The 5 Filipino Designers of R2R

June 26, 2016

The 5 Filipino Designers of R2R

A big part of what we do in R2R is transformation. It’s in our name itself, Rags2Riches. From starting with rugs or floor mats used in many Filipino homes to making meaningful bags and home accents, we’ve come a long way. Much of this should be credited to the people who provided a vision that propelled our artisans’ talent for weaving into a brand beloved by you, our dear advocates!

In the past eight years, we’ve partnered and worked with 5 amazing Filipino designers who, in their own unique way, contributed to our identity today. Reese, our president and co-founder, shared, “Our partner designers opened our minds to new possibilities! We were impressed by their talents but more importantly, inspired by their willingness to create positive impact with us.”

Without their talent, creativity, and big hearts, you wouldn’t be toting some of your favorite R2R designs and this is why we’d love for you to meet them all – both our partners from the past to our own in-house designer.

1. Rajo Laurel

5-Filipino-Designers-R2R-Rajo-Laurel

Rajo is one of the top designers in our country today and is the very first designer R2R has ever worked with. It was late 2007 when our co-founders came to him with a proposal of designing bags out of the weaving technique of our pioneer artisans from Payatas. Now we call that technique the signature R2R weave. One of his most popular designs is the Stella Clutch, a handwoven evening bag that uses that weave.

5-Filipino-Designers-R2R-Rajo-Laurel-Stella-Clutch

His other original designs, the Timi Purse (which is still available for corporate orders and in R2R Bespoke) and the Jane Purse (which advocates can learn how to make in our Weaving with the Weavers Workshops), are the first projects our artisans started creating that weren’t rugs. Aside from that, Rajo used to invite our artisans to his studio to teach them how to weave high quality pieces that the world would eventually come to love.

Until today, Rajo is still one of the partners and designers we can consult with and seek advice from. He’s not just a talented designer but an amazing leader and friend to R2R.

Photo of Rajo Laurel from Preen

2. Amina Aranaz-Alunan

5-Filipino-Designers-R2R-Amina-Aranaz-Alunan

Amina is one of the co-founders of SoFA Manila and the woman behind ARANAZ, a local accessory brand with a philosophy we love: their bags have a goal of "de-ethnicizing the ethnic" by using indigenous and eco-friendly materials sourced from all over the Philippines. This is why Amina was a perfect fit as our second design partner!

It was in 2009 when R2R began its collaboration with Amina and her mom, Tita Becky, who has been in the bag-designing industry for over 30 years. It was this partnership that taught our artisans the art of crocheting and macramé, techniques that we still use to this day. They’re also the ones who shared with us the rosette folding technique, which we use in our Rosette Purse and Rosette Tambour.

Rags2Riches-R2R-Shop-Rosette-Tambour-Aranaz

Most especially, they are the people behind our most-loved piece yet: our hobo bag, the Buslo. Yes, our Buslo is an R2R by ARANAZ original design!

Rags2Riches-R2R-Shop-Buslo-Bag-ARANAZ

Photo of Amina Aranaz-Alunan from Asia Tatler

3. Oliver Tolentino

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Nowadays, Oliver is most known for dressing up Hollywood stars like Carrie Underwood, Anna Paquin, Cee Lo Green, and Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. But what we love most about him is how, despite being a Los Angeles-based fashion designer, his heart is rooted in the Philippines. “We went to his shop in Manila and though he was already a super accomplished international Filipino designer, he was so humble and it was really clear that he loved his craft and he loves the country,” Reese shared.

R2R approached Oliver back in 2011 to launch new bag collections. He loves working with Philippine native fabrics like piña (fabric derived from pineapple leaves), abaca plant fibers (Manila hemp), water-lily leaves, jute, and raw silk cocoon, and works closely with artisan weavers whenever he makes gowns with these materials. Oliver is one of the proud advocates of our country’s beautiful and eco-ethical weaves and embroideries, earning him awards like the first-ever Featured Eco Designer at Global Green’s 2012 Pre-Oscars Party and the 2010 Sustainable Eco Fashion Award in the Bahamas.

Though we don’t have a design of his that is still in production, Oliver introduced techniques to our artisans such as how to incorporate fringes in our designs. One of his bestselling styles from our collaborations is the Banig Clutch made of pandan leaves (the banig) and our signature R2R x-small basket weave from the MASAYA Collection.

5-Filipino-Designers-R2R-Oliver-Tolentino-Rags2Riches-Banig-Clutch

Photo of Oliver Tolentino from Inquirer

4. Olivia d’Aboville

5-Filipino-Designers-R2R-Rags2Riches-Olivia-dAboville

Olivia is a French-Filipino artist who graduated with honors from Duperré, a prestigious textile design school in Paris and is an expert at tapestry and textile manipulation. We met her back in 2014, when we were just starting to build R2R Living, our brand for eco-ethical home accents. It was because of her help that we were able to develop some of the most well-loved R2R Living pieces such as the Suman and Puto hand-crocheted poufs and floor pillows.

R2R-Rags2Riches-Living-Home-Accents-Eco-Ethical-Accessories-Poufs-Pillows

The R2R Living x Olivia d'Aboville collection includes beautiful, thickly woven poufs and area rugs in vibrant colors for homes who want a merry and meaningful touch to their living spaces.

“I could remember the days when she visited our small, as in really small, workshop in Cubao and would teach crochet to some of our artisans,” Reese said. “Olivia is a talented and accomplished artist and designer and seeing her work with our artisans was so surreal!”

It took a long time for the R2R Living brand to catch on but Olivia was our starting point. She helped us develop beautiful items for the brand and if it weren’t for her input and expertise, R2R Living wouldn’t be what it is today!

Photo of Olivia d'Aboville from VIA

5. Chris Cera

Rags2Riches-R2R-Lead-Designer-Bag-Design-Chris-Christian-Cera

As seen from this list of people who’ve helped us build bags that made R2R what it is today, design is truly integral to our journey of transformation. It is is one of the assets that we knew we needed to maintain and build in-house in order to be truly sustainable. Chris joined R2R back in 2012 and introduced new design systems, skills, and possibilities as our lead designer. Now he designs all the bag collections that R2R comes out with!

“Our goal is to create social impact through design and Chris makes that possible,” Reese said. “Aside from that, he is joyful, open, compassionate, and really a lot of fun! We are so blessed with our lead designer.”

One of Chris’ iconic creations is the Casey, a versatile bag that transforms into four different configurations. It was first seen in our F/H 2014 Collection, Ampersand. You can see the four ways of the Casey in a video here.

Rags2Riches-R2R-Casey-Bag-Shop

Our latest collection, Valore, is a peek into Chris’ creative process. The bags of this collection were inspired by the wonderful stories of the Filipino diaspora and that’s why there is the marriage between a classic bag material that is Italian leather and local components such as the signature R2R weave and beautiful, indigenous fabrics.

Rags2Riches-R2R-Valore-Bernardino-Collection

“My desire is for R2R to grow by leaps and bounds because it has the greatest cause for existing. When I think about how to innovate, I know that what this process will eventually accomplish is bring joy to our A-team, artisans, and advocates,” shared Chris in another interview with him.



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