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THE DIARIST: With over 150 brands, ArteFino tells uplifting stories

THE DIARIST: With over 150 brands, ArteFino tells uplifting stories

When ArteFino Festival 2022 opens on August 25—arguably the biggest artisan/crafts and trade fair today, with over 150 brands—visitors and shoppers will discover not only products, but also stories, a few of them untold, about the creative communities all over the country, from Laguna to Marawi.

More important, it will be a platform for the consumers and patrons of these products to help uplift the lives of these communities. It is about trying to make a difference beyond one’s reach and environs.

Only five years old, ArteFino is more than just a selling event. It has grown into a movement meant to inspire an elevated yet responsible lifestyle—a community that honors craft, culture and conscious living. It is a shared experience of like-minded brands, makers and consumers.

ArteFino runs August 25-September 28, Power Plant, ground floor, Rockwell Makati.

“We realize it’s important to have a purpose and meaning to what we’re doing (in these artisan fairs). We need a deeper advocacy,” Cedie Lopez-Vargas tells

The need to impact livelihood and lives of communities was what drove Vargas and other like-minded women to found the artisanal fair ArteFino in 2017. Co- founders are Susie Quiros, Marimel Francisco, Mita Rufino, Maritess Pineda. Their longtime advocacy work in museums  has made them realize the need to create an inclusive platform for local brands to tell their inspiring stories.

“And just as important, the impact on the community must be sustainable, with those who come aboard as our partners,” Vargas stresses.

“We helped facilitate seminars, for instance, even on financial literacy,” adds Pineda. “It’s about building relationships with communities.”

Among the products to be showcased is the wooden “Belen” in a modular setup—the traditional Nativity scene that has decorated the Filipino home through the ages and which, with the parol (Christmas star), has been a beloved symbol of the Filipino Christmas.

ArteFino showcases the Pulido belen made by the craftsmen of Paete, Laguna, the woodcarving center of the Philippines. Pulido represents Paete woodcarvers. Pulido arose from the old partnership of the Baldemor studio (originally CVB Handicraft, since 1997) with the Paete woodcarving community. ArteFino has become a platform to showcase the woodcarving artisanship of Paete beyond the community to the wider market. And the Belen is its centerpiece product, initially the result of the partnership between Pulido and the Food Share Program of the Kabisig ng Kalahi and Zonta Club of Makati and Environs. Pulido and Zonta sought to create a focal piece that is both new and familiar to every Filipino household.

The story of the Pulido Belen, according to brand partner coordinator Imelda Canuel:

“In the modular set-up, each piece can be rearranged, making each Belen unique to the household. It can be scaled up or down, without losing the central point that is the Holy Family.

“The most recent Belen was designed with the Filipino in mind, with each character wearing clothes native to the Philippines, instead of the traditional royal garb of the Three Kings. The farm itself was contextualized in a Filipino setting—with native farm animals like the carabao and even more common ones like the cow and the chicken but allowing the Filipino varieties to inform how these were designed.

“The Bahay Kubo is prominent backdrop, mirroring the idea of home….

“The creation of the Belen is a story in itself—with Pulido opening its doors to artists of different abilities to contribute in the process. The program creates niches for them to use their talents productively, and to make a living out of it as well. Our artisans designed each figurine in great detail, while those with physical disabilities owned the moulding process, and those with visual impairments took over the task of painting and finishing each piece.

“In line with the times, our Belen is expected to grow, shift, and evolve as people do. Visions for the future of this Christmas symbol include having it mirror the heroes of today, giving it a more modern flare. Yet, the symbolism it’s constructed around—religion and family—remain steadfast and constant.”

Another trail-blazing brand known for its work with the communities is Lakat, with communities in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.

Founded by Michael Claparols, Lakat is a Filipino sustainable sneaker brand that uses handwoven pineapple cotton fibers. Its work with various communities covers pineapple farmers, Kabankalan weavers, shoe makers from Rizal.

With assistance from HeArteFino the Kabankalan weavers now have a 55-width, four-shaft loom that allows them to explore more design options, create bigger panels, and experiment with new colorways. (A typical loom is only 30 inches with 2 shafts.)

In 2019, the ArteFino team visited the Lakat weavers of Kabankalan to experience their community, look into their needs and how to bring the products to a wider market through a sustainable supply chain.

“We’ve worked with many emerging brands and designers, all of whom have grown with us. We’ve followed their journeys and evolved with them,” says Vargas. Even then, Marimel  Francisco adds, “We are constantly on the lookout for new talents to showcase.”

2022 ArteFino Festival will have more than 150 brands, their displays to be rotated in those five weeks. Each week will introduce a new roster of labels across the categories of fashion, accessories, fine jewelry, home, and children’s wear.

