Changing the world in style: Hiraya The Label champions sustainability
Hiraya The Label 's store
In an age where technology has made it possible to expose the inner workings of big industries and corporations, many have come to realize that not all businesses are made equal. In fact, brands that they had once blindly supported have actually built their success on unethical business practices that exploit workers for their labor and the environment for its sources, all in the name of profit. Businesses, including big household names, have all suffered to some degree from this revelation, with some even shutting down as a result of customers choosing greener and kinder options. Consumers today continue to demand for more accountability and transparency from brands before offering their support and money. Business ethics and sustainability have now become the premium for businesses to continue thriving today.
“Consumers today continue to demand for more accountability and transparency from brands...”
Accountability, transparency, sustainability, and ethics — Hiraya The Label offers all these and so much more. Founded by a group of forward-thinking fashionista friends from Davao, Hiraya The Label markets itself as "slow fashion" where sustainability doesn't stop at just the source of its fabrics, but also extends to the mindful creation of pieces with styles that last longer than seasonal fads. With a heart for fellow Filipinos and the environment, the group is committed to their advocacy. Not only do they source their cotton and linen locally to help Filipino workers and reduce their carbon footprint, but the group also manufactures all products themselves, in hopes that their involvement in both conceptualization and production will help them better understand their business and improve processes to become even more sustainable in the coming years. In addition, the group also shares tips on how to upcycle and restyle old clothing on their YouTube channel to help fellow fashionistas stay in style whether or not they buy from their brand.
Founders of Hiraya The Label:
(From left to right) Jad Solito, Sheila Pedregosa, Samantha Daquipil,
Kathreen Cascabel, Danielle Zambrano, James Sarayan, and Destha Ignacio.
Source: Kathreen Cascabel
Advocacy in action
A quick look on Hiraya The Label's website shows modernized classics in a gorgeous variety of colors and earthy tones that complement the morena skin of most Filipinos. Standouts from their collections are the tops and dresses that are reversible and even customizable, allowing customers to enjoy multiple styles with just one purchase. Each product page also comes with detailed wash and care instructions to help preserve the quality of each piece of clothing.
LIGAYA TOP (Multi-way) in periwinkle and blush. Source: Kathreen Cascabel
The hard honest work put into each garment is evident — from tastefully crafted designs to the enchanting Tagalog names given to each product. In a world where fast fashion and big brands have captured most of the market, Hiraya The Label bravely paves its own path and fights for a cause they believe in. Truly a brand of this generation, it welcomes challenges with a desire for ethical change. And even though the fashion industry is known for its unforgiving and fast-changing nature, we're pretty confident that Hiraya The Label is here to stay.
“Truly a brand of this generation, it welcomes challenges with a desire for ethical change.”
Straight from the source
We're in awe of Hiraya The Label, not only for its advocacy but its unfailing eye for chic wearable style. That's why we booked an interview with one of its co-founders, Kathreen Cascabel, to hear more about the brand including where and how they began, the challenges they faced, and their current situation as they continue their journey into the world of fashion and ecommerce.
We are Hiraya, a group of seven young designers, namely Kathreen Cascabel, Samantha Daquipil, Destha Ignacio, Sheila Pedregosa, James Sarayan, Jad Solito, and Danielle Zambrano, all based in Davao City. We all met at fashion school where I was their teacher.
Before coming together for Hiraya, most of us had already graduated and had [our own] personal clientele from working in events and the custom garments industry. Even so, we've always had this idea to work together because we loved our work dynamics. We were finally able to do it last year during the pandemic since we had more time when a lot of events got canceled and the graduation of two of our co-owners was postponed and moved to this year.
“...we've always had this idea to work together because we loved our work dynamics."
Founding Hiraya was actually a good chance for all of us to grow as designers since building a slow fashion RTW (ready-to-wear) brand is quite different from the custom-made business model that we're used to. We've been selling our products online since November 2020.
Filipino women modeling Hiraya The Label's ready-to-wear pieces.
Source: Kathreen Cascabel
We were mainly motivated by the desire to boost the competence of Davao's local garment industry. There weren't a lot of brands in Davao that made clothes locally back when we started, so we wanted to be one of the front-runners for that. We also wanted to integrate slow fashion more into the local market. We use Hiraya as a platform to bring light to the harsh realities of the fast fashion industry and share how we can counter that with better industry practices.
“We use Hiraya as a platform to bring light to the harsh realities of the fast fashion industry and share how we can counter that with better industry practices.”
