Fashion

Why This Filipino Leather Goods Company Employs People With Disabilities

Enoch Leatherware empowers PWDs by equipping them with skill and opportunity.
IMAGE Enoch Leatherware
ILLUSTRATOR Warren Espejo
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It was the innocent activity of shopping that resulted in this local leather goods business that now trains, employs, and empowers people with disabilities (PWDs). In January 2019, Pia Saminiano visited Marikina to have her favorite leather shoes and bags cleaned. That visit to The Shoe Capital of the Philippines soon turned into weekly shopping trips, which then flowered into a full-blown love for all things leather. And that lead to something even bigger.

How a Leather Hobby Turned Into a Leather Business

Saminiano, who was then working at a financial services company, found herself visiting Marikina after her Friday night shift and then spending the whole day scouring leather stores for materials. “When I would be too tired and sleepy during these trips, I would stop by a gasoline station and take a nap so I can drive the two to three hours of heavy traffic to get home to Cavite from Marikina,” she says. Pretty soon, her living room was gorged with supplies and tools for leather works.

Her husband encouraged her newfound hobby, converting their garage into a shared workshop for her leather crafts and his woodworks. Saminano also reports how her husband registered the business with the DTI in February “as a birthday gift and a good laugh.” 

That little gesture turned useful months later when the world was thrown into the whirlpool of a global pandemic. In October, Saminiano, who had been retrenched from her job, decided to turn her passion into a business, Enoch Leatherware, and also teach the company’s first PWD trainee.

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Why Enoch Accepts People With Disabilities

A fortuitous encounter led Saminiano to empower PWDs. In the building of her home workshop, the carpenter brought his assistant, Allan, who had polio. “My husband observed how Allan diligently worked on his tasks all day and how good he was, so we agreed to train him so he can help me with my crafting,” she shares. “Within a short period of time, Allan was able to independently assemble his own projects. We were inspired!” 

Photo by Enoch Leatherware.

That seed of inspiration grew into a mission as the pair began offering free leathercraft training to groups with disabilities in February. The training module started with sharing the word of God (her husband was an aspiring missionary) before leaping into the world of leather and putting together, say, a passport holder.

“I remember one mother who was so supportive of her deaf and mute daughter that she did not leave our shop without buying basic materials from us,” says Saminiano, who notes that the tools and leather can be procured so that students can start their own businesses. That was really the intent: to provide the skill that will lead to self-employment or a job in a company or even a place in the Enoch team. 

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What Enoch Makes Now

Enoch now employs three PWDs including Allan, its first trainee, a second employee who joined last October, and a third who accepted Saminiano’s invitation to come on board after the team’s most recent workshop. They join the husband-and-wife tandem, making the company a tidy five-man operation. 

Photo by Enoch Leatherware.

All three employees have polio, but Saminiano attests to their full ability to reshape leather into array of fantastic goods. The company can make anything you can think of, from a tri-fold wallet to a satchel, a dog collar to a bow tie. As it accepts custom orders, it also specializes in very specific leather holders such sheaths for a knife, a pair of scissors, an old-school razor, or even an alcohol spray for the pandemic. 

“What sets our products apart from regular handcrafted leather goods is the rigorous training we give our staff to ensure that the highest quality standards are met,” she says.

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And what may catch your eye, especially in the season of gifts, are the novel cases for Apple AirPods, a special collaboration with Filipino fashion brand Una Ricci. These are shaped like miniature satchels or backpacks and equipped with a key ring so you can hang them stylishly from a belt loop or secure inside a regular-sized bag. 

How You Can Help Alleviate Unemployment for PWDs

Saminiano makes clear that Enoch is not a charity, but instead highlights what you may otherwise dismiss, the competence of PWDs. “We want to showcase our staff's exceptional abilities to produce quality and competitive products,” she shares. “With every Enoch Leatherware you purchase, you help us empower our partner community to be valued members of society.”

Photo by Enoch Leatherware.

The businesswoman also doesn’t want to be pushy about her company’s advocacy, preferring to talk about Enoch’s unique setup and its amazing workers only after a client is impressed with the products. When she does bring up Allan and the rest of the team, she notes how people are always in awe of what they have achieved. 

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And like overflowing light, the praise rebounds to the workers, who consider any and all appreciation as hope. For people with disabilities, it should never be about what they lack, but what they can do. 

Enoch is available at Tryst, Power Plant Mall, Makati. facebook.com/enochleatherware

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Clifford Olanday
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