawan. I also loved their assortment of colourful tops, all coming in varied shapes, patterns, and textures.

Though we were battling through the jet lag during our visit to ArteFino, speaking to so many motivated designers and socially conscious brands re-energized us and was the perfect way to kickstart our trip to the Philippines. I’ve loved watching the local movement grow and become more powerful these last few years, and I have no doubt it will only continue to grow.

Make sure to follow us at @cambio_co to discover more socially conscious brands in the Philippines and how you can support them in North America!

 

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Gelaine Santiago 

PRONOUNS: SHE/HER

Gelaine is one of the founders of Cambio & Co., a brand showcasing contemporary, conscious fashion made with Filipino soul - all designed and handcrafted in the Philippines by talented Filipino artisans that aims to share the beauty of our country’s craftsmanship with the world. Gelaine is a proud Filipina-Chinese-Canadian residing in Toronto. She writes about travel, culture, ethical fashion, and life within the hyphens. Find her on Instagram at @gelaineyyy and @cambio_co

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