Modern reinterpretations of traditional craft at ArteFino

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HERITAGE is such a loaded word these days, and in the face of a rapidly changing world, preserving a legacy seems ever more urgent.

Sure, you can go on an archaeological dig or immerse yourself in indigenous culture, but the ArteFino bazaar, now on its third year, helps a consumer preserve heritage by that most pleasurable of activities: shopping. The fair will run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 at its new venue, the Fifth at Rockwell.

Heritage is this year’s theme, and during a preview last week, we got a sense of what heritage means, planted in Rockwell, in this most urban of settings.

There were shoes from Zapateria, using native materials to show the tarsier, but stylized to show its eyes as modern emojis. Jewelry from Adornata seems classic at first, but then can be taken apart to suit the modern woman. Simbolo, a new collection by jeweler Jul B. Dizon, shows slices of Filipino life expressed through gold and jewels (like a stylized rendering of a Moro couple).

Fans by Monchet Olives were also on display, and Kathy & Kathy Bespoke impressed with tambourine jewelry.

Fun Nest, meanwhile, showed traditional basket weaving techniques reinterpreted to fit into more modern homes. Haspe Design Studio meanwhile, taps the skill of furniture makers who have been at it for generations — while the pieces won’t seem out of place in a Danish catalogue, the craftsmanship is all Filipino.




Other highlights include the participation of the De La Salle College of St. Benilde’s Industrial Design Students, as well as Barracks by ArteFino, a section devoted to men, curated by Monchet Olives.

All in all, about 130 brands will show during the fair.

“It’s all interwoven,” said Mercedes Lopez-Vargas, co-founder of ArteFino during an interview with BusinessWorld, responding to a question about the relationship between artisanship and heritage. “You’re preserving tradition (in performing artisanal crafts), and because of that, you’re preserving the underlying cultural values that are part of these traditions.”

“With the intent of preserving, we’re trying to contemporize,” said Ms. Vargas.

As noted earlier, most of the items on display and which will be on sale are mostly modern reinterpretations of traditional crafts. Maybe you’re looking at traditional materials or techniques, but the look and purpose are wholly modern. Perhaps making something that fits into the modern world is the price to pay for them to even make an appearance: Ms. Vargas said, “I also struggle with that sometimes.”

“To be able to sustain, you have to try to change sometimes. At the same time the sensibilities are still there,” she said.

The choice is defended by her next words: “The struggle is being able to keep the tradition: being able to go back to it when you need it, but at the same time, knowing that maybe, to continue surviving, you have to be able to move forward.”

“If you don’t do it at all, everything would be gone.”

While BusinessWorld tried to box the ArteFino customer as an upmarket, advanced, and established female (much like its founders), Ms. Vargas corrected us: “That would be a bazaar customer.”

“Our demographics are younger. They’re also more informed,” she said, giving an example that a consumer at the fair would be more likely to ask who made the item they’re about to purchase.

“These are the kind of patrons that we’d like to be able to work with. The people that understand what we’re doing: we’re preserving, we’re conserving, we’re upcycling, we’re repurposing.” — Joseph L. Garcia

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