How A Local Brand Blossomed Into An Empowering Venture

This local fashion brand empowers the women of Payatas and beyond through its mission and actions.

This is an excerpt from Lifestyle Asia’s August 2023 Issue.

One of the biggest things I have intentionally built in my life is also built with a lot of serendipity. I’m talking about R2R or Rags2Riches, the sustainable fashion enterprise that I co-founded almost 16 years ago.

READ ALSO: Vastly Authoritative: Heart Evangelista Named As Top Influencer In Asia-Pacific

How We Started

A few decades ago, rug weavers from Payatas could get the scraps of textiles from the nearby landfill that they used to make the foot rugs that they also sold on the streets.

Weavers/Photo by Her Light Studios

Over time and as the demand for foot rugs increased, this whole supply chain became convoluted with layers of intermediaries that blocked the weavers’ path from the supply of scrap textiles and to the market. So even if the weavers worked on the product themselves, they would only earn 10-16 pesos a day for a whole day’s work.

This was the heartbreaking situation that shook us to our core, and was the beginning of R2R as a company. But my own journey to get to this point started decades before then.

How I Got Here

Let me take you back to the late 80s when I was around four to five years old.

I grew up with my mom, who was a freelance missionary worker. She volunteered in churches around Quiapo, mostly as an adoration chapel steward especially for overnight vigils.

Rags 2 Riches Holiday Collection
Rags 2 Riches Holiday Collection/Photo by Her Light Studios

Now, one of the lesser known privileges is to grow up in a place that lets you choose from a multitude of dreams and try them out for fit. The places I grew up in presented very limited options. And thus, my dreams were limited to what I saw around me. My line of sight was confined within the invisible walls of Quiapo.

I am here today not just because of my self-determination to see beyond these walls, but because of a collection of intentions by a community of family and friends, and also strangers.

To me, R2R is a seed. Today, we are a fashion and design house empowering community artisans from the Philippines. I am incredibly proud of where we are but even prouder of how we got here.

High, Bumps, Ang Lows

First, the joyful highs. The highs were top-of-the- world kinds of amazing. We collaborated with some of the country’s design luminaries, got featured in the top publications around the world such as Time Magazine, CNN, and won prestigious awards like the Rolex Awards for Enterprise and Forbes 30 under 30. 

Then there were the bumps. Some of them were standard challenges; cash flow, operations, reaching the market. And some were specific to our enterprise, such as building trust in the communities.

Tezza/Photo by Her Light Studios

Through all the odds, fire, and broken rails, we made it out alive. We hustled hard, and when we got lucky, we were ready. R2R as it is today is built with the kind of intentionality that does not wait for serendipity but prepares for her anyway. This is how we got here. This is why I’m still here, writing our history and still writing our story.

Read more by purchasing a copy of the Lifestyle Asia August 2023 magazine via or select newsstands in National Bookstore and Fully Booked. Subscribe to the E-Magazine via Readly, Magzter, and Press Reader.

Banner photo by Her Light Studios.

Shop for LIFESTYLE ASIA’S magazines through these platforms.
Download LIFESTYLE ASIA’s digital magazines from:
Subscribe via [email protected]