You are on page 1of 11

A multi-awarded artist and social reform advocate

Ms. CORA JACOB IS A MULTI-AWARDED ARTIST-designer. She is internationally acclaimed for her success in exports, and high performance in the area of product development and design. Among her accolades were from the 1st Golden Shell Awards in the Philippines, Ten Most Outstanding Women for Nations Service by the Lions International, The Living Hero Award by the GMA TV Network and the Soroptomist Award. Although a lawyer and a senior executive in a family-owned conglomerate, Ms. Jacob currently chairs the CORA CARES FOUNDATION which gives technical assistance, elaborate trainings for design, marketing and the formation of creative communities to artisans in numerous Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India and the Philippines to name a few. Under the banner of empowering Asian artisans and communities, Ms. Jacob, through the Foundation, is one of the most sought speakers, guest designers and trainers for bags and leather products as well as for the creation of creative communities in most Asian nations. Among her most recent engagements are policy papers presentation on craft and development in international conferences in Thailand, India, Korea, China and Ireland. Prior to her international sojourn Ms. Jacobs has been adviser to several Philippine Presidents on craft and cottage industry development. She is a highly successful business executive prior to her commitments to social activism. Her shift of gear is compelled by the continuing economic downtrend in the Third World and the widening acceptance of peoples participatory paradigm to development. As a trial lawyer in the 1970s, she worked with troublesome outof-school youth. To keep them busy and productive, she hired someone to teach them leather arts and crafts. That's how the business started. With P5,000 initial capital to start a cottage industry at a corner in the family-owned tannery

business, Ms. Jacob employed less than ten young persons to produce leather bags, belts and wallets in 1976.That venture grew into what today is known as the Cora Jacobs Collection (COJAC). It has since then acknowledged as a renowned designer and manufacturer of fashion accessories. Ms. Jacob provided materials and training through her EQUALLY RENOWNED CORA CARES FOUNDATION, Inc. In the beginning, Ms. Jacob used only leather for her products. As the founding President of the Association of Leather Manufacturers in the Philippines, she participated in trade fairs and headed missions abroad with government assistance. Her travels exposed her to the latest trends and styles in fashion. However, her trips also made her realize that Philippine leather could not compete with the world's best coming from France, Germany and Italy. She decided to innovateto offer something new. Combining business with vibrant social advocacy, Ms. Jacob together with her team of designers and other equally committed social activists in the Foundation, continue to travel around the world. To them, it is a continuing journey for design perfection and empowering artisans in poor communities. Community immersion is the key to Ms. Jacob successful experiments in building creative communities. With discerning eyes and creative hands, she and her team deeply immerse in a place of choice, conduct studies on materials availability, skill levels of people and temper product developments with existing norms, resources and available market routes. This strategy has proven her successful in different parts of the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and in some parts of Asia. Among the services offered by the foundation are trainings, marketing and strategies for building successful creative clusters in marginalized communities.

Successful Design Means Innovation

For Ms. Jacob designing should be an act of innovation--of offering something new. Through her long career, she designed distinctive products mixing leather with natural indigenous fibers. She has specialized in high fashion items such as ladies' bags made of leather, silk, buntal fiber, bamboo and other ethnic materials, as well as high fashion belts, necklaces, pendants and fashion accessories made of shell, wood and carabao horn. Her bags come in various shapes and sizes made of buntal, raffia, silk baby mat, leather and "palmera", combining such colors as tan and brown and fuschia and deep green or red and brown. She has a unique way of designing - she dreams of designs and colors. Inspired by nature, Ms. Jacob draws what comes to mind immediately - on napkins, small scraps of paper, even on tabletops.For her materials, ideas come during a walk by the sea or along the market place. She has designed an ipil-ipil line for a show at the Design Center Philippines, for instance. Ipil-ipil is a kind of seeds which grow abundantly in tropical mountains.To Mrs. Jacob, market adaptation is very important - it is an investment. When she wants to sell to a particular market, she studies consumer demands, visits the place, establishes contacts with the assistance of government attaches, and carries her own samples. She has consistently penetrated the international fashion markets with local materials and creative skills. A Cora Jacob product-line can easily be spotted because of its workmanship: the interior is immaculate, the stitching is even, the weaving is fine and intricate. She keeps improving a prototype of an original design until her own high standards are met even if it means repeating a whole line. To her, perfection is not an accident but a product of a tedious process and hard work, motivated by the desire to meet the standards of the most discriminating markets.COJAC's export outlets and markets includes countries, among them Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, England, France, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the Netherlands, United States and Scandinavian Countries.She has designed for big-name outfits like Yves Saint Laurent, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Bonwit Teller, Lord and Taylor, Nazareno Gabrielli, Hanae Mori,

