The tale of Tela Tales

SMHCC vice president of Sustainability and Quality Leah Magallanes, executive vice president Peggy Angeles and designer Zarah Juan. | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF SMHCC

Zarah Juan’s journey to sustainability is one for the books. 

The famed accessory designer started her career as a flight attendant in 2005 for Northwest Airlines. It was during her layovers in Japan when she discovered the concept of using canvas bags as a substitute for plastic bags, a practice not yet known to Filipinos. 

“I embraced this idea and turned it into a personal advocacy, eventually growing it into a successful manufacturing company,” she said.

When at home, she would source katsa (cheesecloth) to make her own ecobags. Soon, the demand for these sustainable bags grew. 

“I became, through the help of Elizabeth Sy, a top supplier for Kultura and the department store from 2007 to 2018,” Juan said. 

The advocacy did not stop there for Juan who received a scholarship from the Swedish Institute Management program, focusing on sustainability. 

“This experience solicited my why and gave me the strength to wind down my business, my big business, in order to pursue the very reason why I started in the first place.

“Now, with the Zarah Juan brand, our pillar stands for LIFE. L means livelihood, I for innovations, F for financial sustainability and E environmental consciousness,” she said. 

SM Hotels and Conventions Corporation, in partnership with Zarah Juan, celebrates World Recycling Day with the launch of the recycling campaign Tela Tales that advocates environmental stewardship to create a circular economy for condemned linens.

Inspired by its precept, “Transforming lives, one textile at a time,” this transformative initiative endeavors to uplift the lives of communities near SM hotel properties by equipping them with a new skill to improve their socioeconomic conditions. In collaboration with Juan, used textiles will be transformed into fashionable and sustainable bags, which will be sold at a competitive price, to help women have a source of livelihood. 

The launch of Tela Tales is complemented by Sustainable Diner, another significant milestone in SMHCC’s Sustainability journey. 

Currently, the SMHCC portfolio is comprised of 10 hotel properties with a combined inventory of more than 2,600 rooms and over 42,000 sqm. of leasable convention space. The list of properties under SMHCC includes Taal Vista Hotel, Pico Sands Hotel, Conrad Manila, Lanson Place Mall of Asia, Radisson Blu Cebu, Park Inn by Radisson Clark, Park Inn by Radisson Davao, Park Inn by Radisson Iloilo, Park Inn by Radisson North EDSA, Park Inn by Radisson Bacolod and the SMX Convention Centers and trade halls.

“I am grateful to be given the opportunity to work with SM again, empowering communities and caring for the environment through Tela Tales. We are closing the gap of circularity by providing livelihood and ensuring a wonderful place for future generations to live in.

“This experience has transformed my job into life calling. It has brought me immense joy to pursue design and creativity to connect and collaborate with Filipino artisan communities and most importantly to empower others. It is a blissful career that allows me to make a positive impact while indulging in my passion for design,” Juan said.