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PHILSTAR: The home as new normal sanctuary—the Artefino way

PHILSTAR: The home as new normal sanctuary—the Artefino way

By Therese Jamora-Garceau on, October 17, 2020


Yes, the site has been re-launched. While the previous one was a simple ecommerce platform for ArteFino’s exhibitors during lockdown — one they also used to raise funds for COVID hospital PGH — the new website, which went live Oct. 15, “is the result of a two-year period of strategizing about where next to take the ArteFino experience and expand its ecosystem,” says ArteFino co-founder Cedie Lopez-Vargas.

“We opened the site with around 45 brands offering exciting new products that address what we see as relevant in this era of the new normal: products that cater to basic home needs, domestic/ home adventures, work-from-home life, and a generally relaxed and easy vibe of everyday dressing. The products featured are primarily new collections — the result of creative and collaborative pivots on the part of the ArteFino community.”

Shopping habits have changed, thanks to this endless quarantine. Consumer spending is down, according to Vargas. “What sells best are items essential to everyday living, and many people have shifted towards organic, sustainable, DIY and self-sufficiency,” she observes.

Other trends she’s noticed are “creating the home as a sanctuary, new modes of work/ life balance within the home and safe peripheries, and a push to patronize products that support an aligned advocacy; e.g., buying only locally made, supporting agribusiness and livelihood communities, minimal carbon footprint, upcycled or regenerative materials, etc.”

ArteFino founders Susie Quiros, Marimel Francisco, Mita Rufino, Maritess Pineda and Vargas felt that much of their clientele still preferred to shop virtually over venturing out of their homes for a physical fair, hence the website. And, to celebrate the launch, they’ve partnered with the Metro Group in creating a three-day event this weekend that is being streamed live, features interviews with various exhibitors, and offers promos to — you guessed it — get people to shop.

Collaborative economy was the result of the many selfless, heartwarming acts within the ArteFino community during lockdown. “When we had our first ‘Zoom-ustahan’ in April, creativity was at a standstill, and everyone didn't know where to move, how to move, because there was no workforce, no materials,” recalls Vargas. “There was no access to all the communities that are in the mountains. One exhibitor said, ‘You know, my workforce is staying in my house. We can help you, we can take some of your work so you can do things.’

“Another one said, ‘I have inventory of materials we can share with you.  Do you want scraps? Do you want full bolts?’

“Others offered their services in terms of time and talent. We had a webinar where they shared their experiences. They were very open about the challenges they were facing, and how creativity somehow just gets stuck the first year. You’re stunned kasi, eh. But whatever their expertise was, they would they would share it with others.”

This has birthed a “collaborative economy” in which resources, knowledge, and services are freely exchanged and shared. Some designers even go out of their way to bring in undiscovered communities so that more regions of the Philippines can emerge as artisanal design hubs. “As of last count we have about 33 provinces represented; it might be even more now,” notes Vargas. “But right now we have 45 brands, and it’s growing. We will continue to add new brands and products as we as we go along.”

Right now I’m eyeing a bed caddy made of hand-woven Yakan fabric to hold my night-table essentials, a hand-painted umbrella stand carved by the woodworkers of Paete, and a monogrammed Plantita Bucket for my plant-obsessed sister-in-law. You can never have too many plantita buckets.

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