How the Upscale Artefino Fair Adapted to the Tempestuous Mood of Pandemic Shopping

Artefino launches a shopping portal with life-in-quarantine goods at lower price points.
IMAGE courtesy of Artefino

Artefino carved out a niche in Manila’s tempestuous retail scene by positioning itself as the launchpad for proudly Filipino goods and their gifted makers, the artisans, in 2017. The itty bitty gold jewelry, the giant rattan baskets, and the woven coats of many fibers and colors, some made by community weavers, attracted well-heeled shoppers, who dragged their husbands to The Fifth at Rockwell, each season.


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Of course, this picture of shopping bliss has changed dramatically as the global pandemic forced the shuttering of physical stores, including artisanal fairs. In a virtual event to discuss how Artefino is responding to an upside-down world (spoiler: it now has an online shopping portal), Cedie Lopez Vargas, one of its five founders, along with Marimel Francisco, Maritess Pineda, Mita Rufino, and Susie Quiros, paints the situation perfectly, saying how the group is “stepping into a landscape that has yet to be sketched and fleshed out.”

From this muck of uncertainty, Vargas observes new modes that have taken hold. First—and most important—everything is digital. Second, the home has become a sanctuary with “life taking on a slower, gentler, and kinder pace” and everyone engaged in domestic adventures or DIY crafts. Finally, you are more woke, preferring and choosing the green and the local.

Taking these into account, Artefino retools its original mission as a movement that promotes the Filipino lifestyle to a platform that bridges all of these things: the digital, the home, the green, the local. The well-loved fair still celebrates the creativity of Filipinos, “with products instilled with the stories of makers,” as Vargas shares, but it now moves with the times. It needs to.


Artefino launches a dedicated website for safe and year-round shopping.

To start, Artefino is online at The zippy website, in the trendy colors of buff and blush, is expressly built for browsing, clicking, adding to cart, and, after much consideration about the state of your credit card, buying.

While you can’t anymore experience the strange comfort of petting a banig bag (try it!) or inspect with your discerning eye what will look best in your quarantine apartment, moving online offers many upsides: You can shop from the safety of your bed while dressed in your pajamas. More exciting, you can also buy these local goods anytime and all year round—not just when the fair is traditionally held at the tail-end of August.

Its selection of products focuses on Filipino pieces suited for pandemic living. 

The curation of Artefino is why you are here, and it remains strong, employing a tighter edit to reflect the digital platform and the current times. Francisco says, “Curation is now more practical with purposeful pieces,” and that means there is more focus on goods that will help you survive quarantine life. Earlier, when the team met with local brands to survey the products developed exclusively for the website, they found “a more pared-down aesthetic, more usable and streamlined designs.” 

Artefino reports there are 24 brands available online and more will be added as the site grows. Right now, expect wife-approved favorites like the hand-painted Tiffany tapis, featuring hand embroidery from Kalinga and weaving from Sagada, or a woven fabric sweeper (a slide) by Risque Designs that will uplift your home (or WFH) wear.

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There is an extensive selection of home products, too, as befits your current situation of improving your interior spaces. A t’nalak cushion cover in blue ikat pattern (handwoven by Tboli weavers) draws the eye, while the Tatsulok Bookends featuring rattan solihiya will be a curious but functional addition to a surface setup. 

Elsewhere are pandemic gear infused with Asian energy, such as a water-repellant, kimono-style PPE in onion blue or the face masks of inabel weaves from Ilocos and Zamboanga. If style is a requirement for your protective wear (and why shouldn’t it be?), park your eyes here.

Artefino can ship to Filipino shoppers around the world. 

With its shopping website up and running, Artefino opens itself up to the global market. Filipinos living abroad, craving for a piece of home, don’t have to settle for patis from the Filipino store or a bucket of chicken from a certain bee, as all the products on the site can be delivered to their doorstep via DHL and purchases can be securely settled with PayPal. More important, Artefino’s current selections come with lower price points, with many (not all) products priced at P5,000 and below. 

And since online shopping can be tricky, the website is manned by an online concierge (via a chatbox), too, from whom you can ask about a product’s provenance and specifications.

Artefino has successfully shifted from physical fair to digital website, showing how only the quick-footed and adaptable can surmount the exquisite challenges the pandemic has gifted to the world. On the virtual call, Francisco describes the Artefino team as full of passion and the months leading to the launch as intense.



The Barracks At ArteFino Is Where To Stock Up On Gentlemanly Gear

Hilarious Snippets From the Upscale Bazaar of Beautiful 'Tita' Things, By the Truly Rich Lady

The five founders have not seen each other since March, choosing to do all coordination online, including virtual shoots, which were guided by Zoom. That just makes the feat of reimagining a platform where Filipino craftsmanship can flourish all the more impressive.

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Clifford Olanday
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