Here’s a story about a kailiyan from Sablan who is making money by selling used clothes (a.k.a. wagwag a.k.a ukay ukay) on e-bay. Maybe I should open an account with e-bay and start selling things through the internets, eh? Hmm, since I now have a paypal account, I just might do that. Pero ano kaya, mabenta? The world famous Sagada marijuana? Or sayote kaya?
‘Ukay’ fashion goes e-Bay
By Vincent Cabreza/Inquirer
BAGUIO CITY—“Where in this country can you sell a whole wardrobe reconstituted from ukay-ukay (secondhand bargain clothes) fabrics for under $400 (P16,000)?”
Check out the online trading over at eBay. For the last six years, a stylist from Sablan town in Benguet has used the Internet to market Baguio’s underground wagwag (a local term for ukay-ukay) and the Benguet weaving fabrics popularized in the 1970s and 1980s by businesswoman Narda Capuyan.
Hilson Busoy, 36, says women and gay men from the United States have found a taste for the Baguio-bred fashion, and have tried to outbid one another for such simple things as blouses put together from discarded Versace fabrics and lined with woven ikat.
Busoy grew up in a town that has yet to find its identity. Sablan is only an hour’s drive from the summer capital, but unlike other Baguio neighbors like the vegetable-trading town of La Trinidad or the mining town of Itogon, the community’s primary trade is banana.
“I am a businessman. I know what sells,” Busoy says. This real-world acumen is what drew him to eBay.
He says the fashion industry that tried to grow in Baguio had been too fragile.
There are no indigenous resources for fabrics, and there are few markets willing to experiment with local designs, he says.
Fashion designers could only put together P3,000 gowns using imported materials. Today, even the dressmaker has to retool her business because of the wagwag. People can buy much more wagwag for P3,000 than purchasing a gown, he says.
Busoy tried to build a fashion line in Canada in 2003 but found that business environment there was much crueler.
It was a Canadian-based cousin who suggested selling his designs online because of the abundant responses to the sale of used celebrity garments there, he says.
His cousin set up a small firm called Modesta Styles to house his products.
The very first product out of the Modesta line to draw interest from the web was a pair of jeans, which Busoy stitched together using Ibaloi woven materials.
He spent about P75 on the product, but it was sold when bids reached $150.
Many of the garments today have been produced in Sablan when Busoy returned to the country in 2007, and are sent by parcel mail to the winning bidder in the US.
“It’s the American gay men who loved the designs. The indigenous materials gave the clothes (the kind of) exotic (element) which they loved. I once sold an ordinary t-shirt padded with banig (sleeping mats) and then I had to explain that it was an ordinary fabric from the Philippines. It was quickly snapped up,” he says.
I realize that my clothes are selling well because they are one-of-a-kind and they are unusual for the Americans, so I don’t really produce that many. [I can put together] maybe three kinds of clothes a month and I can be comfortable with the profits,” he says.
Online anonymity also protects him from top companies that may complain about the use of their fabrics.
“In the Philippines, many designers already found a use for wagwag. They [stitch together] things from different brands and produce something new and original. I don’t know what the copyright laws there would say about what we do, but eBay sells mostly trinkets that are hybrids also of many products,” Busoy says.
Like many overseas Filipino workers, the recent decline in the American dollar’s market value has affected his trade.
Lately, I have increased the price so I can compensate for the exchange rate. I only get a third of the profits anyway. eBay and my cousin take a share from the auction,” he says.