We have been firm supporters of Rags2Riches (R2R) for more than a decade now. In case you haven’t heard of them yet, R2R is a fashion and design house empowering community artisans in the Philippines; and now, they will be the global furniture brand’s sewing service partner in the country.
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, President and Founding Partner of R2R, shares that they are currently in the initial stages of training due to social distancing and limited mobility. However, they are already able to do some sewing training sessions for about 20 of their artisans for curtains, pillow covers, and clothes through video calls, recorded videos, and on-the-job practice. “We still have many modules lined up that we are hoping to roll out in the same way and hopefully, when the vaccine rolls out, we can hold these training sessions on-site and live,” she says.
Under the partnership, R2R will be occupying a space inside the soon-to-open-IKEA store in Pasay City where its artisans will provide varied textile services for IKEA customers, such as adjusting the size of fabric-based materials like curtains and personalizing fabric goods like towels and bedsheets.
Upskilling Local Artisans Online
As they continue with their preparations as IKEA’s sewing service partner in the Philippines, R2R remains focused on its purpose of lifting Filipino artisans out of poverty, especially during the pandemic. “During a time when a lot of vulnerable people are becoming even more vulnerable, we are able to support our artisans with regular income and livelihoods,” Reese points out.
Since last year, R2R has decentralized its operations. Most members of the R2R team continue to work from home and coordinate daily deliverables via mobile and online to continue to keep their team safe while keeping their livelihood going. Others who need to travel are even provided with bicycles to assist in transportation.
According to Cynthia Cabrera, R2R’s Community Enterprise Manager and one of the first artisans of R2R from Payatas, the training during the pandemic came with its own set of challenges. “Meron din kaming challenge in terms of connection,” she shares. This made it particularly challenging as they worked towards producing high quality products while learning new sewing techniques. “Merong marunong magtahi pero wala pang quality.”
It is this pursuit of quality that continues to drive R2R, especially as it gears up to meet the global standards of IKEA. “A beautiful result of this is that the artisans feel more professional and strive for excellence more,” Reese beams. “They want that trust and responsibility of a business partnership.”
Making a Positive Impact with IKEA
IKEA adds that the similar values and philosophies is what makes the partnership work. “Our partnership with Rags2Riches has always been more about than just sealing a deal,” says Georg Platzer, Market Development Manager for IKEA Philippines. “We are growing together towards a common goal of making everyday life better for the many.”
The R2R mission is to create livelihood and opportunities for local artisans. Initially, this mission was fulfilled through fashion. The current partnership with IKEA enables R2R to upskill its artisans and plan for a new livelihood-giving business model.
As the pandemic persists in 2021, R2R looks to continue making a positive impact in the community. “Last 2020, we found ways to innovate on our supply chain, training, sales, and marketing, and the way we coordinate with each other. This year is about improving on those innovations, creating new products that are sustainable and useful, and continuing our mission of creating livelihood opportunities for artisans,” says Reese.
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