Thousands of Filipino artisans and handcrafters have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. One of the hardest hit is the fashion-accessory industry, where the sale of one bag can mean being able to buy a sack of rice to feed an artisan’s family.
This was exactly the situation facing accessory designer Carissa Cruz Evangelista, who got a text from the community she works with in the Visayas: “Ma’am, we have no more rice.”
Under such dire circumstances, Evangelista had to take steps to help her community — not just her craftspeople but also her fellow accessory designers and the communities they work with all over the Philippines.
“We started consulting with different groups that had export experience,” she says. “We ended up working with CITEM and brands that went to (tradeshows) New York Now and Premiere Classe. I told them, ‘We're all undergoing a lot of things together, and it would be good if all of us would help each other, be truthful and just see how we can go forward.’”
Evangelista found that a lot of brands had no sales during the three months of lockdown. Export brands had canceled orders. Pop-ups were kaput. Retail stores couldn't open. Factories had closed.
So she decided to form Fashion Accessory Makers of the Philippines (FAMph) to see how they could help each other, “because there’s strength in numbers, and some might be stronger than the others who need advice. It’s a collective that can help each other on a nationwide basis, because when we got together we realized that there's no national group for fashion accessories.”
Inspired by the “Fashion for Healing” video directed by Jackie Aquino, the FAMph designers also decided to make their own video to pay tribute to their artisans and urge all of us to “Be loyal to local by supporting Filipino craftsmanship.” (You can view the video by searching for “FAMph Video Campaign 2020” on YouTube.)
“The best way to bring people together is either to take a picture or make a video if you’re Pinoy,” laughs Evangelista. “So we said, ‘Let’s make a video, and we asked Jackie, then people started submitting. There’s a group called Magic 8, which were eight brands that were part of the Las Vegas Magic show — Gina Nebrida Ty (of Agsam Fashion Fern), Maco Custodio, Christine Virtucio (Virtucio Designs), Tessa Nepomuceno (Calli Bags), Martha Rodriguez (Vesti), Yen Pomida-Nacario (Lara Samar Ph), Ken Samudio (Matthew & Melka) and me (Beatriz Accessories) — that got together and really worked hard to come up with a video, our PR and think about what to do next.”
At present FAMph has 45 members and is looking to grow, and find partner companies and communities eager to work with brands like Alchemista, Chromez Creatives, Flutter Statement Jewelry, Island Girl, Jim Weaver Designs, Karga Bags Davao, Kitsilver Jewellery, Stride Collective and the brands featured below.
FAMph is just another example of the Filipinos’ indomitable bayanihan spirit, and the boundless creativity and talent of our designers. And, as you survey their stunning workmanship below, remember that the next purchase you make and wear at your next Zoom meeting could be feeding a family their daily rice.
Designer Carissa Cruz Evangelista employs women artisans from Cebu and the Visayas for her colorful hard clutches and jewelry fashioned from cotton thread, abaca and leather hand-glued to evoke indigenous weaves. Her accessories have gone global and are sold in stores abroad, from Paris to Japan and the United States.
Supermodel Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez creates each TDLG piece herself using her signature components — semiprecious stones, wood and leather — while highly skilled artisans from Metro Manila, Baguio and the Visayas help her with the finishings. “What I offer in my line of products is my take on fun yet classic dressing,” she says. “I like introducing asymmetry and color that either give off a boho quality or a graceful quirk into my pieces, which easily transition from casual to dressy.” (@tdlgdesigns)
Designer Adante Leyesa uses indigenous weaves woven by female artisans from Lipa City, Batangas, and leather from Marikina crafters for the intricate eye candy of his jewelry and bags. (@adanteleyesa)
Amina Aranaz-Alunan enlists artisans spanning the country: weavers from Bicol, Bohol, Samar and South Cotabato; wood sculptors from Laguna; beaders from Cebu; leather tanners from Bulacan; and sewers from Marikina for her bags crafted from wood, beads, leather and raffia. (@aranaz_ph)
Model-turned-photographer Jo Ann Bitagcol uses prints of her photographs from Bench’s Fashionable Filipinas book — which features terno embroidery, butterfly sleeves, and hemming by housewives from Manila — for her silk scarves. (@bitagcol)
Designer Neil Felipp uses shell, parchment from animal skin and brass worked by metal smiths and bag makers from his native Cebu to create magical creatures like reclining mermaids, dragons, phoenixes and schools of fish that twine around his clutches and jewelry. (@neilfelipp)
Designer Twinkle Ferraren uses indigenous weaves, brass, stones, fibers and textiles from artisans located in Batanes, Abra, Kalinga, Ifugao, Manila, Bulacan and Bicol in Luzon, to Aklan in the Visayas, to the T’boli and Tausug of Mindanao for her accessories. (@twinkleferraren)
Matthew & Melka
Ken Samudio, the designer singled out by Vogue Italia and Josie Natori for his talent, enlists disadvantaged women, single mothers and out-of-school youth from Muntinlupa for his accessories of bamboo, shell inlay, beads and piña inspired by the organic forms of the marine life he loves as a biologist. (@matthewandmelka)
Designer Tessa Nepomuceno looks to a community of woodcarvers from Paete, Laguna, for her bags of wood, beads and leather — each of which are meticulously hand-carved. (@callibags)
Designer Maco Custodio upcycles discarded snack foils like Nova wrappers and pull-tabs from soft-drink cans into shoes, bags and hats with the help of artisans from Cogon, Cebu, and Gifts That Give Back’s female crafters from Tondo, Manila. (@macocustodio)
Designer Noelle Llave uses car-seat leather, plastics and tanned leather produced by crafters from Marikina for her geometric bags and fashion jewelry. (@oeldesign)
Tina Campos Jewelry
Designer Tina Campos-Magistrado works with the Cebu Shell Crafters Association and Lamitan Basilan weavers of Mindanao for her bling and bags of shell, indigenous weaves, beads and stones. (@tinacamposjewelry)
Designer Martha Rodriguez uses beads, leather, metal and indigenous weaves from the Yakan communities of Basilan and Zamboanga; the Tausug community of Jolo; and the T’boli community of Lake Sebu, Mindanao, for her colorful orb bags. (@vesti_ph)
Designer Earl Gariando collaborates with metal crafters from Manila and Pampanga for his repoussé bags of embossed metal, leather, plastic and canvas. (@earlgariando)
Designer Katrina Delantar Mon uses agro forest debris and upcycled paper composites that local artisans from Compostela, Talamban, and Banilad, Cebu, craft into jewelry and accessories. (@floreiafashion)
Thian Rodriguez Manila
Red Box Design talent Thian Rodriguez worked with shoe artisans from Zapateria Hub in Marikina on his award-winning Magdalena shoe, which bagged gold and silver in 2019’s International Footwear Design Competition. His spinoff shoe Magda boasts the brand’s signature cowhide, signature bullet rims and metal details. (@thianrodriguezmnl)
Strozzi Handcrafted Jewelry
Stylist and watercolorist and cat lover Abecel Rosende designs jewelry of sterling silver, brass and shell inlay, inspired by life in rural Liloan, Cebu, and handcrafted by metal artisans from Camotes Island, Cebu. (@strozzihandcraftedjewelry)
Lara Samar PH
Designer Yen Pomida-Nacario works with the Weavers of the Basey Association for Native Industry Growth (BANIG) in Basey, Samar, like Aling Anita, who uses tikog grass to make banig mats that Nacario reinvents into bags, shoes and accessories. (@larasamarph)
(Follow the author on Instagram @theresejamoragarceau.)