By Bianca Salonga on forbes.com, October 15, 2020
Year after year, Manila’s well heeled has looked forward to the annual ArteFino Artisanal Fair. Typically held at the Rockwell Center every August, it has been highly regarded as a game changers in celebrating and elevating Philippine artisanship, craft and creativity. More than a fashion shopping event, it has evolved to become a social movement where taste makers and early adaptors gathered to show support for mindfully-made and beautifully edited local wares. Regulars of this event were not there to simply indulge in retail therapy. They blocked off their calendars each year to connect with likeminded consumers, makers, traders and designers to express a shared love for all that is consciously and proudly Filipino.
As with all other industries across the globe, ArteFino and its partner brand had to be quick about re-thinking its survival plan. Sales in fashion and retail dropped, consequently challenging the traditional model of relying on brick and mortar shops and fairs for profit. For artisan enterprises working mostly with communities in remote places, production and transport were key concerns. Without new products, there would be no profit. And without the resources, there was no way that more items could be created. Mita Rufino, co-founder of ArteFino begins: “This put many craftsmen I dire straits.”
Throughout the years, ArteFino’s draw expanded to include over 100 exhibitors and visitors of up to 4,000 shoppers. In an unprecedented era of social distancing and home quarantines, there was simply no way that this set up would work. Maritess Pineda, who is one of the visionaries behind the fair emphasizes, “The show must go on. We will never waiver from our commitment to the Filipino spirit, with products that capture the soul of the makers.”
Prime movers behind the event—Mita Rufino, Maritess Pineda, Marimel Francisco, Cedie Lopez Vargas and Susie Quiros—went back to the drawing table to delibearate, reassess and recalibrate. The team recalls: “We decided to launch ArteFino in a purely digital platform… It was clear to us that the focus moving forward is to shift our efforts online—SHOPARTEFINO.COM”
Marimel Francisco shares that it took around five months from inception before the new platform was built. “We had talked about building a website early in 2020. Because of the pandemic, these plans were catapulted,” she said. Behind-the-scenes of this new digital model, the team spoke with each brand partner to discuss exclusive items for the website. “We wanted to find out which of the makers could come up with a collection for the website. Some had production issues while others encountered delays in transportation,” Marimel recalls. A total of 45 brands will be launched today with the website, with more new items coming in throughout the succeeding weeks.
Thoughtful Lifestyle at SHOPARTEFINO.COM
Curating local wares for a digital platform in the age of a pandemic required foresight and in-depth understanding of the markets both new and old. The team recognized that within the digital realm, the consumer experience will be entirely different. What once worked within the context of an vibrant artisanal fair, no longer applied when connecting with clients from the other end of a screen.
Founders also considered factors like function, quality and value for money. They were keen on tuning into a new set of sensitivities characteristic of a wider audience in the middle of a crisis. “Great focus was given to products that were essential, and supported by the concept of circular economy. Items that resonate living out the new normal,” points our Cedie Lopez-Vargas. Environmental impact and social responsibility were also crucial components that continued to tie partner brands to ArteFino. These remained non- negotiables, defining the mindful lifestyle that ArteFino founders had intended to purvey.
The ArteFino Experience At Your Fingertips
“The ArteFino experience will always be unique as products remain responsibly and locally crafted, directly impacting the livelihood of communities all over the country,” declared the team. The curating process, a strength forged by ArteFino founders since they held their first event, will be seamlessly translated online via four categories on the website: Home + Living, Fashion, Accessories, Protective Wear.
Instead of a four-day event, the platform will now be accessible to a bigger demographic 24/7. With logistics for international shipping in place, ArteFino will also be able to dispatch orders from various parts of the globe. Price points, too, have been adjusted, “with majority of the range priced at P5,000 ($100) and below.” Throughout the year, new items will be launched on the website. This new dynamic gives makers the opportunity not only to develop and manufacture products, it also provides accurate insights on consumer behavior. The online platform has also been coded to include a chat box, where buyers can connect with ArteFino’s shopping concierge.
Susie Quiros, who has been with ArteFino since day one, confesses, “The idea of giving up on a physical fair was extremely difficult, but this lockdown meant for us to move away from the usually busy mall experience as consumers focused on what we remain as our key factor – supporting local and independent businesses/artisans.” Navigating this new retail ecosystem may throw in a few unexpected twists and turns especially for the ladies of ArteFino. Their shared commitment to supporting the local Philippine community, however, will always as their north star.
Original article published on: https://www.forbes.com/sites/biancasalonga/2020/10/15/artefino-reimagined-a-new-filipino-artisanal-experience-online/