If there are stories that inspire women, it is also about women who are fearlessly venturing and exploring their potentials. TFJ’s #PinayNarratives is a new category focused on local narratives about thriving individuals in their own field. For our first featured story, we are glad to work with Kylie Misa & Yvette Gaston, founders of WVN Home Textiles. This is how one road trip led to a social enterprise that would conserve the weaving tradition of women in La Union, Cavite and Albay — WVN’s humble journey and the joy of weaving livelihood for local communities.
Introducing WVN Home Textiles
WVN Home Textiles is a women-owned enterprise that works with women in weaving communities around the Philippines to co-create home and beach accessories using handloom weaving methods.
Our mission is to contribute to human economic development through the sustainability of the craft of handloom weaving.
We believe that culture is so essential to our identity as Filipinos. The tradition of weaving is languishing in many weaving communities around the country, especially the weaving community we work with in La Union. Being an intergenerational craft, it is dependent on those that will inherit it. Many of the young would rather not take on the craft because of different factors: other opportunities (such as working abroad), physical rigour involved, or the notion that they will be trapped in poverty if they continue to be like their parents. Most of the time, economic circumstances drive weavers to abandon weaving both as a tradition and even as a livelihood. Older weavers cannot pass down the craft because very few in the younger generation want to inherit it. Hence, the tradition and craft may fade away in that community in 10 years.
What inspired you to venture on a social enterprise?
WVN Home started as a passion project. In 2016, we both had full time jobs, but felt that we wanted to do something meaningful and impactful. We were inspired by Turkish towels, which moved us to explore our local weaves and weaving traditions.
Our love story with local weaving started with a road trip. After consulting the Philippine Textile Research Institute, the textile research and development arm of the Department of Science and Technology, we decided to hit the road and see where it would take us. It led us to Bangar, La Union. When we met with the community, we were moved by the weavers’ hard work and the beauty of their products. What drove us to start WVN was when the weavers talked to us about their concerns that the tradition was dying in their community, because the younger generation is no longer interested in inheriting the tradition.
Since then, we have been going to Bangar and other artisan communities, exploring ways we can supporting their craft and make these issues known.
Can you share your struggles and fulfillments that pushed you to really pursue WVN Home Textiles?
Our main challenge is that weaving is dwindling in many weaving communities around the country. Being an intergenerational craft, it is dependent on those that will inherit it. Many of the young would rather working abroad or in big cities, and would rather not take on the craft because of its rigour — each community has different reasons. But the bottom line continues to be that there are less weavers as time goes by. That is why our mission is to continue this beautiful craft.
The work we are doing is very rewarding because we get to travel around the Philippines and discover these amazing artisans. It is a joy to be first hand witnesses to local craftsmanship and to meet the hands behind the work.
We are able to make other people more aware of the beauty of Philippine artisanship. A customer’s support is like a shared celebration of Filipino craftsmanship, and with the growing demand, it is very fulfilling to see more people become exposed and happy with the products.
How many communities are you working with right now and how were you able to identify them?
We currently work with weaving communities in La Union, Albay and Cavite.
We usually come across these communities while traveling – we would go to the local market and ask them where the crafts are from, or go to the municipal halls to ask. Or, we find them through recommendations from others.
Tell us your most inspiring experience at the community. Any weaver’s story you want share?
We are most active in two weaving communities: La Union and Cavite, but these communities have never met due to distance. However, one of our weavers in La Union, who has family in Cavite, found a way to meet one of our weavers in Cavite. Out of the blue, the two sent a selfie together, and told us that they were learning from each other. This was such a great story for us because it showed the impact of WVN to the weavers, to celebrate weaving and to come together in the same spirit.
What are your goals for 2020?
We want to be able to expand to an international market through partnerships and marketing opportunities. We want to continue upcycling scrap thread. We want to work with abaca more.
Three takeaways you want to leave for individuals who want to venture on a social enterprise.
1 — Simply working with communities is not the end of being a social enterprise. When working with communities, make sure to build a solid relationship as co-creators. Do not merely treat communities as part of a supply chain.
2 — Create good products that address a market need. To be sustainable, you cannot rely on goodwill only.
3 — It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifices – be sure you’re ready for both.
Moved by this story of Kylie and Yvette? Support our new movement and help us discover more empowering #PinayNarratives — new category featuring Filipinas in business, conservation, education and culture. Let us know about Filipinas that inspire you!