Rags 2 Riches


Rags2Riches began in Payatas, a place that used to be one of the largest dumpsites in the Philippines, and home to half a million people. You can imagine how this company started–they had no money (and they claim they had no talent, but I beg to differ). But what they had was the right intention: to start a for-profit enterprise from sustainable trade which main goal isย to empower and better lives. They did this by making beautiful products from something ordinary: a foot rug. Yes, a foot rug. You’ve seen these in common bathrooms–it is made ofย retaso or scrap cloth, woven into a bathroom or house rug. This can be found in practically every Filipino household, because it is cheap and useful. I never would’ve connected two and two together: foot rug = fashionable bags, wallets or accessories. Who would’ve thought?!

I got to know all about Rags2Riches when I went to their Open House last weekend. I learned about their history and process, and how from its humble beginnings grew a company that now employs 900 artisans (who now enjoys a 200% increase in household income), who works with five of the Philippines’ top designers (Rajo Laurel, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Olivia D’Aboville, Oliver Tolentino and Kenneth Cobonpue), with 25 retail partners all over the world. R2R was even featured in Vogue UK as a global Filipino brand (it has gotten that big). Apart from that, we also learned how the products are made, which I thought was the most interesting part of the event.

This is what our day was like: we started early (8:00am) and assembled at Rags2Riches’ showroom in San Juan. We had a delicious breakfast (thanks to Legendairy), then took a bus (we were a big group) to Paradise Heights, Tondo. When we got there we learned how to weave. We were, of course, taught by the best–the skilled artisans themselves taught us step-by-step how to weave, and weave well (they have very high standards). It was such a unique experience as we really got to learn the proper way of doing it, as well as some tricks of the trade. Lunch was provided by Bistro 3846 and refreshments by Bayani Brew. And we all got to take home yummy treats from Theo & Philo (I got a Milk Chocolate Adobo bar). I proudly mention these brands because these are social enterprise brands, just like Rags2Riches. These brands strive to make a difference by uplifting lives and practicing fair trade.

It really was a fun day. A little hot, but nothing we couldn’t handle. I was happy to be amongst friends–Amina was there as well as her sister Rosanna, who just got back from London. Bianca Gonzalez, who serves as the brand’s style advocate was also there, as was talented artist Olivia D’Aboville, who designed a line of furniture and rugs for the brand. I also made new friends that day. I got to chat with Rags2Riches’ inspiring founding-partner and current CEO Reese Fernandez-Ruiz (who also recently got married). I sat beside her in the bus on the way to Paradise Heights. She has such a big personality. I really admire her because she really took on this role to make a social difference, and that’s not something you hear about every day. I am so glad I took the time out of my weekend for this. This really was such an motivation to start something positive and good, which doesn’t necessarily have to be big and grand. It can start small, and ripple its way into something significant.

20130720_090726Everyone was to meet at the Rags2Riches showroom. Here with me is Mark Ruiz and his wife CEO Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, style advocate Bianca Gonzalez, Rosanna Aranaz and Amina Aranaz-Alunan.

20130720_083812Our Legendairy breakfast. Crackers and cheese (cheese not shown here). I wasn’t able to photograph the yummy cheese pancakes. They were gone in seconds!

20130720_083821Delish cheese from Legendairy.

20130720_123540We’re here at Paradise Heights! This area used to be a garbage dumpsite. This lush mountain is made of garbage.


20130720_103153This happy bunch was ready to learn how to weave. This was inside the recreation center at Paradise Heights.

20130720_103020This is what we started out with: a wooden frame (with nails to serve as a guide for weaving) and long strips of cloth.

20130720_103058These were the materials I worked with.

20130720_103122Bianca ready to weave.

20130720_105035The Aranaz sisters Amina and Rosanna learn how to weave.

20130720_105016Olivia gets right on to it. This girl took a course in Tapestry–she really knows what she’s doing.

20130720_105020Rosanna got a little help from Nanay Ineng, who is one of the artisans of Rags2Riches.

20130720_112234This was when things got tricky.

20130720_112227This is my work. My weave has blue stripes because my cloth was too short and blue was only cloth available. You really had to make sure the cloth faced one way–everything had to look uniform!

20130720_113332Olivia almost done with her work.

20130720_113325Rosanna too. I love the color of her cloth!

20130720_113834Lunch from Bistro 3846 was so good! I devoured it right away, no time for photos! Refreshments were by Bayani Brew.

20130720_113851Bianca finished with her work. One of the artisans helped her flatten the weave into place. She used a deodorant to smoothen it, with the cap on, of course.

20130720_113913Everyone else was busy finishing their work. We all took it seriously, and wanted to be good at it.

20130720_120724Instead of a crochet needle, this is what they use. Nanay Ineng shared how she found it difficult to use the crochet needle that was given to us. She liked using this makeshift fork better–it is more efficient, she said.

20130720_120839My finished work. By the way, can I just say, I was sitting down in this photo. I found it funny that someone from Twitter replied to this photo, “she’s that tall?” I didn’t get it until I realized that Nanay Ineng does look like she is 7 feet tall in this photo haha.

20130720_123220The happy weavers.

20130720_140332Back at the showroom, I couldn’t help but notice these beautiful photos of talented artisans.

20130720_080534NEWEL. Rags2Riches’ Spring/Summer collection.

20130720_081221Beautiful t’nalak weave mixed with R2R’s signature pattern. Love the colors!

20130720_080433Comes in all colors. Wallets and iPad cases.

20130720_080618These were designed by Amina.

20130720_080735Rajo Laurel designed these.

20130720_080925Rugs in many colors and sizes.

20130720_081512These cuffs are so cute! I got one in forest green.

20130720_080609More colorful clutches, by Aranaz.

20130720_080910Pillow cases in all colors.

20130720_081229More of the Newel collection.

20130720_140345Art Deco giant pillows.

20130720_140354More huge pillows to dress up your home.

20130720_080849This collection was designed by Olivia D’Aboville. I love those big circular rugs.

Rags2Riches is available at:

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 11.52.23 AM Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 11.52.00 AM

To know more about the brand, check out their website: www.rags2riches.ph

  1. littlefrolics Reply

    Hi Ms. Kelly!
    Are those rag wallets now available? Where can I buy it?
    I am from Cebu.

    1. kellymisa Reply

      Hello! Yes, I believe the Rags2Riches wallets are available! Check out their online partners. Most likely they deliver to Cebu. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. kellymisa Reply

      Rags2Riches is available at Shangri-la Mactan Lobby Shop and Beach Mums in Cebu. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. littlefrolics Reply

        Wow, thank you so much for the reply Ms. Kelly. I think I will just prefer going to Shang Mactan than doing it online. Thanks again! Those are really nice rugs and I love your blog about it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Pingback: A Day of Weaving with Artisans and Advocates | Rags2Riches

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