Galleries Lafayette, Coles and Sebbag, Sakowitz, Robinson's, Nina Ricci, Neiman Marcus, Isetann and Mitsikoshi. All of her products carry her own label Cora Jacobs Collection.

What do we do?
The core competence of the Cora Cares Foundation, Inc basically revolves around technology transfer on product design and product development, market channeling (export-import) and institutionalization (formation) of production work-groups creatively called today as creative clusters. Key targets are job generation, sustainable livelihood, revenue generation and the general upliftment of the economic and social well-being of poor communities. We have previous and ongoing projects in Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Bhuttan and in several countries in Asia as well as in numerous far-plunge provinces of the Philippines. In partnership with multilateral NGOs and state government, our technical and comprehensive teams immerse deeply in community for a considerable period of time to perfect the impartation of technology culture.

Creation of Creative Communities in Transition Economies: A Challenge to Policy Makers and Advocates
BY ATTY. CORA C. JACOB

As we herald the era of creativity in the highly competitive world, it is compelling to think of the concerns for people's capacities to generate and maintain their means of living. These capacities are contingent upon the availability and accessibility of options that are ecological, socio-cultural, economic and even political. Yet these resources are dependent on questions on equity, ownership of resources and participatory decision-making. Therefore, notions for sustainable development and sustainable livelihoods must also be incorporated into the policy making process on both national and local governance. Given the immense natural resources the third world has and the high literacy rate equaled with the availability of skilled labour, creative industries can have profound impact in transition economies like that of the Philippines. This is on the sphere of creating jobs, feeding families, generating revenue and uplifting the condition of the poorest of the poor communities. What third world countries like the Philippines urgently need today are two things: First, is the consolidation of the creative and cultural industry sector

through government initiatives, promotion and perhaps legislation. Second, is the formation of community-based and development driven work-groups that shall put into action the technologies available at hand and the readily available material and cultural resources, for production. By using the phrase creative communities, we mean groups of people who have the minimum requirements for training and production and whose communities have the abundant supply of raw materials for product development. Policy creation is within the sphere of the government and lobbyists. NGOs and foundations like us can make development interventions on the micro-level. At such, the organizational mechanism suited for the work-groups is the self-helptype of organization that is entrepreneurial in nature. Capital investments maybe channeled through micro-financing networks whose sponsors (banks, funding agencies & other lending institutions) are abundant. The rate on investment returns on this is relatively high and very encouraging. The integration, interweaving and complementation of these three vital development concepts are necessary for the creation of creative communities, based on local talent and latent resources. Through this, we can create jobs, feed families and improve the general economic and social well-being of thousands if not millions of people through shared ideals and participatory leadership. This is a challenging task indeed. What is encouraging is the fact that self-help organizations have been flourishing in different parts of the world since the turn of the century. So as the micro-finance strategy as exemplified by the Grameen experiment in Bangladesh. The fusion of these successful concepts with the development of creative industries in less privileged communities may even far exceed our expectations in the future.

