UPTOWN DOWNTOWN - Joanne Zapanta-Andrada (The Philippine Star) - May 14, 2016 - 10:00am

In 2015, R2R (Rags2Riches) lead designer Cree Cera went on a business trip to the US. His travels gave him an opportunity to visit friends and family living in the area. Little did Cera know that his interaction with his countrymen (specifically the experiences recounted to him by four Filipinas living in America) would bring about inspiration for his next collection: Valore, which means  “to value” in Italian. If anything else, the stories of these women impressed on Cera the selflessness many Filipinos exhibit in order to ensure the well-being of all whom they value.

“There is something common in all of humanity. We all find ourselves taking or choosing a path in life. There are places to explore and dreams to fulfill. And as we go through this endless road, we collect tales to tell along the way that get woven into the fibers of our being. There are ties that bind us forever, regardless of time and distance. And all this, I felt, was what these four women chose to take. Not for themselves alone but largely, more importantly, for their families. Such is the story of thousands of other Filipinos who leave the comfort and familiarity of homeland to secure a better future for their children. The sacrifice of hard work and consuming homesickness are a small price to pay so that their loved ones will hopefully not have to live a hard life and build their own happy homes,” Cera shares.

After his US trip, Cera knew he was never quite the same and he had this deep desire to express that sentiment into something more tangible. “How do you turn something that’s visceral to something that’s visual? First, I had to think of the most basic core value of this experience — relationship. Second, I had to equate it with something that’s related to me the most — friendship. Next, I had to represent that with something that can be physically grasped — friendship band! That was the basic concept around which the collection started to take shape. I got excited about using waxed cord and knotting it to resemble a friendship band because of what it represented and it was something artisanal that was never done before. I imagined it to be incorporated as bag straps and zipper pullers. I also thought of using soft and supple Italian leather in large part and not merely as trims like we’ve always done before,” says Cera.

The four women who inspired the collection have all adapted, in large part, to the American way of life and thinking. That is represented by the use of foreign leather. And yet, at the core, they are still very much Filipino by being warm, accommodating, resilient and happy.

Cera picked woven fabrics from the Mangyan tribe and Benguet province. Apart from premium Italian leather, he also chose to incorporate jersey fabric for the woven panel in order to make the bag less dirt and pilling prone.

“This collection is, by far, the most personal I’ve designed to date. It was also rather difficult because I’m emotionally attached to it so I felt a strong sense to make it the best and protect it. I almost didn’t want to compromise on changing some of the details. But like any baby, I needed to let it go into the world where other people can influence it for the better,” he concludes.

(To know more about the R2R’s Valore collection, visit



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