Reese Fernandez

2010 Young Laureate, Environment
The Philippines, Born 1985

reese.fernandez@gmail.com

Project Goal

Help impoverished women earn a decent wage by upcycling waste, turning it into high-value "eco-ethical, elegant" products

Location: The Philippines

"I don't want to just create livelihoods and income. I want to create sustainable, eco-ethical products. It can be a win-win situation for everybody."

Upcycling Meets Fashion Design: A Powerful Union

At Manila’s Payatas waste dump, which is home to 12,000 families, women developed a means to earn a living by recycling scrap material to make rugs. When middlemen got involved, they took the bulk of the profits, leaving the women earnings of US$0.02 per rug. In 2007, Reese Fernandez cofounded Rags2Riches, a social enterprise company that revolutionized the women’s business practices by arranging for them to sell their products direct to retailers. Fernandez and her team of young professionals sought advice from designers, who demonstrated how the rugs could be transformed into fashion handbags, eyeglass cases and wine bottle holders, all for sale in top-end shops. About 300 women now work for Rags2Riches.

They receive about 40 per cent of the retail price for each item, and 54 of the women founded a cooperative which owns a share of the company. Rags2Riches also provides them with training in personal finance, health insurance and nutrition. Fernandez wants to scale up the project by establishing the Rags2Riches Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (RISE) Center where business professionals and technical experts will create new products to promote Rags2Riches’ “4P” goals: empowering People; protecting the Planet by “upcycling” waste to turn it into high-value products; making sustainable Profits that benefit the community and the company; and being a Positive influence on society.

800

tonnes of scrap cloth upcycled from Rags2Riches in two years

300

women involved in Rags2Riches in metro Manila

50

the number of institutional partners to Rags2Riches

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