IKEA taps PH social enterprise for sewing services partnership

Published February 16, 2021, 3:34 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

IKEA, the world’s leading home furnishing retailer, and Philippines’ famous social enterprise Rags2Riches (R2R), expressed confidence their sewing services partnership will go a long way in creating positive impact to local artisans/sewers and alleviate poverty in poor  communities.

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, president and founding partner of the fashion and design house R2R, and Georg Platzer, store manager and market development manager of IKEA Philippines, both conveyed the same confidence for the partnership during an online briefing.

As a sewing services provider for IKEA, R2R artisans will be responsible for adjusting services such as adjusting the size of fabric-based materials such as curtains and personalizing fabric goods. The award-winning social enterprise was hand-picked by to be the official sewing and customizations services partner for IKEA’s Pasay City store, which is expected to open in the second semester this year.

Fernandez-Ruiz said the partnership will not only mean providing professional and excellent sewing services to IKEA but also a “roadmap for us to get more artisans in the future.”

At present, R2R has 20 artisans/sewers who have been on-boarded by IKEA for training on various sewing techniques using different fabrics.

She said the partnership is just the start of more sewing services that will support more artisans to create many things. Fernandez-Ruiz said the expansion of its capabilities are all under consideration as it hopes to be known as “one of the best sewing services providers in the world.”

Working with a global brand, Fernandez-Ruiz has given R2R artisans “lots of pride” and are grateful for trusting them.

Platzer, for his part, expressed certainty that the partnership is sustainable and could impact many Filipinos as millions have already seen the products of IKEA and works of R2R. The partnership, he said, should inspire other companies to partner with local non-governmental organizations and help communities get out of poverty stressing there are still lots of poor communities in the country and they are just a drop in the ocean.

“We should have a long-term impact on everything in the country,” said Platzer, who also revealed that other Ikea stores in other developing countries also partner with an NGO for their local sewing services.

As a sewing services provider, Fernandez-Ruiz said they will assign 5-3 artisans at the IKEA store although some of the work can be done offsite or at their workshop.

She added that their artisans have received trainings during the pandemic while observing health and safety protocols. R2R artisans learned new sewing skills and weaving techniques using different fabrics. Already, R2R artisans have created various products such as curtains of many kinds, pillow covers, robes, aprons, planters, and other home accessories.

Under the arrangement, customers can buy fabric from Ikea, which sells mostly cotton and linen fabrics, and may chose to have it sewn by R2R based on their specifications.

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/Rags2RichesInc/

Fernandez-Ruiz said they will have accessible rates in keeping with the mission of IKEA as an affordable home furnishing provider.

R2R started 13 years ago tapping sewers of rags in Metro Manila initially from Payatas and expanded to Caloocan and Tondo. Artisans are regular employees of R2R.

Since the announcement of the partnership last year, R2R has been busy preparing to service IKEA’s Pasay City store, setting up a separate for-profit company to take on the partnership. This became the vehicle for the IKEA grant for the purchase of machines and the training of R2R artisans so that they become even more skilled and self-sufficient.

Amid the pandemic, IKEA announced the hiring of 496 workers for its first store in the Philippines in Pasay City, which is touted to be the largest IKEA store globally. There are also many open posts for part-timers.

The company said it is looking to fill a wide range of vacancies—including sales associates, recovery associates, food assistants, customer service associates and more.

The IKEA Pasay City store will also run a Call Centre operation and a supersized warehouse to support ecommerce fulfillment. The online store will open before the physical store in the third quarter of 2021.

The newcomers will join a team of 73 people already working for IKEA in its Makati office as well as a project office at the Pasay construction site.

As part of its recruitment drive, IKEA will be bringing home 20 OFWs from IKEA stores abroad — primarily from the Middle East.