A special section, Barracks, will be a curated space for men to lounge, shop, and sip on local artisanal brews. Francisco says, “We wanted to cater to an underserved men’s market.” Vargas adds, “Barracks has been around since 2018 and was created to invite men to be part of this movement. This year, the theme for Barracks will be easy living.”

The Festival will introduce 44 new designers and brands, chosen by the ArteFino founders based on the brand’s narrative, purpose, and links to community. Vargas explains, “We want our vendors to succeed and we want them to be prepared for a global market. This is why apart from the product, we also look into their purpose, vision.”

Francisco notes, “Almost 40% of our vendors this year are new. It speaks of the emergence of social enterprises and a deeper understanding of what sustainable living is all about. This year’s roster will show the many layers of responsible retailing that includes going hyperlocal and employing fair trade practices.”

The 400sqm+  space on the ground floor of Powerplant Mall makes for ideal setting to echo the spirit of sharing, inclusivity and collaboration among organizers, artists and artisans, vendors, patrons, buyers—in a reopened world.

“We wanted to bring this bond to a shared space where we could all shop, learn, and connect,” explains Vargas.

Among the brands are:

AIRE is a menswear label from Creative Definitions’ growing umbrella of mindful, proudly Filipino lifestyle brands, born out of a desire to fill the gap in Philippine fashion for timeless, elegant garments made especially for the modern-day gentleman. In handwoven pina cotton fabrics, AIRE consists of sustainable, well-rounded wardrobe for the quintessential man.

BAGOYAN celebrates Kalinga culture and tradition through treasured weaves of the region. The brand, founded by Kalinga-based designer Bagoyan, integrates the colors and patterns of the North in contemporary classics.

CAMILLE VILLANUEVA is influenced by dance, London’s vibrant style scene, and her grandmother’s wardrobe. Her designs are decidedly flirtatious, romantic with hints of luxury resort living. The Central Saint Martins graduate likes to work with local and natural fabrics, with silhouettes and shapes for the confident 20- and 30something.

CHRISTIAN CERA is a creator of leather bags, small accessories, and home decor. Cera works with skilled artisans, using vegetable tanned leather or upcycled scraps. The signature Christian Cera leather tote has evolved into structured satchel, woven shoulder bag, and multi-configuration bags.

EDITED LIMITED is an under-the-radar, experimental brand that explores new ways of wearing sustainable fashion. It showcases traditional hand-stitching technique and cool imagery in upcycled garments. Key pieces include denim kimonos, skirts and apron dresses bearing the label’s signature Phalaenopsis handembroidery.

STYLE ANA seamlessly integrates key elements of the Philippine dress in chic, casual pieces that celebrate the modern Filipina. Iconic butterfly prints, locally sourced fabrics, baro’t saya-inspired garments mark the brand.

KELVIN MORALES is a young brand of experimental design.

JILL LAO is a brand that celebrates women in motion, under the creative direction of Parsons alumna Jill Lao—designs that strike the balance between the feminine and the functional.

KATHA PILIPINAS is a creative social enterprise that empowers makers and artisans in fashion, accessories, furniture and self-care. Katha’s curated brands include AMV Artworks, Juan Ekis, Pinky Lizares, Eda Bcd, Astro Pringles, Jonathan Guillermo, and Happy Andrada.

THE SHAPE SHOP is all about empowerment and celebrating the female form. Pieces from the brand are made with one clear goal: to make everyone feel like the best version of oneself. It is a diverse range of active and athleisure wear meant for any lifestyle, age, shape or size.

NUEVO YSTILO is the redefined traditional Philippine dress—as top, cocktail dress or cape. It highlights the use of local fabrics like silk cocoon and pina callado.

PINAGTAGPI stitches together stories that define Philippine culture and textile industry. It draws its name from the Filipino word, tagpi, which translates to patchwork. Its designs connect to the country’s artisanal communities, landscapes, crafts.

PINAS SADYA is a lifestyle brand meant to open up conversations around Philippine culture, craft, and heritage. Its product range includes kimono ponchos, jackets, scarves and coordinates all designed to highlight local design and workmanship.

VINA ROMERO evokes the experience of luxury through subtle details,  meticulous craftsmanship with clean, streamlined forms.

Just as interesting, Eats by Artefino, a collaboration with The Seven Pantry headed by Patty Pineda, will offer distinctive local specialties, from coffee to dips to Filipino specialties.

In music, there’ll be a dedicated soundtrack curated by Tarsier Records for the visitors’ personal playlists.

The interactive programs at ArteFino were intended to amplify the movement’s call to “renew, repurpose, and recycle.” The Maker’s Challenge, for instance, focuses on the innovative ways by which creators can upcycle everyday materials. “It is an open call for anyone who wishes to create–vendors and non-vendors alike.”

“This being that year that we step out again, we hope to create an experience where everyone can immerse themselves with the community,” the organizers said in a statement.

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