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Everything You Need to Know About Rags2Riches’ Collaboration With IKEA PH

Plus when IKEA PH is really opening

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Photography: Courtesy of Rags2Riches

It was announced in 2020 that global home improvement brand IKEA will be working hand-in-hand with the local artisans of Rags2Riches for fabric customization. This partnership was fleshed out even more in a February 16 press conference where R2R president and founder Reese Fernandez-Ruiz shares that they are the “official sewing services provider of IKEA Philippines.”

“We don’t rely on luck,” she says. “We believe that luck happens when you are ready for it. And because our bigger mission is to create livelihood opportunities for our community partners, we are also so used to thinking on our feet to make sure that we keep or livelihood going.” 


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Rags2Riches president and founder Reese Fernandez-Ruiz

The R2R-IKEA partnership has pushed through despite the pandemic—a collaboration that has been in the works for the past four years. Reese continues: “IKEA was also able to provide us with the tools and resources to continue our training and even upscale our artisans. Of course, these activities were a lot more challenging during this lockdown, but we were able to still find ways with the help and the support of IKEA.”

Rags2Riches in the largest IKEA store in the world

Director of Ikano PH Inc. and Market Development Manager for IKEA Southeast Asia Georg Platzer notes that he’s a big fan of Rags2Riches and what it stands for. “I became one already back in 2016. We started to investigate—what could we do here in the Philippines once we start operations? We have a clear Corporate Social Responsibility agenda, and one of them is definitely meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, which is ending poverty, and, you know, being a good neighbor, and enabling people to have a better life.”

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Director of Ikano PH Inc., and Market Development Manager for IKEA Southeast Asia Georg Platzer 

While IKEA Philippines is still under construction, Georg reveals that Rags2Riches’ corner is slowly taking shape. “Here we are and looking so much forward to open soon. Construction’s full-speed ongoing. I just saw your room,” he addresses Reese. “It’s still in raw conditions, but the concrete is already there. And the plans are there so we can execute soon.”

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As the sewing services provider of IKEA Philippines, R2R will be handling customizations to fabric products—from linens to curtains, and everything else in between. Services will include monogramming, embroidering, sewing, and resizing, among others. “It’s really more of the services where the customers could get textiles from IKEA and then we can sew curtains, or cushion covers, or tote bags, or aprons, or whatever that they can think of,” explains Reese. “And to add the R2R touch, we’re also developing sort of a less-waste program where the offcuts of the textiles could be made into little things that they could get from us as the sewing services provider.”

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The artisans

Rags2Riches is “a fashion and design house empowering community artisans in the Philippines.” It has done away with the middle man, training and upskilling sewers, crafters, and assemblers, and giving them opportunities to thrive in and to be proud of while offering dignified pay.

Cynthia Cabrera, R2R's Community Enterprise Manager, is one of these artisans. While R2R in itself has done so much in uplifting her life, the partnership with IKEA has brought about a different sort of inspired joy and sense of accomplishment.


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Rags2Riches Community Enterprise Manager Cynthia Cabrera

Sa totoo lang, noong first na narinig ko, ‘Bakit, ano ‘yong IKEA?’ So walang alam kung ano ‘yong IKEA sa community noon, kasi ako ‘yong taga-relay sa community,” she shares. “Noong nalaman nila na global ‘yong IKEA at saka maganda ang reputasyon, overwhelming po. Makikita mo sa mga mata ng mga artisans ‘yong teary eyes. Mangiyak-ngiyak. Lalo na noong ang IKEA staff nagpunta sa community…ilang beses din silang nagpunta sa community.

Parang ‘Ah, ito pala ‘yon.’ Parang ‘yong saya hindi mo maipaliwanag, kasi ‘yong iba talaga lumuluha sa saya. Hindi naman naming akalain na aabot kami sa ganito.

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Five years down the road

Cynthia always had lofty dreams, even when Rags2Riches was just starting out. “Actually, noong mag-start ang R2R, noong tanungin ako kung anong gusto kong mangyari, ang sabi ko ‘globalization.’ Ito ‘yong lagi kong sagot, ‘globalization.’ Tapos ngayon unting-unting nagkakatotoo.

Nakikinita-kinita ko na five years from now, marami na kaming matutulungan na artisans from [the] community.”

For Georg, he sees IKEA’s partnership with R2R going the distance. “I also wish that we inspire other companies to hop on this train of partnering with local NGOs and helping communities to get out of…poverty, because there are many, many opportunities. This is just a drop in the ocean, I would say.

“There are so many talented people… and I think it’s good to give them a stage and finally pull them out of the corners and put some light on them.”

IKEA Philippines’ e-commerce store is set to open in the 3rd quarter of 2021, while the physical store is set to open in the 4th.

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