As a livelihood social enterprise, we work with a lot of talented local artisans for the handwoven fabric we use in our bags and home accessories. We partner with two type of communities for this, the primary one being the urban artisans of Metro Manila. Most R2R advocates are familiar with them as they are the ones behind the signature R2R weave that make up most of our pieces. But there is a group of weavers that we also love working and weaving joyful stories with: the talented indigenous communities around the Philippines.
Uplifting Filipino identity and talent is one of the many things we are passionate about in R2R. We strongly believe in the importance of preserving our heritage through the arts and this includes the textile industries of a lot of small communities. As we move into modern times, preservation gets difficult to achieve. The current demand for such textiles is not enough to sustain an entire community because of a number of reasons: how the mainstream perception of such indigenous weaves is “traditional” therefore not wearable every day or how the younger generation of these communities now look for better opportunities outside their community and craft.
It is a good thing that we are working with partners with the same goal as us, like ANTHILL Fabric Gallery. Through organizations like them, we have worked with a lot of amazing communities to create beautiful collections around indigenous textiles over the years. Here are just some of our favorites:
This collection, named after the word weave in the T’boli dialect, fuses the signature R2R weave with an indigenous, Filipino heritage textile called T’nalak.
The T’nalak is an intricately handwoven and hand-dyed abaca fabric that originates from the T’boli tribe of the mountain ranges of southern Philippines. For the T’boli tribe, weaving the T’nalak is a sacred ritual and the patterns that appear on each piece is inspired by dreams, belief, myths, and religions of their community. The T’nalak holds a special and prominent place in the T’boli culture and serves as a benediction during birth rites, marriage, and death. It is also referred to as the “woven dreams."
The Ben Wu Tote from the Newel Collection. Still available in selected R2R stores.
The Ampersand Collection, iconized by Kim Jones, is an advocate favorite. It gave birth to our current bestseller, the Casey Tote with its multi-configurations, and subsequently, its different forms like the Casey Weekender, its larger version, and the limited edition Casey Mini, the crossbody version.
The Ilaglis weave is a striped fabric made in the municipality of Lubuangan, in the mountains of Kalinga, north of Philippines. This is woven by women of all ages in the community, with most of them using backstrap looms. On the other hand, the Binakol is an optical-patterned fabric that is woven in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. The particular binakol used in the bags of the Ampersand Collection is handwoven by a community of 20 artisans, consisting mostly of elder women.
Our most recent collection, the Valore, is accented by trimmings of handwoven fabric by artisans of two different indigenous communities in the Philippines. These native designs peeking through the bags’ classic silhouettes represent the idea that wherever Filipinos are in the world and no matter how much they’ve changed given their new homes, they will always carry with them the values that make them Filipino to the core: warmth, joyfulness, resilience, and a whole lot more.