Saskatoon

Saskatoon shop supports Filipino workers affected by typhoon

A boutique in Saskatoon is supporting female workers in the Philippines by sourcing eco-friendly accessories from them — made in a cave, no less.

Viahera's handbags, scarves are eco-friendly

Jeanny Buan launched her line of ethical, eco-friendly bags and scarves after tragedy hit in the Philippines and in Bangladesh. (CBC)

A boutique in Saskatoon is supporting female workers in the Philippines by sourcing eco-friendly accessories from them — made in a cave, no less.

​"I came up with the idea of an eco-friendly brand that empowers women and gives back to the community," said Jeanny Buan, who runs Viahera on 33rd Street West.

It's really about empowering the whole family and helping them get back on their feet.- Jeanny Buan, Viahera

Buan calls the handbags and scarves "slow fashion." They're made from natural and recycled materials, including the dyes.

The grasses used in the bags are harvested, dried, pounded, cut and weaved by hand. (CBC)

The process for the bags is a complicated one. The design begins with Buan in Saskatoon and is approved in the Philippines. Then grasses are harvested, dried, pounded, cut and weaved by hand.

One problem: there was no longer a factory overseas after a typhoon hit.

"That does not mean life has to stop," said Buan.

In fact, the women there moved the factory into a cave, and while Buan had her concerns, she did inspect the cave to make sure conditions were good and that the women received fair wages.

But that's not the end of it for Buan. Proceeds from the sale of the handbags also filter back to the Philippines to help workers' children get a higher education.   

"It's really about empowering the whole family and helping them get back on their feet," she said.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning