THE bayanihan spirit is truly alive among Filipinos, especially now when the world is facing an enormous challenge. With the pandemic, a lot of industries have been greatly affected. One of this is the fashion industry.
Amid the current scenario, the fashion accessory makers have joined hands to help each other. This resulted in the birth of the Fashion Accessory Makers of the Philippines (FAMph).
Davao's very own Carmaela B. Alcantara of Crystal Seas, a brand that signifies creativity and passion, is part of the new group. Carmaela shared that FAMph is a welcome response to the changes they are facing as a company designing and promoting Mindanao design through fashion accessories. "It's encouraging to be part of a group where we can learn from each other and work towards a common cause, which is strengthening appreciation for locally made products," she said.
She became part of it because of former Trade and Industry Undersecretary Carissa Cruz-Evangelista, the fashion accessory designer behind the brand Beatriz. The latter formed a group composed of Philippine companies that joined NY Now, an exhibit in New York showcasing artisan-made products.
Crystal Seas was one of the companies representing the Philippines, and the only company representing Mindanao According to Alcantara, the travel restrictions posed a great difficulty for them.
"Since Crystal Seas started in 2006, our objective was to bring Mindanao designs and Mindanao-made products to a larger audience. We were actively joining international trade shows in Manila and abroad. We make it a point that every year, we can share our story as Mindanaoans to the international market," she said. "These trips are cancelled and shipments have been placed on hold since couriers refused to accept parcels. Our last shipment of orders was on the second week of lockdown and we had to convince a courier company to accept the parcels," she continued. "Most of our production is also community-based, we partner with different groups, some are outside the city. Since the creative industry is not a priority, we are restricted to visit our partner communities."
For Alcantara, "a collective voice from the creative industry, specifically FAMph, gives a stronger message to the government to initiate plans or programs to address the needs of companies such as ours."
As small and medium enterprises (SMEs) contribute a significant chunk of livelihood opportunities, it is only right to hear their voice. Despite the effect of the health crisis on their business, Alcantara still did not forget to help others. In response to the call for donations and limited supply of PPE suits last March, Crystal Seas has been actively producing PPE suits that were distributed to various hospitals in Davao and the regions nearby. "We are happy that despite the difficulty, we were able to continue to support our dressmakers when most have lost their jobs," she said.
The Davao City-based fashion designer revealed that adapting to working remotely is most challenging since they are used to giving training and supervision to communities face-to-face. "I remember one friend mentioning that there should be no problem since things can be done online nowadays. It might be easy for some industries, but working with tribes and fellow Filipinos at the grassroots level pose a different challenge in communicating instructions for production. Most of our partners have a difficult time reading and writing, all the more navigating through gadgets, and some do not have access to smartphones or telecom signals. My thoughts are with them because one of the primary objectives of Crystal Seas is to provide better livelihood opportunities for our communities through skills training," she said.
For Alcantara, the coming months would be more challenging as the government is easing out restrictions, causing concern for more Covid-19 cases. Thus, this is the time to embrace local brands and patronize them.
Through this way, Filipinos can help fellow Filipinos get by. "This is an opportune time for us to have a collective voice to encourage Filipinos to love our own culture and support local," she emphasized.
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