Rags2Riches: Weaving Joyful Stories

August 4, 2016 10:53 pm by Bettina Bacani

Transforming poverty to progress, from rags to riches, one day at a time.

Rags2Riches, or simply “R2R”, began in Payatas, one of the biggest urban poor communities in the Philippines, back in 2007. The nine co-founders met a group of talented and passionate artisans (mostly women) from Payatas who were making woven rugs out of scrap fabric. While these artisans were hardworking, enterprising, and joyful, they are caught between a long chain of middlemen who pass on the raw materials they use as well as the finished products they make, without necessarily adding value to the chain. Because of this unfair trade, the artisans were only getting PHP 12-16 per day, which is far from enough for even a decent meal. The co-founders and artisans decided to do something about this. They started working together and built not just a business partnership, but lasting friendship.

So how did they come up with the name Rags2Riches? They start with literal “rags” – discarded fabrics that are usually made into rags or rugs for cleaning and basic home use. One of the co-founders used the name “Rags to Riches” as a journey and a mantra of sorts – transforming poverty to progress, from rags to riches – and this is not just about the artisans, but the people behind the company too. “We thought ‘riches’ should be more than just about income or money. ‘Riches’ is about overall wellbeing and being truly joyful. While we use ‘R2R’ now, ‘Rags2Riches’ is part of our origin story – one that came about because of a dream of transforming lives and communities.”

Their signature weave is both traditional and modern; it’s a technique that has been used for many years, but it has also evolved throughout the years. It is special because it starts in the homes of their community-based artisans where they take strips of fabric, knot them together, and weave them using a simple wooden frame with perfectly calibrated nails.

R2R believes in:

  • Collaborative and Conscious Design – Every R2R team member is a designer in their own right.
  • Empowering and Inclusive Progress – They strive for success that does not leave anyone behind. If it’s not inclusive, it’s not progress.
  • Conscientious Commerce – They create meaningful, high-value, and sustainable trade.
  • Pagbabahagi ng Sarili – This Filipino phrase means to share one’s self. “In sharing the best of ourselves to our community, our country, and the world, we become part of each other’s stories of progress.

Aside from providing sustainable livelihood for the community artisans they partner with, R2R also created the following programs with them. Their process is participatory and there are lots of ideas that actually came from their community partners.

Artisan Academy (for all artisans) – their program that provides all artisans with skills and quality of life workshops. R2R partners with experts in Financial Literacy, Business skills, and other key areas, to create modules to help Artisans develop not only their income-generation, but also their quality of life. These modules also help equip artisan communities that decide to become community enterprises with the skills and tools to do so. Artisans themselves can become mentors for other starting artisans. This is an additional source of income for them as well as a way to “pay it forward”

Quality of Life Program (for all artisans) – is a savings and micro-insurance program that R2R initiated in partnership with CARD, the largest micro-finance institution in the Philippines, to provide the Artisans with financial and life safety nets that will not only enable them to rise above financial shocks but also plan for the long term

Opportunity for full-time employment (artisans who are willing and able to work full-time)

  • R2R built an in-house workshop that serves as the “last stop” of products in the production stage. This means that R2R products are done by artisans from start to finish. Artisans who have grown children, and/or are ready to work full-time can apply to Rags2Riches to be a full-time workshop artisan. Full-time workshop artisans are still part of the Artisan Academy, get access to Quality of Life Program, but also receive full-time salaries and benefits
  • They also have R2R artisans or community members who are now hired full-time as store ambassadors! So when advocates visit our stores, they get to see and buy the products, but also meet some of the amazing people behind them
  • Aside from in-house workshop artisans and store ambassadors, R2R artisans or community members can apply for different positions in the company. One of their managers is an artisan from the community too!

In the past eight years, R2R has created beautiful pieces with designers such as Rajo Laurel, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, and Chris Cera who, in their own unique way, contributed to R2R’s identity today. Here are just some examples of their creations over the years:

R2R will be holding its second Make Your Own Bag Workshop this September 17, 2016, where advocates can go behind the scenes and experience the process of making an R2R bag, tour their new headquarters, and workshop, too!

Read more about this event on https://rags2riches.ph/pages/make-your-own-r2r-bag-workshop. Or go online at https://rags2riches.ph to see their entire collection!

Visit R2R in the following locations:

UP Town Center
1st floor, across Happy Lemon
216 Katipunan Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, 1108 Metro Manila
Hours: Sun-Thur 10 AM to 9 PM, Fri & Sat 10 AM to 10 PM

3rd floor, in front of Top Shop/Dorothy Perkins beside Butterfly Twist
EDSA corner North Avenue
Hours: Mon-Sun 10:00am-10:00pm

The Podium Mall
4th floor, near the escalators
18 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center,
Mandaluyong, 1550 Metro Manila
Hours: Mon-Sun 10:00am-10:00pm

Power Plant Mall
2nd floor, in front of TWG
Plaza Drive cor. Hidalgo Drive Rockwell Center,
Makati 1200, Metro Manila, Philippines
Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00am-10:00pm, Sun 10:00am-9:00pm

Glorietta 1
3rd floor, near National Book Store, the food court & the entrance to SM Makati
Ayala Center, Makati city
Hours: Mon-Sun 10:00am-10:00pm

R2R Showroom
87 Scout Fuentebella Street
Barangay Sacred Heart
1103 Quezon City