Lumago Designs Invites You to #BeadTheChange
Lumago means ‘to blossom (abundantly)’ in Filipino. This word is a perfect fit for Lumago Designs, an enterprise that sprung from a little bud of hope — an idea that could potentially create a sustainable, environment-friendly and creative enterprise for the women of Dumaguete City.
December, 2016 — I still remember clearly how I rushed from my office to Glorietta for some last minute ‘kris-kringle’ shopping at the Yabang Pinoy Bazaar. After all, my gift was supposed to be for a colleague who was just here for a short internship and I wanted her to have something that was ‘made in the Philippines’. With less than thirty minutes left before closing, I quickly scanned the bazaar when a booth adorned with unique jewelry in eye-popping colors caught my eye.
I requested for the booth representative, not knowing that the person in front of me wasn’t a shopper but was actually Becky Stanbridge, Co-Owner and Chief Enabler (who also happens to be the saleswoman for that day!) of Lumago Designs. I left the booth with a lovely necklace, a reminder that says, ‘we can bead the change’. So, here’s their story:
In 2011, Typhoon Sendong (international name Washi) hit the Philippines and claimed lives and sources of livelihood in Southern and Central Philippines. Whitney Fleming was helping the rebuilding efforts in Dumaguete City, one of the areas hit by the typhoon. She assisted women from Candau-ay, a community surrounding the Dumaguete open dumpsite, in making beads from up-cycled discarded paper. She then sold the finished products to different resorts and hotels in the area.
Soon enough, the women developed their own designs and incorporated other materials to produce up-cycled jewelry for what is now known as Lumago Designs. It was here where Standbridge met Fleming and the Lumago ladies. In 2014, Stanbridge (who was originally from the UK) decided to move back to the Philippines and reconnect with them. It came as an opportune time for her to take over because the enterprise faced a major crossroad with Fleming needing to go back to the US to start a family. Today, Lumago Designs has blossomed into a cooperative between the Lumago Ladies, Stanbridge and her partner Spencer Dempsey (in photo below), a Fil-Am based in the Philippines, whom he also met in 2011.
“It’s a bit of a love story, actually!”, she recalls. “It was never my plan to be running Lumago Designs, but the values we embody as a social enterprise and the crafters, their families, and their community have always been close to my heart. Spencer and I took over in 2015 and haven’t looked back since!”
(On choosing the Philippines), Standbridge says: “We both have a high regard for the Philippines and the Filipino people. Nonetheless, we didn’t pick the Philippines for this social enterprise. I like to think that the Philippines, and the women of Lumago Designs, chose us.”
Their enterprise operates as a system that is committed to triple bottom line sustainability: people, planet and promise. Lumago sources materials from the community members who scavenge the dumpsite for recyclable materials, provide regular income for its Lumago women artisans, and contribute to training, education and other types of help through its volunteer program and regular workshops with the community members.
For people in the Candau-ay community, recycling has always been a way of life. In fact, for most of the people who live there, scavenging has been their main source of income.
The craftsmanship and creativity of the Lumago ladies show in their designs. The one-of-a-kind designs are products of their imagination and resourcefulness in using a variety of materials. They have now expanded their use of up-cycled materials to include pull-tabs from aluminum soda cans, leather from secondhand bags and jackets, fabric from salvaged clothing, and bamboo scraps to add to their signature rolled paper beads that are meticulously dipped in water-resistant resin, which are all cleaned and sanitized to ensure that the materials are safe to use by the crafters and end-customers.
Imagine stringing pull-tabs from aluminum soda cans with fabric from tattered hand-me-downs (above) and turning them into statement pieces that’s worthy of a fashion spread (below).
The possibilities are endless. Each piece is one-of-a-kind because each bead comes from a different page of a magazine and each leather strap belongs to a part of an up-cycled bag.
Lumago Designs has now been able to reach customers in the US, Japan, Australia and in Europe where promotion for fair-trade and ethical products are given maximum attention. They would like to increase their presence locally but It continues to be a challenge for them to educate customers on what it means to be a social enterprise and how the profits benefit the communities they work with.
“Our biggest challenge is reaching customers who value ethical fashion and socially responsible business”, Stanbridge says. (Locally) our wish is for Filipinos to think about the people who are making the things they buy, to put themselves in their shoes, and to respect them as craftspeople working hard to make a fair living wage.“ They look to the government and its trade policies so that social enterprises like theirs can receive support through training programs, tax benefits, business development opportunities and the like.
The team believes in investing in women and collaborating with them as ‘ambassadors’ of practices that preserve our environment, hence the hashtag #beadthechange. “We hope to expand Lumago Designs by training more women to make jewelry and other handmade, up-cycled products to add to our collection… we hope to find new ways to give back to their community according to their needs and hopes for themselves and their children”, says Stanbridge.
These smiling women are the ladies behind Lumago Designs and they’re inviting you to #BeadTheChange! Visit their online store to see more of their creations HERE.
*All photos courtesy of Lumago Designs, unless stated otherwise