Ikea gets social enterprise R2R as local sewing partner

RAGS2RICHES (R2R) has announced a partnership with global home furnishings and accessories giant Ikea. The Sweden-headquartered multinational will get the Philippine-based social enterprise as its sewing service partner in its Philippine store. The R2R artisans are set to work in the store on customized Ikea items using Ikea fabric, personalizing items, resizing and other such concerns.

The Philippine store is slated to open in either third quarter (Q3) or fourth quarter (Q4) of this year, according to Georg Platzer, Market Development Manager for IKEA Philippines. “Everything is going according to our plan. We’ve always had a plan to open in Q3 or Q4 this year, 2021, starting first with e-commerce and then opening the store later. We are progressing. It looks good, but you know, the situation is very fluid… For now, we cannot communicate any official date, like a day, but we could at least narrow it to Q3,Q4, 2021.”

R2R artisans from partner communities have been trained to do the needed services both live and remotely by Ikea through video tutorials and visits.

Cynthia Cabrera, R2R’s Community Enterprise Manager, and one of its first artisans, talked about how she and her co-workers managed to do this during the pandemic. They would watch the videos, be given materials to make samples of the product, and these would be sent in for evaluation. “Lagi naming pinapaalala na ang R2R ay nabubuhay dahil sa quality ng mga gawa (We always remind them that R2R lives due to the quality of our work),” she said in a press conference via Zoom on Feb. 16.

She said that some of her co-workers had become teary-eyed due to the joy in participating in such a project, and many have signed up for the training where they have been taught how to make curtains, pillow covers, aprons, planters, and robes. “I’m actually wearing one of them, but let’s just call it a wrap dress for this media launch,” said R2R President and Founding Partner Reese Fernandez. “A lot of sewing techniques were developed during a time when we were all socially distanced from each other.”

“Our artisans are way beyond that feeling of ‘please help us.’ They’re now at the point where they want to be recognized for their skills and talent. They want that trust and responsibility of a business partnership,” said Ms. Fernandez.

For her part, Ms. Cabrera said, “Actually, noong magstart ang R2R, noong tanungin ako kung ano yung gusto kong mangyari sa R2R, lagi kong sagot: globalization. Ngayon, unti-unting nagkakatotoo (When R2R started, we were asked what we wanted for R2R, and I always said: globalization. Now it’s coming true).”

R2R opened its online store for North America late last year.

Mr. Platzer says that they had been aware of R2R’s work since 2016 when they were in the planning stages of opening in the Philippines. “We have a clear corporate social responsibility agenda. One of them is definitely fulfilling sustainability development goals, which is ending poverty and being a good neighbor, and enabling people to have a better life. It’s so much in line with our own vision of creating a better everyday life for many people.

“Cooperating with a social enterprise like R2R and Reese and her team is enabling people to end the negative cycle of poverty,” he said. — Joseph L. Garcia