Now is the time to buy local. And not just food. We have to keep the economy going so it’s a good time to support designers and artisans. Get that bag or shoes you saw on Instagram designed by a friend or acquaintance while at the same time supporting a community of craftsmen somewhere in the Philippines.
There are many pieces that are practical and made for quarantine life, but with lockdown easing slowly as cases go down and vaccinations are underway, we can still dress up a bit when we go out (observing health protocols, of course) so a pretty bag and shoes are most welcome.
There are also many pieces for enjoying the outdoors, from large totes for picnics to hats and even sunglasses with handmade bamboo frames.
ArteFino, the artisan fair founded in 2017 by Cedie Vargas, Marimel Francisco, Maritess Pineda, Mita Rufino and Susan Quiros, has gone online for safe shopping from home. There are even more choices now that it has evolved into a movement “that seeks to uplift our cultural heritage and put Filipino style on the map.”
Believing in the potential of local crafts to become world-class, they have created a new community that appreciates, develops and nurtures Filipino artisans and their craft.
With their partners from all over the Philippines, they have created an ecosystem of communities with a sustainable livelihood: 57 communities in Luzon, 20 in the Visayas and 10 in Mindanao — an interdependent relationship between artist-entrepreneurs and consumers who connect and collaborate inspires everyone to continually reimagine, innovate and elevate Filipino craftsmanship.
Beautiful bags at ArteFino abound, like the Calesa and Jeepney totes of Touch Of Craft, founded 35 years ago to create one-of-a-kind decorative handicrafts using vintage tribal fabrics.
A fun pineapple bag is handcrafted by Cavite cane weavers, weavers of Camarines Sur and assembled by Bulacan artisans.
Using banig from Samar and Bicol, the traditional sleeping mat is given a modern spin as slip-ons manufactured in Liliw, Laguna.
To keep those alcohol spray bottles, there are pretty holders done through a collab of Bulacan embroiderers, Marikina bag makers and Ilocos weavers.
For enjoying the outdoors, protect your eyes in style with Bambike’s lightweight and sustainable bamboo sunglasses with polarized lenses. Bambike is also known for its bamboo bicycles made by underprivileged communities of Gawad Kalinga and is involved in educational programs, scholarships and feeding programs for children, as well as a bamboo nursery for reforestation.
At FAME, Maco Custodio upcycles used foil packs woven with leather into a shoe line called Lalapatos, created together with communities in Baseco and Pililia. His immersion among the B’laan, Bagobo and T’bolis of Mindanao resulted in collaborations for clothes, hats and bags that updated their weaves, brass casting and beading.
Another upcycling brand is Kilus Foundation, which started in 1997 as an all-women volunteer group in Barangay Ugong in Pasig and now turns Doypacks or plastic pouches used for juices into colorful totes and lunch boxes.
Carissa Cruz Evangelista’s Beatriz Accessories, which we have been carrying at AC+632 from the time it started, now exports all over the world, with her clutches featured by Oprah Winfrey for Favorite Things of 2016, Japan Times for Best Accessories to Buy in 2017 and US Weekly magazine for Top Summer Accessory in 2018. Communities of women outside Metro Manila undertake the painstaking technique of gluing raw threads one by one to create brilliant graphic patterns in joyous colors.
Ken Samudio of Matthew & Melka, chosen as one of Vogue Italia’s Talents for Accessories in 2014 and handpicked by the British Fashion Council and Sarah Mower for the International Fashion Showcase in London Fashion Week in 2014 and 2015, also has pieces in chic boutiques around the world, where his statement bags and accessories inspired by the mysterious underwater world are a source of endless fascination.
Adante Leyesa is another creator of stunning pieces “meant to be the pièce de résistance in one’s wardrobe,” just like his Reina bag inspired by Iloilo’s Dinagyang festival, in bamboo embellished with semi-precious stones, beads and shells.
Slides seem to be the choice footwear of the moment but they need not be so drab, according to Nepthali and Elvie Moneda of Jhaz, based in Liliw, Laguna, where they have their factory and where they also job out to 90-100 individuals in households that work on the decorative abaca braiding and embroidery that distinguish their product.
Mara Piñon’s versions are more whimsical, looking like the tarsiers of Bohol, where the raw materials are sourced.
Zarah Juan’s, on the other hand are quite festive with pompoms on a geometric tribal fabric woven by the Bagobo Tagabawa, one of many communities around the Philippines that she works with to uplift Filipino craftsmanship. Her witty bags like a Boombox tote and Takatak horse bag in wicker are also winners.
Another bag line that brings a smile is the one by Maison Metisse, in tikog and buri leaves woven using the banig technique and using natural dyes. With greetings like Kamusta, Bonjour and Hola, these bags will surely make your day and buying them will also bring joy to communities like the Itneg of Abra, with whom the company works and empowers through fair trade, ethical and sustainable practices.