We needed to decide on how we wanted to present our brand to the market, what aesthetics we'd like to offer to consumers since each one of us has a different design aesthetic, and what values we wanted to uphold for the brand as a whole.
DIWA TOP (Reversible and Multi-Way) in beige, coral, and slate. Source: Kathreen Cascabel
When we first started, everything from work to school was halted. Because of that, we didn't really have a lot on our plate so we had a lot of time to build the brand. As we all know, starting is the most difficult and time-consuming part of a business because you have to build from scratch. But we were fine since we weren't as busy then. Right now, as we begin entertaining other jobs and ventures aside from the [Hiraya] business, we are able to manage the brand by delegating and realigning our tasks per team so we can be more efficient. Since we were able to create a foundation and the standard operating procedures for the business early on, we've adapted to the workflow and have gotten used to it already. So now we have time to focus on the finer details of the brand and its operations.
One of the major decisions we did for the brand was to make the clothes in- house. We manufacture it by ourselves. Since all of us co-owners are fashion designers, we knew we could use our skillset to produce the pieces on our own.
Pieces from Hiraya The Label are made in-house. Source: Kathreen Cascabel
We dream of growing into a brand that provides livelihood to local garment workers and improves their quality of life. We believe that business isn't only about gaining profit but also about being able to provide jobs and a good life for other people. Doing all the operations on our own right now will help us understand the whole process and develop empathy for our future production partners.
“We dream of growing into a brand that provides livelihood to local garment workers and improves their quality of life."
We started selling through Instagram. Most of our initial sales were from friends. Right now we are happy to see that there are more people whom we don't personally know purchasing our products.
Even before we launched, I was already in search of a good web-hosting platform for starting a business like ours. I tried a lot of different platforms but none really made it since our budget was quite limited and the free plans offered by most sites have very limited features. So for months we settled on social media [platforms] for taking orders.
As a result, we were only able to offer limited hours for ordering. Customers could only order during office hours or when our representative was online. Since most customer inquiries come quite late at night, we felt bad that we weren't able to respond to them right away.
We wanted a platform where customers could order 24/7 so they wouldn't lose interest, and with an order-tracking feature so customers could get real-time updates. It should allow us to have a website with an online catalog that lets customers check all our products and available variations. It should also be able to address our difficulties when it came to inventory tracking and sales monitoring. Basically, we were looking for a platform where we could manage the business without manually checking and editing each piece of data in order to save time so we could focus on the more important aspects of the business.
“... we were looking for a platform where we could manage the business without manually checking and editing each piece of data in order to save time so we could focus on the more important aspects of the business."
It was just recently that I discovered Cafe24 during a Google search and thought I'd like to try it. Aside from the fact that Cafe24 offers a free web hosting service, I really appreciated that it's partnered with local services
I was satisfied seeing the catalog come to life. Creating a one-stop shop for customers to see all our products and their full details was so fulfilling. Some customers can be shy or apprehensive to ask about product details so having the catalog on our online store is a big help in providing sufficient information before they decide on buying an item. It has made transactions less of a hassle for both our customers and customer relation representatives.
I was also surprised that Cafe24 is fairly easy to use. I was initially intimidated by the interface but when I was already customizing my website and adding products, I eventually got the hang of it. I like that it's customizable. I also appreciate that it has a product variations feature and inventory management capability that are often unavailable on free plans on other ecommerce platforms.
“... it has a product variations feature and inventory management capability that are often unavailable on free plans on other ecommerce platforms.”
And the COD (Cash on delivery) option is a great bonus as many customers prefer it.
We are now able to provide all the necessary product information to guide customers during the buying process. We have also been able to streamline our business operations through better inventory tracking and sales monitoring.
Hiraya The Label packages ready to be shipped Source: Kathreen Cascabel
Once I saw that Cafe24 was assisted by Filipinos, I knew that they would understand the business models of local online shops and provide a better and more appropriate service for us. I knew that they would be able to relate to our business struggles and address the problems appropriately.
“Once I saw that Cafe24 was assisted by Filipinos, I knew that they would understand the business models of local online shops and provide a better and more appropriate service for us.”
I would recommend them to try Cafe24 mainly because it's a free web hosting service and it's partnered with Ninja Van for cash-on-delivery options. I believe it would help a lot of startups in streamlining their business and gaining market trust. For new online store owners, I recommend trying out all the features on Cafe24 and playing around with the customization features. It's really great to have the freedom to dictate how you want your website to look.