As the fashion industry seeks to move towards a more sustainable and ethical means of production, so are eco-friendly brands slowly but surely growing in number to help establish a new norm of responsibly made products. Take Maniwala, a US-based brand that's proudly Filipino. Founded by four people, namely Christopher Gannon, his Filipino wife Theodora Gannon, and Christopher’s siblings, Daniel Gannon and Tara Gannon, Maniwala sells travel-friendly accessories such as wallets and bags, rendered in minimalist designs to appeal to just about anyone looking for eco-friendly basics that can weather any storm.
“Maniwala in Filipino means 'to believe'. The brand was built around the idea of creating everyday essentials that we personally wanted—and making them as responsibly as possible in terms of the sustainable materials and quality. The idea we try to follow is that owning durably made products that are made from sustainable materials will help keep our ecological footprints in check,” the brand tells Preview. “We feel like there are other people who want the same, so that's the overall optimistic concept. Thus the name, MANIWALA. We believe things will get better for our planet and our futures.”
While based in the US, the essence of being Filipino in Maniwala doesn’t just stop with its name. They also predominantly make use of Piñatex for their products, a relatively new sustainable fabric made from pineapples that are 100% sourced from the Philippines. Other natural materials the brand uses include hemp, organic cotton, and brass.
Below, Preview talks more to Maniwala about the brand’s advocacies, creative process, and their eventual entry into the Filipino market.
Can you tell us about Maniwala? What's the concept behind the brand's name?
"Maniwala in Filipino means 'to believe'. The brand was built around the idea of creating everyday essentials that we personally wanted—and making them as responsibly as possible in terms of the sustainable materials and quality. The idea we try to follow is that owning durably made products that are made from sustainable materials will help keep our ecological footprints in check.
"We're really into living light. Less unneeded stuff to complicate your life, less junk to eventually wind up in landfills.
"We feel like there are other people who want the same, so that's the overall optimistic concept. Thus the name, MANIWALA. We believe things will get better for our planet and our futures."
What's the history behind the brand?
"At this time, family get-togethers most often ended up as brainstorming sessions. We had talked about wanting to build a business that benefits the environment rather than harmful. One day, Tara, who had worked in the fashion industry for years, had researched different sustainable fabrics. She found Piñatex, a revolutionary textile made from pineapple leaf fibers. This was incredibly exciting for us as a team, since these fibers are sourced in the Philippines, supporting the country's farmlands and the local community. We had also expanded our products with hemp textiles to add to the mix."
Is there a signature design or key element evident in your designs?
"We really love that all our bags and wallets are made from natural materials. But we also made sure that these products can withstand years of use and can be repaired. Simple design and extreme durability at the least environmental cost. I guess that's what it really comes down to for us."
Can you talk us through the creative process of designing and manufacturing your products?
"We get our ideas and design these products from our own lifestyles and experiences. As a team, we create individual sketches and try to incorporate important details into one. There are a lot of editing at this point until we decide on what is most important for functionality. Once we receive our textiles, our manufacturer in Los Angeles create prototypes for us, and again, we test and refine until things work just the way we want them. We have wallets and bags that we tested hard for years until we were satisfied they were durable enough to sell. We're not in a rush to make a quick dime selling junk.
Does your brand have an advocacy? If so, can you tell us about it?
"Generally speaking, we're advocates for owning fewer things and owning things of higher quality that will last longer (or can be repaired).
"Buying cheap things may seem like a good answer when money's tight, but if you have to buy that cheap toaster 10 times because it keeps breaking, you'll wish you had just bought one good quality item. Buy once, cry once."
Could you describe the lifestyle that fits your designs?
"We pretty much designed our products for ourselves, and that tends to be the people we see buying our products the most (people like us). They tend to be mostly young relatively affluent self-made business owners who travel often.
"Because we wanted to be a sustainable brand, we wanted our products to be comfortable for everyday use but also strong enough to be used in travel, and pretty much where the wind takes you. Our customers have taken the Banwa Pinatex backpack as far as exploring jungles and hiking worldwide, but also a favorite as an everyday bag."
What can we expect from your brand in the future?
"We're in the process of entering into the Philippines agro-tourism sector as well as founding a Philippines environmental NGO. It will all be interrelated, but we can't talk much more about those two projects just yet."
Do you sell/ship to the Philippines?
"We currently don't have international shipping for retail at the moment but we're looking into adding international shipping to the PH in the near future. Having our products in the Philippines would be amazing so we would definitely be open for wholesale."