PEOPLE are becoming more and more concerned of the environmental impacts of their wastes – from minimizing the use of plastic straws to using eco bags instead of the plastic bags when doing the groceries. These are very conscious effort in helping save the environment from drowning from too much non-biodegradable wastes.
However, not anyone can think of how huge the impact actually is of fashion waste or the amount of garbage accumulated out of thrown garments.
Yana Santiago, a graduate of Clothing Technology from the University of the Philippines Diliman, is only one of the few fashion people who decided to venture into this.
Her passion for both fashion and helping other people had led her to creating Olivia & Diego, a social enterprise that makes upcycled jewelry from discarded and beyond-repair cotton-knitted shirts and recycled office supplies.
It was in 2013, when Santiago, together with her friends founded Olivia & Diego, them being also very passionate of creating crafts and other-related stuff.
She manages Olivia & Diego with Kayan Capili, Thea Sta. Ana, Queenie Galacio, and Karen Joy Masapol.
When Santiago joined a Global Social Business Summit in November 2013, she was all the more moved and inspired realizing that her business could do better things and help more people if she were to partner with an organization that help others.
In 2014, she partnered with Talikala, a non-government organization based in Davao City that helps and women and children against sex trafficking and prostitution.
Olivia and Diego, over the years, had helped train at least 30 women from Talikala which helped them with their income as well. They had been trained in braiding and doing different patterns of shirt strips to make bracelets and necklaces.
“Perhaps the challenge that I faced here is that not everyone we trained were able to last with us. Others, after the training, will not push through with the actual job. Sometimes it has something to do with their domestic responsibilities as well,” said Santiago who added despite this challenge, there are still women from Talikala, the ones they call artisans, that continue making the jewelries and are enjoying themselves.
She said as the years went by, the artisans themselves suggest patterns and artistic deviations that actually come out as beautiful and artistic. Each artisan earns P3,000 to P8,000 per order as they are paid for every piece of jewelry they are able to make.
Their bright-colored bracelets are available for P150 to P300 each. The one-tier necklace is at P200 while the two-tier is at P400.
When asked if she doesn’t run out of raw materials as she solely relies on discarded shirts and garments, Santiago said they don’t. Olivia and Diego accepts donations of old clothes with very good quality of fabric. Sometimes, the team goes to different ukay-ukay places to scout for clothes with good fabric that can be used for their jewelry. To not run out of ideas for the designs and patterns of her jewelry, Santiago said they continue to innovate and research for design inspiration. She was also able to get great inspiration from other artists when she attended the Hong Kong Fashion Week.
Now, Olivia and Diego products are being shipped Canada, Japan, Malaysia, and Germany. They are also available in select AirAsia flights. In Davao City, they have displays in Sea Green Café + Boutique Rooms and Echostore Davao.
“It is a little challenging that this concept is not that accepted here in Davao City yet. It’s a new concept – unlike in other countries. That’s why, for now, we have a market there because people are familiar with this already,” said Santiago. She added they are hopeful that with continued drive for awareness, Dabawenyos and Filipinos in general will come to understand the importance of reducing fashion wastes.
According to Santiago, the success of the enterprise is measured on the impact made by Olivia & Diego to the lives of their artisans. She said they have a long way to go but are glad of the path they are currently treading.