Accessory designers unite to fight COVID-induced slump

Filipino designers have united to survive the slump in the country's fashion industry caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Bags, shoes, jewelry and other accessories, around 45 Filipino designers have joined forces to create the Fashion Accessory Makers of the Philippines, or FAMph, among which is designer and social entrepreneur Gina Nebrida-Ty, who creates necklace designs under her brand Agsam Fashion Fern.

With the prices ranging from 30 to 150 U.S. dollars, the necklaces are sold at a local store chain. Her business, which relies heavily on the domestic market, saw a halt in purchase orders and consumer buying due to lockdowns being enforced in the country since March to control the spread of the coronavirus.

She's worried that if the situation does not improve, she won't be able to provide salaries to her 15-20 workers, some of whom are indigenous people.

"Most, if not all, were affected by the pandemic. We have lost jobs, we have to lay off workers, we had trade show cancellations, we had cancelled orders. So as a unified voice, we wanted to come together and help each other, how to thrive, and how to start in the new normal. How we can be relevant in this industry because we are considered non-essential," she said.

The group was inspired by the "Fashion for Healing" concept of veteran fashion director Jackie Aquino who promoted a virtual fashion show on various social media platforms that highlighted creations by Filipino fashion designers last May.  

Aquino says his concept was intended to create public awareness and drum support for local talent during these very challenging times.

"There is still that human need, not only to look good, but feel good. I'm sure all the accessory designers are also streamlining their designs that would somehow be sensitive to the times, so that shouldn't stop you from supporting the local communities, or the local artisans. You have to look at it from that point of view alone. And to strengthen the idea that you buy local, and you buy Filipino."

In June, with Aquino's help, FAMph launched "Fashion for Healing 2," showcasing their unique fashion accessory designs. 

(With input from AP)