It’s not everyday that someone gets to pursue their passion into something worthwhile. Though, this was the reality for twenty-year-old Gabby Almazan with Tagpi: a social enterprise he built (on his own!) that aims to promote and celebrate the Philippines’ unique cultural heritage through the incorporation of traditional local art forms into everyday clothing.
It’s undeniable that our country is home to some of the most talented and passionate artisans. However, we’re not able to give them the appreciation they deserve — and this is something Gabby draws inspiration from. In an exclusive interview with Preview, he says: “I wanted to be able to do my part in shifting the mindset of our fellow countrymen into supporting and enriching what is truly ours. By doing so, we’re also able to enrich our identity as a nation.”
Tagpi started from the ground up.
After being able to personally hear stories from local indigenous weavers himself, the then-nineteen-year-old Gabby was struck with a newfound drive to share these artisans’ life work, and to preserve their dying art form as well. He shares, “I was so inspired when I realized that for them, weaving is not just what they do, but also who they are.”
Starting with a low capital, Gabby began his clothing business by buying on-hand textiles from the aforementioned weavers, and meticulously stitching these onto his original clothing designs—coining the brand name Tagpi, which means “to patch fabric together.”
Tagpi has since then received an overwhelming demand for its pieces and is now able to cater to customized textile requests and even offers traditional hand embroidery! Although, the process of getting these pieces embroidered actually takes a lot of work. Since the brand collaborates with weavers from all over the country, Gabby shares that what they do is to have the base pieces made in Manila, and has these shipped to the respective communities, alongside his original sketches for reference.
The brand prioritizes quality over quantity.
Gabby works very closely with two skillful tailors to ensure the quality of his products. Another reason why he is able to be very hands-on is because the brand does not produce a lot of stocks per design, prioritizing its quality over quantity. “All our pieces come in limited quantities, and I make it a point not to repeat designs because I want to ensure that each piece is made uniquely special for each client.”
It's not all glitz and glamor.
Despite having a relatively small workforce in the Metro, Tagpi makes up for this with their abundance of community partners, which the brand has been continuously working with over 10 indigenous weavers in the past year. Namely, these are the Itneg artisans from Abra, the women of Panay Bukidnon in Ilo-ilo, Maranao weavers who weave Langkit from Marawi, the Yakan tribe from Zamboanga, and Inabel weavers from Santiago, Ilocos. Working with over 10 indigenous communities, however, does not come easy.
Each handcrafted piece tells a story.
“I believe that my products aren’t just clothes, but stories of people. I really wanted to be able to share their stories one way through my social enterprise. And so, the people behind each and every piece truly makes my brand unique because every time we create something, it is really a work of our love and passion.”
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