Rags2Riches: Designer Bags with Eco-Ethical Style

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What if a drive to help people get out of poverty can ultimately make you richer in life in more ways than one?

R2R’s Reese Fernandez-Ruiz at her Sustainable Fashion Class at Central Saint Martins in London last December 2012, which she got on a scholarship from being awarded a Rolex Young Laureate in 2010

Rags2Riches (R2R) is an eco-ethical lifestyle brand creates urban artisanal fashion and home pieces headed by Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, who, since the birth of R2R in 2007, has garnered, and continues to garner more and more awards and accolades for her pioneering work in social entrepreneurship, including the most recent Schwabb Foundation’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2013.

The Rewards of Good Work

Because of R2R, Reese has collaborated with premiere Philippine designers like Rajo Laurel and Amina Aranaz-Alunan to create pieces to showcase the artisans’ skills and indigenous materials, and she has recently been flown to London by Rolex for a short course on Sustainable Fashion last December 2012, and by CITEM to represent the Philippines in the International Fashion Showcase last February 2013.

Spurring The Local Social Entrepreneurship Scene

As one of the earlier social entrepreneurs who got into it before the rise of social entrepreneurship in the past few years, there wasn’t as many resources or business models or examples to learn from when they were starting out.

“It is hard enough to have one usual, sustaining bottom line which is ‘profit’. It is even more challenging to balance additional bottom lines that make so much sense for the world: people, planet, and positive influence,” shares Reese.

In social entrepreneurship, looking at not one, not two, not even three, but four bottom lines, and trying to see how to streamline processes and cut costs without sacrificing other bottom lines is the biggest challenge and a constant business and personal struggle. But with the problem she saw in unjust compensation the rug-making women in Payatas were receiving from middle men, she and her fellow R2R co-founders took it head on.

“It’s not about lack of talent or determination,” she says. “People need opportunities to be able to get out of poverty.”

Their story has thus inspired many existing and aspiring entrepreneurs to find new ways of doing business and adding meaning and purpose in what they do.

No Dole-outs Necessary

During a forum on Taking Action Against Waste at ADB’s No Impact Week, Reese explained that R2R is really about empowering the community, and not asking for dole-outs for them like charities normally do. It’s about really providing customers with beautifully crafted high-end products that are worthy of the price it asks, whether or not “proceeds go to charity”. This makes the community take pride in their work because they know they’re putting something out there of great value, and not just making something mediocre so they something to offer when they practically beg for money.

Here’s some proof of their craftsmanship.

Classy clutches designed by Amina Aranaz-Alunan

We could definitely get comfy here – “home showcase” with R2R fashion and home accessories at the new Rags2Riches office in San Juan

Reese also shared during the forum how she is driven by the reminder that she is a part of this big beautiful planet, and that we are all connected. The sooner we realize that all our actions (or inactions) have repercussions on the world around us, then hopefully, the sooner we think and act differently. The sooner we become more mindful of our impact in our communities and the planet. The sooner we become more mindful about the things we do everyday.

Check out how some of the members of the Muni community got a chance to be up close and personal with Reese during MUNI’s Eco Fashion Workshop.

Rags2Riches, Inc. Website: Facebook: Twitter: www.twitter/R2REcoStyle Address: 138 G. Reyes Street, Barangay Balong Bato, San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines Office Hours: Mon-Fri 9AM-6PM Telephone: (+632) 725 1073

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