Vesti PH: Introducing the Best Hand-Woven Fabrics of the Philippines to the World
By incorporating Mindanao-sourced woven fabrics in their bags, Vesti shows us how some of the best Filipino fabrics can be brought (and literally hand-carried!) anywhere in the world
“Dedicated to directly working with Mindanao weavers in the Philippines to exit poverty, Vesti promotes local hand-woven fabrics combined with high-quality craftsmanship and materials“, says Martha Rodriguez, when we asked her to describe what they do. Vesti, a wordplay on ‘bestida’ (dress in Filipino) was established by Rodriguez in 2012 as an avenue for her to showcase textiles and weaves from indigenous groups in Mindanao.
Vesti PH’s signature handbag & minaudieres in solid colors and bright woven accents
They partner with local suppliers to produce the bags with the goal of helping each person involved in the production to exit poverty. She shares that they maintain an ‘ethical fashion approach’ that boasts of being Proudly Pinoy by ensuring that their products are all 100% Filipino-made from raw materials to final output.
Why Mindanao? Martha Rodriguez (center) says, “Mindanao has a lot to offer to the world”
As a native of Cagayan de Oro, it comes as no surprise that the stars of Rodriguez’s designs are the hand-woven products from different indigenous groups in Mindanao. She is also the mind behind Hudyaka, dubbed as ‘a celebration of Mindanao’s finest design and craftsmanship’, an annual fashion show event that showcases products from Mindanaonon designers.
Vesti works with the weavers and communities by directly sourcing the materials from the T’bolis of Lake Sebu, the Yakan tribe of Zamboanga, as well as the Laguindingan silk weavers from Misamis Oriental. Their collections were featured during the Manila FAME in 2013 but it was in 2014 when sales for their bags and minaudières broke records.
Rodriguez’s entry into the fashion x social enterprise scene comes as a mix from both her personal and professional background. When she was sixteen, her mother encouraged her to pursue a career in fashion. She completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Clothing Technology and Textiles at the University of the Philippines and soon after became a merchandising intern for The Natori Company under Josie Natori in New York City. This led to other retail and brand management roles in Rustan’s Corporation, Adora Philippines and 7 for All Mankind Jeans.
Martha Rodriguez (photographed with her Vesti bags)
It was smooth sailing until she found herself questioning her life purpose. She eventually gave up her corporate career and started travelling. It was in one of her trips when she chanced upon an abandoned weaving house with an inventory of fabrics and without second thought, bought them all! “(It was) kind of dramatic!”, she exclaims.
Since then, Rodriguez (who admits to having zero background in designing) looked for ways to incorporate different fabrics such as t’nalak, yakan and abaca in her designs for bags, clutches and minaudières. It took a lot of courage to put it up and see it through from design to execution. But as Steve Jobs once said, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards; so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” It seems that this path was hers to take from the beginning.
“There’s a Vesti for every OOTD.”
Summer staples from Vesti
Today, Vesti PH has now expanded its product line to include accessories, shoes and other fashion items and is in the process of including new hand woven local materials as well as up and coming innovative products from the Philippine Technology and Research Institute (PTRI) of the Department of Science & Technology (DOST). They have expanded their distribution channels online and offline, including two showrooms in Manila, a website, premium retailers such as Zalora.ph and Etsy.com, and have selected stockists in New York, Sydney, Japan and Canada.
Rodriguez was recently awarded the RetailRight Scholarship for a one-year Masters program in Fashion Business Creation; here she is, striking a pose during the London Fashion Week
They are continuously working with organizations and individuals who share the same mission of uplifting the weaving heritage of the Philippines by creating innovative and high-quality products that can compete in the international scene. Coincidentally, “vesti” is also a Russian word that means to lead, send messages, or carry on. Indeed, Vesti PH is leading the kind of movement that our country needs now – a movement that will bring the best of Philippine textiles to the world.
*All photos courtesy of Vesti PH
Stockists: @shopmnlcollective (AU), @vesti_nyc (USA), @cambiomarket (Canada), @worldbridgeclub (Japan)
Metro Manila | Bijou Boutique, 2/F Greenbelt 5
Cebu City | Emporium Store, Mactan Int’l Airport
Cagayan de Oro City | Spruce Store, 2/F Centrio Mall
Davao City | Chimes Department Stores
On-line | Etsy BeautyMNL Zalora