Balang Araw with Christian Cera, R2R's Lead Designer
Christian Cera, our Lead Designer in Rags2Riches (R2R), talks about his R2R story, the bag designs of the Balang Araw Collection, and what he looks forward to in the future.
How did you get started in R2R?
I co-owned a small manufacturing company that served as a subcontractor of R2R. When I resigned in 2013, R2R (being an account I handled) offered me a trial job as a design consultant. I worked on product development and eventually building a core workforce, taking with me many years of experience in the field. I continued on a full-time basis after 3 months and the following year, I designed my first summer collection for the brand called Newel, combining T'nalak with the signature woven cloth.
What excites you the most as a designer?
I'd like to believe that I've always had a desire to volunteer for social causes. So in the case of R2R, it allows me to do it as a job on a regular basis because of its advocacy to provide livelihood to artisans from the urban poor communities. As a designer, it helped me establish an identity for the brand given the framework within which I have to work. At the same time, it expands my creativity and imagination because I need to constantly take that framework forward to innovate.
Design and product development has been my lifelong passion. To see a design leap from paper to product is the most exciting part. When a new one is finished, showing it to the whole team (whom I love working with) is always a joy because of the collective excitement! After so many years of designing, I can honestly say that being able to say a design I created is good is not gloating but rather, really seeing it with objective eyes.
What is the most inspiring thing about coming up with the Balang Araw collection?
During this difficult and uncertain period, what we had always known to work were thrown out the window. So I would say that the driving force behind designing bags for the Balang Araw collection comes from the gratitude of our company surviving amidst the pandemic, working to keep it that way.
On a design level, it is thinking out of the box and perceiving and analyzing how people think and behave, what their needs are at this time. The advocates' lifestyles are sources of inspiration.
What is the most challenging?
The fact that bags are not really an essential purchase when the economy is down and people are more conscious of spending is sobering. It is harder to predict now if a certain product will sell or not and you're not quite sure if it is the design or people's spending restraint that's at play.
In terms of product development, it's the inability to physically be in the workshop to work with the sample-maker and be able to check and identify problem areas as they come up. The back-and-forth can become frustrating. I have been so used to seeing the process offline so the excitement of it unfolding before my very eyes is practically eliminated now.
But after eight months, we have really become better at the new system.
What is your “Balang Araw”––that day when times are better? How will you spend it and who will you spend it with?
My balang araw is being able to go back to work physically at the R2R HQ. I could use some dressing up in the morning, the usual office dynamics, eating out for lunch. I don't miss the public commute, haha, and all the time lost during. Our family gatherings, being with friends, going to church worship, and not feeling paranoid for everyone's health and safety just to do these is something I long to come back to. And traveling, definitely!
All these, without losing everything I've learned and realized along the way and hoping that we all come out of this better, more compassionate people.