Local Bagmaker Gouache Works with Artisans from Marikina and Rizal
The best ideas come from a goal to fulfill a necessity, to introduce something new and exciting, or to elevate something that already exists and make it better. For Louie Poco and Marita Ann Enriquez, the goal was simple and personal: Poco was searching for a quality, affordable camera bag that would go well with his style. An entrepreneurship student at the time, he figured, why not just design and produce the bag himself?
Goauche Bags started through crowdfunding.
It was definitely less straightforward and would take many more steps than just going to a shop and settling for what they have to offer, but it was a project that had promise and potential.
“We decided to make prototypes,” says Enriquez. “We wanted to make [them] from waxed canvas and leather materials to give the bags a unique look and texture.” They went with two color options, blue and khaki, and approached photographer friends to see if the aesthetics and functionality were up to par. “We got good feedback and started to look for ways to fund our first batch of bags.”
A common friend introduced the couple to Patch Dulay, founder of local crowdfunding website The Spark Project. Poco and Enriquez set up a page on the website, explaining their plans for the camera bag, including images of the prototypes they had created. Within 30 days, they were funded—raising almost P200,000, which was more than double their initial goal of P70,000—allowing them to take what had been a small project and, from it, build a business from scratch. They decided to call it Gouache Bags.
It now makes a variety of waxed canvas creations.
Today, Gouache Bags has grown from a camera bag that comes in two colors to multiple products and accessories in diverse designs: aprons, wallets and pouches, camera straps, backpacks and knapsacks, totes, duffels, passport holders, and countless others, to suit every need, every style, and every lifestyle. They even work on customized items.
Each piece is durable and functional, with a design that’s subtle but full of personality. “We always aim to create beautiful and functional items for everyday use,” Enriquez says.
Particularly popular is the Spark bag, which can be used as a backpack, tote, or sling, along with the City bag (a satchel) and the Harvey bag (a sling). “We designed these so a guy can take them anywhere in the city—office, events, bar—and comfortably wear them day to night.”
Goauche works with local artisans in Marikina and Rizal.
Enriquez and Poco work with a team of a dozen artisans to ensure that the products are well-made, sustainable, and proudly local. “The makers we are working with are talented and good with their craft, most of them coming from bag factories that have shut down,” Enriquez explains. They help the makers set up independent workshops within their homes, teach them project management and communication skills, and provide new designs, equipment, and materials.
The life of a Gouache creation, which is often made in Marikina or Rizal, always begins with the target customers—specifically, the team’s understanding of what they need and want out of the product. “We initiate the process by listing the specifications and functional requirements that we want the new style to have,” Enriquez explains.
They then come up with sketches and examples that will illustrate their vision to the artisans, encouraging collaboration and input from the makers to ensure efficiency and the best possible outcome.
The Gouache look revolves around three materials.
Each Gouache bag is made of genuine cow leather, brass or antique finishes, and the company’s own approach to waxed cotton canvas. “Our aesthetics revolve around these elements,” Enriquez says.
Materials are sourced locally; the canvas and hardware from suppliers in Marikina and Divisoria, and the leather from manufacturers in Bulacan and Marikina. The waxing, meanwhile, is done in-house: “We take the canvas and manually paint it over with our own wax mix to come up with our very own version of waxed canvas.”
Materials are sourced, the canvas is treated, and the makers proceed with the patterns, cutting, and assembly of the test product. “We usually use the prototype for a couple of weeks and give feedback to the maker for [adjustments] based on our own experience,” Enriquez says. “It usually takes two to three iterations before the final sample is approved for production.”
The bags obtain that one-of-a-kind quality because of its waxed fabric.
Once everything is in place, it takes a maker around three to four weeks to produce 100 to 150 units of a certain style, which includes the waxing of the fabric. For quality control, each piece is meticulously checked for weak points, defects in the leather or stitching, and other possible faults. Overall, according to Enriquez, “we are able to put out around 800 units of finished products in a month in various designs.”
Enriquez believes that the waxed fabric is precisely what makes Gouache products special, giving “a more vintage and premium feel” to the bags and making them water-repellant. “The process creates unique lines and creases to the textile that gives the bags character,” she says. The bags, she adds, are photogenic, pairing saturated canvas colors with stark leather accents, which makes them perfect companions of photographers and anyone who understands the duality of fashion and function.
Gouache Bags now distrubutes its products abroad.
In the five years that have passed since they were able to complete funding for their first-ever batch, Gouache has grown from a small team of three to a company of 25 people. Alongside retailing online and pop-ups, they’ve been able to open a store along Katipunan Extension and a kiosk in Ayala Malls The 30th. They are also shipping to distributors around Metro Manila and in Canada, the United States, and Thailand.
As for the future, Enriquez, Poco, and their team continue to experiment with and conceptualize new styles. (They recently created a limited collection of fanny packs, which are continuously proving to be back in style.) They’ve been working on collaborations with different creatives and brands, too, such as the baby-focused label Googoo&gaga and travel magazine Grid.
For them, crowdfunding became an exercise of faith and a testament to, indeed, the value of a great idea. “Crowdfunding allowed us to validate our product [and] business concept,” Enriquez says. “[It] gave us more confidence.” And because of it, they were able to pursue more with waxed canvas at a scale they hadn’t even planned on, and Gouache can only keep growing from here.