Fashion with a purpose: How BAYO thrived amid a global crisis

·4 min read

DESPITE the challenges that have affected its business and the rest of the fashion retail industry, Filipino brand BAYO remains committed to its purpose of using its platform to help others and make a positive impact on society.

“One of the most important lessons our company learned from this crisis is that adversity should not stop us from helping,” Anna Lagon, chief executive officer of BAYO, said.

“Being focused on helping others not only motivated our whole team to continue being productive, but it opened up strategic partnerships that helped sustain our operations, give livelihoods to more people, and even inspired product innovations.”

Since the start of the pandemic, BAYO has strengthened its linkages with the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI), Office of the Vice President (OVP), and the local government units (LGUs) of Pasig, Baguio, and Kapangan, Benguet.

Being one of the few Filipino fashion retail brands with a manufacturing facility in the country, it has expanded from making ready-to-wear clothes to producing personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital frontliners and medically-reviewed masks for consumers, government offices, and companies, which allowed for BAYO to keep its production workers and employ additional skilled sewers.

From reviving local textiles to saving frontliners

Even before the pandemic, BAYO had already been working with PTRI to elevate and expand the use of homegrown textiles to support the broader garments industry value chain, make sourcing more accessible to other local brands, and provide the means to make a living to more Filipinos—from the farmers who propagate and rear the plants that become raw materials to the weavers and sewers who make the clothes, to retailers on both online and offline channels.

In February 2020, due to growing Covid-19 concerns, BAYO reached out to PTRI about manufacturing fabric masks that could withstand liquid droplets and cover the nostrils and mouth effectively. The company started making masks the month before in response to the Taal Volcano eruption, produced 10,000 sets, and distributed them to areas affected by ashfall through the OVP.

“The reason we wanted to explore manufacturing masks made of fabrics was primarily due to our advocacy of sustainability, which we have been actively promoting for the past several years. We were concerned about the use of disposable masks due to their negative impact on the environment,” Lagon said.

As BAYO started refining its masks to be more effective against the virus, it again got a call from the OVP asking if it could manufacture PPEs. “We were hesitant at first due to our lack of knowledge in making medical PPEs and the logistics of mobilizing people during the early stages of the lockdown. However, seeing reports of hospital frontliners dying due to the country’s inadequate PPE supply moved us to take on the challenge,” Lagon said.

“Opening our facility for the OVP was easy, but convincing our people to report for work during the outbreak was a tough call to make. But to our surprise, everyone responded to our call. The common reason? This is our way of helping frontliners fight Covid-19. Everyone was excited to work, reporting early and doing their work efficiently even with minimal supervision and the mobility constraints due to safety protocols.”

To ensure the health and safety of its employees, BAYO provided shuttle services between their homes and its production facility and commissioned an in-house catering service to provide lunch and snacks. The OVP arranged transportation assistance for employees who lived far and for its PPEs to be evaluated and cleared by medical experts.

BAYO’s initial foray into making masks for the PTRI and PPEs for the OVP opened the doors to orders from private companies, LGUs, and other government agencies. This enabled the company to involve other communities to help in the orders thus providing these people livelihood during the lockdown.

Purpose as a pillar of business

Even before the pandemic, BAYO had woven its purpose into its business model.

“The 5Ps guide our business: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership. Planet focuses on protecting our natural resources and climate for future generations. People is about ending poverty and hunger in all forms and ensuring dignity and equality, taking care of our people has always been our priority. Prosperity pertains to ensuring a shared economic growth for all our stakeholders. Peace means fostering peaceful, just, and inclusive societies while Partnership covers embarking on local and global partnerships to implement and accelerate our goals.”

Lagon hopes to motivate other Filipino enterprises to continue pursuing their purpose and find their own way of helping others while encouraging the government and ordinary consumers to recognize the essential role of local businesses in economic recovery, resilience, and sustainability. (PR)

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