Re-thinking for the correct frame

BY ATTY. CORA C. JACOB

The

correct

frame

At the outset, I wish to stress that the urgent and practical objectives of the concept of crafts and development must decisively remain focused on the question of making a lasting difference in the lives of the poor by building the capacity of local communities to sustain their livelihood. Through this conceptual framework, policy planners must re-think of wider social impact on the poor communities by way of the development of human resource skills, entrepreneurship, technology adaptation culture and institutionalization of market network for finished products. This shall mean enabling people to earn for better living, either by running small businesses or by seeking well-paid employment. The fundamental obstacle to the growth of the industry, however, (as our experience in the Philippines will show us) is the absence of any meaningful interface between producers and markets. This is seen in both the inability of the majority of craft producers to adapt their work, modes of organization, and production to market demands and opportunities, and the fact that the majority of craft producers struggle to eke out a living far removed--both geographically and conceptually--from real or potential markets. The poor performance of the sector has been compounded by the gradual fragmentation and loss, in the course of the twentieth century, of cultural traditions and practices. Initially, this loss was fuelled by a migrant labor system that encouraged highly skilled male crafters to seek employment in other countries. In the face of this erosion of cultural capital, the creative foundation for producing saleable crafts has been considerably reduced. What is needed is perhaps the attention to be given in fostering cohesion and cooperation among craftspeople through the promotion of industry and networking events. A key initiative in this regard should be aimed at bringing the

craft producers and entrepreneurs together with a view to sharing experience, while at the same time affording the government opportunities to consult with the sector on development strategies. Events like these should showcase the successful development of craft products and projects and to provide marketing and direct-selling opportunities for producers. Although standardization of a highly de-centralized and fragmented industry seems to be impossible, what is needed is the creation of a centralized council in every country or region that shall connect craftspeople with local and international buyers; and the production of an information directory and handbook for craft producers by the Craftpeople with comprehensive information on business development, methods of access to government support agencies, and a detailed database of craft development organizations, service providers, associations, and materials suppliers. The council can be either a government agency or an aggrupation of NGOs and foundation dedicated to the promotion of the industry. Localized Development Strategies

At the local and community level, I am always an advocate of the creation of creative clusters among poor communities. By creative clusters, we mean PRODUCTION WORK GROUPS of women and out of school youth. In the Philippines, we have established breakthrough undertakings but questions of capitalization and market networking remain to be the fundamental obstacles. I myself have proven the viability of these workgroups since I have established these groups in several provinces of the Philippines such as in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Ormoc, in the province of Leyte and in the remote Palawan province. However, technology transfer is easy. Yet capitalization and marketing are a different story. To this, we proposed the adaptation of small enterprises types of organization and networking among successful business cooperatives for product development and marketing. Capital investments in these can be channeled to production in these work groups. It is but natural for small entrepreneurorganizations to have their own capital build-up because the organization is built on this premise. Other source of capitalization is micro-financing. It is encouraging to note that these ventures have high degree of success in different parts of the Asian countries. Returns on investment are high and it is but timely that capital outflow must be channeled to creative work groups for production. Key Trends in Marketing

In the context of this discussion, however, what seems to be a ticklish issue is

the question of marketing of these workgroups. Thus, I wish to devote ample time on the discussion of current market trends of this industry. Paraphrasing one source in Canada, accordingly, one of the trends in the crafts market is the increasing specialization of craftspeople in only one or in a few market segments. This represents a major change, since a large number of artisans have traditionally been generalists. Craftspeople are increasingly focusing on their strengths in creating and producing, while leaving to the retailers the tasks related to sales and promotion. Another trend is the increase in the geographical scale of the craftsperson's activities. Business trends include: the promotion via crafts fairs; inventory management; timely delivery to wholesalers and retailers; the standardization of delivery logistics; terms of payment for retailers; sales conditions; self-promotion of artisans; press relations; merchandizing techniques; export to American and European markets; quality improvement of crafts at the artistic and functional levels; price discrimination by distribution channels; and refinements in the price structure of crafts to interest marketing middlemen. To maximize sells, one has to recognize the five major market segments in the crafts industry: the tourist segment, the gift segment, the boutiques and galleries segment, the catalogue sales segment and the electronic catalogue sales segment. The electronic catalogue sales (E-commerce) is an emerging segment. The gift segment has become an important segment for craftspeople. The segment covers its fixed costs and gifts are considered in themselves efficient promotional tools. It is a varied segment where high-end, average and low-end products are to be found, in almost all mediums. In general, available retail space is growing, but not as fast as the number of artisans is. One of the fastest growing niches in the boutiques and galleries segment is that of museum shops. This niche benefits from growing tourist demand. The catalogue sales segment is experiencing a large growth in developed countries. While this segment is under-developed in the Philippines, it is growing fast in the United States, Canada, France largely due to the aging of the population. Products found in this type of catalogue include items as varied as hand-made imports, giftware and jewelry. Internet marketing is yet to be realized in developing countries like the Philippines. Summing Up

