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BWORLD: All is fair with ArteFino

BWORLD: All is fair with ArteFino

By Joseph L. Garcia on, October 19, 2020


EVEN craft and fashion fairs have had to give way to a pandemic. Considering the scores of people who once enjoyed the unique finds at ArteFino, the same model might find itself an object of fear. Last week, ArteFino launched its new face: a 24/7 online shopping platform.

The website,, features ArteFino favorites like Lara, Casa Mercedes, Happy Andrada, Jor-El Espina, and many others. There are sections on Home and Living, Fashion, Jewelry, Bags, Accessories, Footwear, and Kids, and an entire section on Protective Wear which includes inabel masks and a cunning PPE kimono. Basically, it’s having the ArteFino experience on your screen, whenever you want.

In a webinar on Oct. 15, Marimel Francisco, ArteFino cofounder, talked about how they set up the website. “The reimagining behind the scenes didn’t happen overnight, and was oftentimes intense. Given the logistical challenges we all experienced when the lockdown measures were set in place, we’ve all had to pivot.”

The usual three-day shoot for a catalogue became a virtual shoot. “The team [was] guiding the brands on angles, lighting, and styling; all via Zoom. You can imagine what a challenge that was,” said Ms. Francisco.

Cedie Lopez-Vargas, also co-founder of ArteFino, had time to think about what should stand for, and in a speech during the same webinar, she listed: the home as sanctuary, a slower, gentler, kinder world; and ‘technology that enables a productive life even while on lockdown.” She also noted that what was important was “the rise of the mindful consumer in support of local and inclusive social enterprise, a minimal carbon footprint, and a preference for sustainably produced, upcycled, or regenerative materials.”

Even prior to the pandemic, it seemed practical to have an online platform for a venture like ArteFino. “This online platform was something that we were mulling over for maybe two years already. We always get really busy with the physical fair, so it kind of took a backseat,” said Ms. Lopez-Vargas in a call to BusinessWorld. “What happened was this lockdown and pandemic; and the downturn in the economy, and everything else that happened together with it. It turned this into an imperative.”

While she said that nothing replaces the energy of the physical fair, she did say, “I don’t have the distractions of the marketplace. You’re able to look at items one by one, at leisure, on demand. You’re able to focus.”

That’s a plus for the shopper, and also for the artisans who supply the fair. She pointed out that before, they had to have huge stocks for a three-day weekend in August. “Now that it’s 24/7; the whole year round, you can produce in limited quantities. Artisanal crafts, by their very nature, take long, and are difficult to produce.”

For the shift online, Ms. Lopez-Vargas, Ms. Francisco, and their co-founders Susie Quiros, Mita Rufino, and Maritess Pineda didn’t only have to think of how to do it but also why it should be done. “When we decided to go online, I started to think about things. Will we still be relevant online? What is the value that we bring with our online presence? What will we look like?,” said Ms. Lopez-Vargas.

“We always have these talks about ArteFino trying to be a relevant platform for showcasing heritage, but at the same time, [that it is a] social enterprise,” she said.

Speaking about how the website will fit into the new world, Ms. Lopez-Vargas said, “We saw that it is a pared-down sensibility; a pared-down lifestyle for everyone. Quieter, gentler, and [there is] this vibe of trying to create a kinder world all around you.”

Still, the fair’s founders could have just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Sorry, the pandemic canceled the fair.” Why was ArteFino worth doing — and saving? Ms. Lopez-Vargas already discussed ArteFino as a platform for heritage and Filipino craftsmanship, and went on to explain its role for the economy: “We’re quite strong in the push for using social enterprise as a backbone for nation-building. We’re pushing up the economy that’s at a very low point. When they talk about MSMEs, they make up about 90% of the economy. That’s what’s driving it. If there is no push, no stimulus: where will we all be? And then all these crafts will die.”

“As citizens, you have to be able to do something. We are in the position to do something about it. That’s why we decided to move forward.”

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