Munimuni Studio creates handcrafted shoes and accessories, empowering local artisan communities in the Phillippines. Their shoes are made from hand-woven abaca rope (also known as Manila Hemp), a sustainable fibre native to the country where the brand and founder Lara Rapanan is based. We chatted to her about the inspiration behind her label and her thoughts on entrepreneurship and ethics.
Hi Lara! We’d love to know what inspired the name of Munimuni Studio and why it’s significant for you.
In Tagalog Munimuni means ‘to reflect,’ or ‘to be in a state of deep thought’. So it really captures our brand’s ethos and belief in thoughtful, ethical production.
Tell us how you source the materials for your shoes and the communities you’re working with.
The Abaca plant is grown and harvested in rural areas of the Philippines by local farmers. Next, the fibres are welded into rope and woven into beautiful designs by our local artisans. The whole process, from sourcing down to the finished product, is slow, thoughtful and done by hand. It is, therefore, our ode to a dying craft that has been passed on for generations of Filipinos.
What inspires the names of different shoes?
The names are mostly inspired by old and traditional Filipino names that are not as widely used nowadays (ie Cecil from Cecilia).
On both your social media and website, we’ve noticed that you don’t mention sustainable business practices immediately. Do you think consumers are attracted to design first over eco messaging?
Yes. At Munimuni Studio we don’t believe in using ethical and sustainability messaging as a brand’s selling point. We want to be part of a future where all brands and consumers adopt ethical and sustainable practices. So in this scenario, the value we put in design and aesthetic becomes our selling point.
Designs from Munimuni Studio have also become trendy in the fast-fashion industry as well. How do you differentiate your brand from the many other, less conscious businesses?
Yes, this is a very sad truth. Opposite to fast fashion, we are not in the business of selling trends in high volumes. We design and produce slowly, more thoughtfully. But there’s one thing we’re certain about when it comes to trends — they fade. When the dust settles, we’ll still be here collaborating with our artisans and producing unique, beautiful and thoughtful products.
As an entrepreneur, what drives you to do what you do?
I was working in fast fashion before I started Munimuni Studio. It honestly took seeing what I’ve seen within the industry to make me realise what kind of world I wanted to be part of. What drives me now is hope that we can still change. Hope that we can end unethical practices in the fashion industry, like child labour and underpaying workers.
What’s your take on sustainability in fashion? What’s the perception of sustainable fashion in the Philippines right now?
We hope and believe that sustainability in fashion will be mandatory and no longer be an option in the near future. The burden of climate change and its effects shouldn’t only fall on the consumer end. Everyone plays a big role, but businesses should take responsibility in this revolution given the resources they have and the impact that they can affect on a grand a scale. Businesses like ZERRIN are a great example for leading the way to responsible consumerism.
In the Philippines, this mindset has picked up especially within the last couple of years. I’m happy to be in an environment where small businesses and like-minded consumers collaborate and are part of this revolution.
What challenges have you faced when developing your brand?
In this field of work, the most challenging aspect is actually the most rewarding—it’s the collaborative effort with local artisans to create meaningful designs that showcase Filipino talent and craftsmanship. It can be challenging because of factors such as proximity, access to communication, differences in opinion, and variances in perception of design and quality, but all these make the work meaningful and worthwhile.
What do you do in your daily life to live more consciously?
Personally, I’ve stopped supporting companies that do not promote sustainability and ethical production. I am more conscious about my consumption so I only buy what I need and only from businesses with responsible practices.
Susannah believes better design can help create a brighter future. A former magazine editor, she now runs ZERRIN and works at the intersection of consumers, brands and sustainability advocacy.