To sum up, while we have concrete proposals for the development of the craft industry at the national and regional levels, we should not wait for their realizations. Much less these proposals are incumbent upon the political will of every nations government. While we work hard, as advocates, for this proposals realization, we must also pay hard attention in gaining concrete results at the micro-level. From an economic point of view, the reasons for the lack of development of the crafts sector are very obvious. As small, even distinct producers, there is no great advantage to be gained by any one producer actively working to develop markets on behalf of the whole group. There are, however, advantages to collectively organize local fairs and shows, partly because the show itself can generate fees and revenues for the organizers and can be seen as a self-standing line of business. Nevertheless, few producers are large enough to recoup the costs of developing an extensive distribution network for products that take their value from their originality and quality. The crafts sector is not alone among sectors of the economy with these general characteristics. For example, the farming community shares the characteristics of a large number of relatively small-scale producers compared to the size of the markets in which they deal. While the problems of small-scale farmers are regularly in the news, the response of farmers to earlier crises was to band together in marketing and purchasing co-ops to gain some of the advantages of scale in the market without losing their control over how they ran their farming business. Thus, we should work, as far as we can, for the establishment of the community production work groups through micro-financing and small entrepreneurship. However, we should remain steadfast in the our advocacies for the unification of this sector at the township, city-wide, province wide and even at the national level for this industry to gain ground and head forward. In this way, we can make a difference even to a certain extent, among the lives of our people in our respective countries.

A workable Conceptual Framework for the Development of Cultural Industries


The urgent and practical objectives of the concept of crafts and development must decisively remain focused on the question of making a lasting difference in the lives of the poor by building the capacity of local communities to sustain their livelihood. Through this conceptual framework, policy planners must re-think of wider social impact on the poor communities by way of the development of human resource skills, entrepreneurship, technology adaptation culture and institutionalization of market network for finished products. This shall mean enabling people to earn for better living, either by running small businesses or by seeking well-paid employment. The fundamental obstacle to the growth of the industry, however, (as our experience in the Philippines will show us) is the absence of any meaningful interface between producers and markets. This is seen in both the inability of the majority of craft producers to adapt their work, modes of organization, and production to market demands and opportunities, and the fact that the majority of craft producers struggle to eke out a living far removed--both geographically and conceptually--from real or potential markets. The poor performance of the sector has been compounded by the gradual fragmentation and loss, in the course of the twentieth century, of cultural traditions and practices. Initially, this loss was fuelled by a migrant labor system that encouraged highly skilled male crafters to seek employment in other countries. In the face of this erosion of cultural capital, the creative foundation for producing saleable crafts has been considerably reduced. What is needed is the fostering cohesion and cooperation among craftspeople through the promotion of industry and networking events. A key initiative in this regard should be aimed at bringing the craft producers and entrepreneurs together with a view to sharing experience, while at the same time affording the government opportunities to consult with the sector on development strategies. Events like these should showcase the successful development of craft products

and projects and to provide marketing and direct-selling opportunities for producers. Although standardization of a highly de-centralized and fragmented industry seems to be impossible, it is pertinent to adopt a centralized council in every country or region that shall connect craftspeople with local and international buyers; and the production of an information directory and handbook for craft producers by the Craft people with comprehensive information on business development, methods of access to government support agencies, and a detailed database of craft development organizations, service providers, associations, and materials suppliers. The council can be either a government agency or a group of NGOs and foundation dedicated to the promotion of the industry. The adaptation of small enterprises types of organization and networking among successful business cooperatives for product development and marketing. Capital investments in these can be channeled to production in these work groups. It is but natural for small entrepreneur- organizations to have their own capital buildup because the organization is built on this premise. Other source of capitalization is micro-financing. It is encouraging to note that these ventures have high degree of success in different parts of the Asian countries. Returns on investment are high and it is but timely that capital outflow must be channeled to creative work groups for production. In capsule, the framework for the development of this industry must be focused on the unification of the sector, capital build-up and institutionalization of local and international marketing channels.