Rags2Riches Inc. is a for-profit social enterprise based in Manila, Philippines, creating eco-ethical fashion and home accessories out of up cycled scrap cloth, organic materials and indigenous fabrics by working with women living in the poor communities across the country. Rags2Riches’ philosophy stands upon its four bottom lines: People, Profit, Planet and Positive Influence.
The eco-ethical business model originated in 2007 in Payatas, one of the Philippines’ largest dumpsites and home to 12,000 families. An informal cottage industry of rug-weavers grew from the many women who developed a means to earn a living by scavenging the waste to find and recycle scrap pieces of fabric so that they could participate in handicraft production like rug and rag weaving, while taking care of their children at home. Over time, the industry became exploited by a series of middlemen who controlled both the supply of scrap fabric and the women’s access to the market, which created an unfair value chain for the women who at the end of the day earned only pennies per finished product.
Rags2Riches Inc. was created to provide these women with fair access to the market and the formal economy, as well as with additional skills-based, financial and health training so that they can maximize their career potential and take steps towards long-term financial and personal well-being. R2R integrated a design solution by partnering with well-known local fashion designers like Rajo Laurel, Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Oliver Tolentino turning these rags into fashion handbags. After four years, R2R has already empowered 450 women across 21 communities in the Metro Manila area and continues to expand its social impact and eco-ethical footprint in the country.
Rags2Riches Inc. founder-partner and current CEO, Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, was selected as one of the five inaugural Rolex Young Laureates by the Rolex Foundation in Switzerland for recognition of her work. In 2010, Rags2Riches linked up with its current investor-partner, LGT Venture Philanthropy.