Gugu Lifestyle Brand

Gugu Lifestyle Brand: Keeping the Philippines' weaving culture alive through contemporary fashion

Naga City, PhilippinesDaraga, Philippines
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Gugu is a lifestyle brand which seeks to preserve and enhance the weaving culture of the Philippines' Bicol Region. By transforming traditionally handwoven textiles into contemporary bags, our social enterprise empowers women weavers by re-introducing their dying craft into the mainstream market.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if what you wear everyday could help sustain an entire artisanal industry and uplift underprivileged weaving communities?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The local weaving industry in the Bicol Region is dying. Of the 400 households that used to depend on weaving as a primary source of income, only 70-150 mother-weavers remain (62.5% drop). The reason behind the high drop rate can be attributed to the extremely low earnings of the weaver-artisans, and the relatively weak market for items made of handwoven textiles.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our social enterprise ensures fair trade by dealing directly to the weavers instead of middlemen. We engage the community by letting them dictate the fair pricing of their textiles. And by transforming locally handwoven textiles into contemporary fashion items, our brand penetrates an entirely new market for the community's handwoven textiles, which are often used for cheap souvenir items.


Naga City Mayoral Award; BPI Sinag Challenge - Finalist; SMART Pay-IT-Fwd Awardee
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Nanay Myrna is a weaver of jute cloth, a type of textile made no where else in the world. By trading her textile directly with Gugu, all of the earnings coming from the sale goes to her and her family. And because of Gugu's advocacy of fair trade, Nanay Myrna's earnings increased by as much as 300%. Gugu, in turn, transforms the textiles into bags with contemporary designs, such as backpacks. This allows Gugu to operate in an entirely different market and open more opportunities for Nanay Myrna and the weaving community that she belongs to.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We currently have five people from the community who now earn as much as three times more than they used to. But a 300% increase (P35-P105 or 0.77-2.30 USD) is still not good enough for access to basic protections like healthcare and college education for the weavers' children/dependents. By scaling up our operations and extending our product reach overseas, we project that the earnings of our partner-weavers would be as much as P300/day or 6.67 USD. Scaling would also allow us to reach to more weavers in the community, or even inspire others within the community to weave once again.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In Bicol alone, there are 2 weaving communities that we aim to partner with. These communities are composed of close to 450 weaving households. Furthermore, this idea could be replicated to other weaving communities in the Philippines (over 3,000 households). By partnering with designers and social influencers, we intend to amplify our impact through a unique product line and a network of supporters behind us.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Gugu, as a lifestyle fashion brand, has a market-driven financial sustainability model. We believe that through our unique, well-designed, and contemporary products, our organization's mission would be sustained.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The government, through its trade and industry department, had numerous attempt at keeping the weaving culture alive by setting up periodic trade fairs and entrepreneurial skills development programs. Private businesses have also patronized the fabric by making it into various souvenir items. But only Gugu uses the handwoven jute textile into contemporary designs like backpacks. Thus, it opens a new (and more sustainable) market that the weavers could channel their products into.

Founding Story

Our organization started as a school project back in 2010. We wanted to create a product that is distinctively Filipino, eco-ethical, and designed for contemporary use. But as we went through the supply chain, we saw the exploitation of the women-weavers by middlemen in Bicol, Philippines. By blocking the weavers' direct access to the fair market, the middlemen were able to limit the earnings of the weavers to around P35/day (0.77 USD). Our mission evolved from just creating a great Filipino product to helping end the social injustice that is slowly causing the death of the weaving culture of Bicol, Philippines.


At the helm of the organization is the head of corporate strategy and operations (CEO). The CEO is tasked to make executive decisions, representations, and forge partnerships that would grow the enterprise. The daily operations of the organization are sub-divided into five (5) departments: 1) Marketing & Sales, 2) Production, 3) Product, 4) Internal Relations, and 5) Community Development, each manned by their respective department heads and a department specialist. The team believes that this organizational setup is future-proof and would carry out the operations in an effective and efficient way, even as the organization grows.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Consumer, Designer, Factory Owner.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Factory Workers, Retailers - Specialty Store, Women.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Disaster and Humanitarian Relief, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Other, [please specify].

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Yes, we are often invited to numerous speaking engagements targeted at various sectors regarding the advocacy of our enterprise.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

We collaborate in order to achieve better product design, extended product reach, and holistic community development efforts.