Operation Sagip

Community Sewers: Partners in Uniqlo Upcycling Project

Miko Aliño
February 24, 2016

Nanay Salve Estrella (right) with her fellow sewer Nanay Rebecca Paunalan (left), proudly showing the bags they made out of scrap fabrics.

Salve Estrella, resident of Southville 7, was standing behind a crowd of people at Uniqlo’s Rockwell branch, watching Uniqlo and ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya executives present their new upcycling project. Nanay Salve, together with her fellow Southville 7 resident Rebecca Paunalan to witness the launching of Uniqlo’s upcycled bags made from denim scraps.

Shy at first, they were later called to the stage to proudly showcase the upcycled bags made from Southville 7 in Calauan.

Nanay Salve used to work in a sewing factory when she and her family was still living in Pasig. Nanay Salve and her neighbors, however, were displaced by Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, leaving them with no choice but to resettle somewhere else. They ended up relocating to Southville 7, a government resettlement project about 2.5 hours from Metro Manila.

With likes of Nanay Salve in mind, ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya worked with Uniqlo to develop products that can made out of discarded fabric from the latter’s alteration services. The idea was then presented to Nanay Salve and 17 other sewers.

Katsumi Kubota, Uniqlo chief operating officer, explained the concept behind the upcycling project.

”In the beginning, we simply donated used clothes for the community but now, we are offering an opportunity for them to work, make a living, so that they can have their own dignity,” Kubota said. ”We also donated sewing machines and we offered sewing trainings, together with our Takumi (artisan) who designs so that they can make nice bags.”

Uniqlo has made an initial order of 1,000 bags, buying them for 250 pesos each. The initial batch will be used in Uniqlo’s corporate events.

According to Nanay Salve, the Uniqlo upcycling project helped augment their household income. “Nung dumating yung Uniqlo, nakabili kami ng sarili naming pedicab at yun na lang yung ginagawang kabuhayan ng asawa ko,” Nanay Salve said. “Yun na ang permanente nyang trabaho, nagpapasada na sya araw-araw.”