I am in between packing now as I write this. We are soon off to the Big Apple of New York carrying with us bits and pieces of Southern Mindanao, products hand woven and crafted by hand, continuing the link to allow the heart of tradition kept alive by women to hopefully sustain itself. Weaving textiles, created by our cultural communities will be part of NY Now Artisan Resource, an international trade show highlighting direct import retailers and wholesalers to meet with international artisanal producers. As exhibitors, ECHOstore passed the criteria based on a selection that focuses on commitment to innovation, cultural preservation, social enterprise and sustainability.
NY Artisan Resource was launched just a couple years old, perhaps due to the influx of China made products to the US. By highlighting hand-made, artisan, and carefully crafted pieces, culture and tradition of American artisan and other cultures is given a trade space that can focus on sustainability and not just the profitability of China mass-produced items.
For ECHOstore’s expansion direction, our food products have slowly been making their way out to various internationally markets. This is the first time our non-food items will be showcased outside the country in a formal trade show. And only because the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) gave us a grant for this booth, did we then seriously plan some kind of a collection of the textiles of the cultural communities we had been helping under our ECHOsi Foundation in the last year.
Under both the PEF and the Philippine Commission for Women (PCW) the GREAT Women program has allowed us to dive deep into the supply and value chain of our women weavers. If we have not prepared our Bagobo and B’laan women scattered around the foothills of Mount Apo, in fixing their costings, creating aligned marketing samples, coding them and pricing them, I doubt it we would have the courage to go off to sell their products if they would not answer to the required orders.
The Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) with Celia Elumba and her R&D team Jeannie Lyn and Zyg has bent over back in our joint experimental project of creating natural fiber scarves with natural dyes using my designs just so we have more community products and natural fibers to showcase.
The handwoven materials are also transformed into fashion and home accessories with other women sewing cooperatives we are working with. Our products now include bags and costume jewelry sometimes infused with beads, bells and other indigenous materials. It’s far from perfect this collection, but well, it’s our first foray with close to 2,800 other exhibitors, and hopefully not to be our last.
How fortunate we are in having friends help out. Cynthia Gomez, my dentist friend based in New York offered a whole suitcase for us to put items in as she happen to be in Manila and will be leaving a couple of days before us. Our PCW GREAT women co-architect Luvy Villanueva has been calling for her friends based in New York to volunteer to help Chit and I set-up and man the booth. Imelda Canuel, our foundation Program Officer will only find time to sleep once we have boarded the plane as she has spent the past weeks overwhelmed with the details of preparations and coordination. Already Sylvia Zamora and Amina Tamano, both based in New York, are all set to volunteer and help.
So all of you in New York who manage to read this–connect with us or send buyers our way at Pier 94 from August 16-19 and look for our booth “GREAT WOMEN powered by ECHOstore”.