In this fast-moving digital age, consumers around the world still desire the timeless aesthetic of handcrafted pieces. Recognizing this demand, Woven, a social enterprise that empowers artisan communities to build a livelihood from weaving and embroidery, curates a wide array of high-quality handicrafts made by Filipino craftswomen.
Inspired by the beautiful weaving tradition of Samar, the founders of Woven are driven to bring the exceptional craftsmanship of Filipinos to the rest of the world. Woven Co-Founder and CEO, Trish Lim, shares the company’s journey in helping Filipina artisans thrive.
Weaving the story of Woven
Woven was launched in 2017. The idea took shape when Lim and her husband were conducting a development study for a foundation after typhoon Haiyan struck Leyte and Samar in 2013. The couple realized the hardships of the marginalized communities in these provinces and decided to help them rise from the tragedy by starting an enterprise.
In the course of the interviews, they discovered the banig or mat weavers of Samar, and the idea of partnering with the community’s weavers was born. Lim started sending design suggestions to her husband who was helping the communities form associations so they could earn more from their craft.
Initially, the enterprise was named “Basey” after the town but later changed to “Woven” in order to connect with different weaving groups in the country. “We design our products together with the artisans. Our idea was to link them to a greater market, and provide more opportunities for their livelihood,” said Lim.
Some handmade products from Woven
Woven’s products are carefully handcrafted by women weavers of Samar aged 50 to 55 years old. As the majority of the weavers are female, Lim shared that Woven aims to uplift the lives of female weavers and artisans. Through empathy, compassion, and persistence, Lim guides the weavers and encourages them to be open to growth so they can thrive in this industry or in any industry of their choice.
As the couple worked with the weavers, Lim discovered that they have discouraged their children to continue the craft due to its low income with the average artisan only earning as much as P600-650 per month (US$ 11-12). In order to help them, Lim decided to expand Woven’s reach and include other communities outside Samar.
“We learned that a lot of artisans were in the same situation so we connected with them and included their products as well. Now, not only does Woven have banig products from Samar but we also offer handwoven textiles from Benguet, placemats from Basilan, and blankets by hablon weavers from Iloilo”, shared Lim.
Keeping the Tradition Alive
As an advocate, Lim knows the importance of raising awareness of the centuries-old tradition of weaving among the youth. So, they launched “Kabataan Krafts” in 2019 that focused on fostering creativity, collaboration, and leadership among the children of the artisans.
To promote and raise awareness of the weaving industry to youth in other areas, they also launched “Woven on the Move” bringing the weavers from their home province to Manila to conduct a series of workshops for senior high school students in various schools.
Woven From the Home to the World
During the lockdown, Woven was impacted by the sharp decline in tourism and mobility restrictions which affected the procurement of supplies. Bulk orders from companies, a major source of their income, were also significantly reduced. To keep the enterprise going, Lim continued selling their products online through their website and social media accounts. They also expanded Woven’s market base and tapped other countries to promote their products.
Woven’s products also evolved to keep up with the trends of modern fashion, especially among the youth. New products were introduced such as laptop sleeves, bags, and work-from-home essentials to cater to a younger age group and support their modern, mobile lifestyle.
With FedEx as her logistics provider, Lim was also able to easily reach markets in South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, and Europe. In 2021, Lim ran a global marketing campaign where they collaborated with different artists to come up with their own woven creations. Through FedEx, her team was able to efficiently send Banig weaving kits to her customers in New York and Canada.
“We realized that going global entails strong logistics support to ensure that our products will be shipped on time and in good condition. And being able to tell our clients that we can ship products through FedEx is liberating. We’ve had a good experience with FedEx so far as we’ve gotten a lot of support from the team and experienced a boost in our sales,” continued Lim.
Weaving Woven’s Purpose
Woven continues to launch various initiatives aimed at fostering creativity, collaboration, and leadership among the next generation of Banig weavers and embroiderers in the community. New products have been created and introduced to reach diverse segments of the market. Through their products, Woven hopes to increase awareness and appreciation of the centuries-old tradition of weaving in the Philippines and encourage them to become advocates of these artisan communities.
By continuously tapping the international market for these products, Woven empowers Filipina artisans and handicraft communities to continue their colorful weaving tradition while ensuring sustainable livelihood.