From beautiful handwoven silk scarves to colourful beach bags made from rice sacks, Philippine retailer Frankie & Friends is bringing local handmade gifts and homewares to Sydney with the opening of its first international store this month. According to Frankie & Friends founder Jammy San Juan-Magsino, the business chose Australia as its first international location because of its passion for slow fashion, sustainable goods and small businesses. “My sister and I have been going a
oing around the local cafés and shops around Sydney for the past few years and have seen Australians appreciate and empower a more intentional, conscious and laid back lifestyle by supporting micro and small entrepreneurs,” San Juan-Magsino said. “I [have seen] a lot of homegrown brands that are backed up by advocacy for the planet, animals and people.” In the future, Frankie & Friends plans to collaborate with locals in Sydney and showcase their craftsmanship and love for small-batch creations and sustainability. Frankie & Friends, which also has an online marketplace, is a platform for small businesses’ products that fall into three categories: sustainable, slow and ethical fashion, and small-batch handmade creations. The retailer’s three existing stores in Manila carry a wide range of products from children’s clothing and toys to personal care and novelty items crafted by hundreds of makers located in the Philippines, from Cebu City, Manila to Cavite Province and Baguio City. According to San Juan-Magsino, each of the items have a story behind them, like the collection of bags and accessories made from upcycled coffee sacks made by workers in Evrile, Cavite Province. With every bag sold from that collection, a coffee tree is planted to help revive the Philippine coffee industry and give work to people in the area. The batch of handmade silk scarves from the Cordillera Mountains showcase beautiful local towns in the country, promoting those locations as well as offering a livelihood to the makers of the scarves. Several handwoven dresses in the store’s collection were created by semi-retired women in the Negros Occidental province. Totes, purses and beach bags made of recycled rice and feed sacks, which are plastic laminated and printed in bright colours, are created by members of a Cebu City Foundation called Rise Above Foundation that supports women and children. The handmade crochet animals and toys displayed at the store were made by women and single mothers in Rubies, Baguio City who only previously relied on irregular jobs in the Benguet Province. “The company’s mission is to reinvent retail through conscious consumption by cultivating a purpose-driven community of artisans, makers, social entrepreneurs, and connect more people to their stories and creations,” San Juan-Magsino said. San Juan-Magsino said apart from sustainable clothing and accessories, the business also offers a range of zero-waste and reusable products like steel straws, bamboo utensils, reusable cups, shampoo bars, food packaging, and even towels made from plastic bottles. “On top of the more obvious sustainable products, we also advocate for longevity and a longer life cycle of a product,” she said. “We have upcycled products in the store, from upcycled coffee sack bags, kimono flour sacks, used bottles chandelier and even preserved natural material boxes.” Covid-19 and the rise of new small businesses From March 2019 to March 2020, Frankie and Friends remitted a net amount of Php 20.2 million to their partner small businesses. The company said it also saw strong sales during the Christmas season in 2020 which doubled from the average sales in previous months. “[Customers] shopped in our stores because of the community of small businesses they knew they were supporting,” San Juan-Magsino said, adding that since the pandemic hit, there has been a rise in small businesses born from passion projects due to people finding new ways to make ends meet. “We saw that old and new customers chose to shop small and local products as gifts, as their way of giving back to their friends, neighbors, and businesses owned by regular people like themselves.” According to San Juan-Magsino, it is imperative that customers support local businesses, especially eco-friendly ones. Last year, Frankie & Friends launched a year-long campaign called Small Town Folk to shine a light on supporting small local enterprises. “I think the backbone of any economy is really driven by micro and small businesses that employ and work alongside their local communities,” she said.