AirAsia x Rags2Riches: Empowering Artisans

Back in October 2013, I was given the privilege by AirAsia to be flown to Manila and watch behind the scenes work of one of AirAsia Foundation's funded project, a very unique & eco-centric community based project aptly named Rags2Riches.

Rags2Riches Inc. is a for-profit social enterprise based in Manila, Philippines, creating eco-ethical fashion and home accessories out of up cycled scrap cloth, organic materials and indigenous fabrics by working with artisans (mostly women) living in the poor communities across Philippines. Rags2Riches’ philosophy stands upon its four bottom lines: People, Profit, Planet and Positive Influence.

The eco-ethical business model originated in 2007 in Payatas, one of the Philippines’ largest dumpsites and home to half a million people. An informal cottage industry of rug-weavers grew from the many women who developed a means to earn a living by scavenging the waste to find and recycle scrap pieces of fabric so that they could participate in handicraft production like rug and rag weaving, while taking care of their children at home. Over time, the industry became exploited by a series of middlemen who controlled both the supply of scrap fabric and the women’s access to the market, which created an unfair value chain for the women who at the end of the day earned only pennies per finished product or less than .20 cents USD per day.

Rags2Riches Inc. was created to provide these artisans with fair access to the market and the formal economy, as well as with additional skills-based, financial and health training so that they can maximize their career potential and take steps towards long-term financial and personal well-being. 

In 2013, AirAsia Foundation provided a social grant of USD13,275 to Rags2Riches Inc. to grow its business. The grant has covered:

An orientation session facilitated by Rags2Riches Inc. artisans to new artisans communities.
A workshop to develop current skills and materials of artisan communities so that the new artisans are able to produce high-quality products that can be sold through Rags2Riches and AirAsia's distribution networks.
Integrated training which includes programmes on nutrition and healthcare, and life skills such as financial management.
Opportunity to link up Rags2Riches artisans network and earn regular income as a Rags2Riches weaver.
A field visit to another artisan group for joint product collaboration.

With that, in return artisans will have the opportunity to upgrade their skills and gain access to marker which will raise their income earning potential and create opportunities for improvement in their standard of living.

AirAsia Foundation was registered on 15th March 2012 and it's missions are:
♥ To share AirAsia ethos of entrepreneurship, equal opportunity & innovation.
♥ To empower communities through social entrepreneurship.