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Here Are 8 Inspiring Designers Who Help Empower Women Through The "FilipinaZ" Fair

FilipinaZ celebrates locally-made creations and serves as a venue to empower and support women—an avenue for self-expression, connection, and collaboration. This November 9 to 11, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., FilipinaZ is curating high-end and high-street brands and creations that empower women with their work via a three-day fundraising fair.

FilipinaZ is a project of the Zonta Club, a foundation dedicated to supporting women in terms of projects that champion health and livelihood trainings for disadvantaged women. This year, a thoughtful selection of brands from the art, fashion, and jewelry industries will be showcased at 8 Rockwell in Makati.


Maritess Pineda and Mita Rufino


“This time, we want to pay tribute to the Filipinas of the past and honor the Filipina women today,” FilipinaZ Fair Chairman Maritess Pineda shares with Metro.Style. To showcase an elevated shopping experience for the relaunching of this anticipated event, the foundation has carefully selected and tapped a new roster of designers and brands that embody what FilipinaZ is all about. “We would like to share the expertise of these designers,” says Mita Rufino of Zonta Club of Makati & Environs. “And to encourage the young women, especially the entrepreneurs to open their ideas on women empowerment.”

This fair that celebrates the Filipina creates a chain of women empowerment starting from the designers, to the artisans, to the wearers. 

Get to know some of the participating designers at this year's FilipinaZ fair in this Metro.Style exclusive.



Marica Lim-Llenado





Marica Lim-Llenado founded Label with her cousins Nikki Yuson de Guzman and Tanya Yuson several years ago. The brand brings together different wearable designs with unique characteristics that set themselves apart from the sea of options in the market today. Aside from considering the different types of women in their design process, Label also empowers their all-women staff of sewers, some of whom have already been able to send their children to school with the help of this clothing brand.

Having no design background presents many challenges in their business but Marica, Nikki, and Tanya overcame all of these and are currently living their vision. If they dream of achieving something, Marica advises women to just go for it. “Sometimes, you just to have to take a leap of faith and go,” she points out.



Victoria Yabut




Born from Victoria S. Yabut’s love and appreciation for fashion and design, VSY Design is a fashion brand that is reflective of her aesthetic: classic, contemporary, but with a strong sense of character. Her works reflect timeless qualities more so than conventional fashion. A design-oriented brand, @vsydesign’s mission is to showcase Filipino ingenuity through additional fields of work that spans across Victoria’s passion for culinary arts, interior design, and architecture. VSY also hopes to bring more opportunities for Filipinos, to encourage entrepreneurship, and to build shared value. Shop their collection at the Filipinaz Fair is on November 9-11 at the 21st Floor, 8 Rockwell, Hidalgo Drive, Rockwell Center #IamFilipinaZ #FilipinaZ2018

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Geometric prints and patterns in embroidered velvet. #VSYDesign

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Bright, colorful, and bold—these are words that best describe the collection that VSY Design will be featuring for FilipinaZ 2018. Looking at her work, one can easily see the passion that went behind the scenes from conceptualizing to producing their products. “I believe that if you do something, you have to do it really well," Victoria says.

VSY Design's collection for FilipinaZ incorporates materials of brass, stainless steel, jewel-toned velvet, and  T'nalak, a hand-woven cloth by the T’boli people of Mindanao. Victoria has always had a knack for creativity. She is also a baker as well as a chef. Recently, she started painting. All these somehow influence her designs.

Her creations epitomize who she is as a person. She tells Metro.Style, “The aspect of the bags that I think shows women empowerment is the design. They are statement bags. Practically all of my bags are statement bags. They’re very strong and colorful, they’re very bold... and that’s also me.”



Tessa Nepomuceno





See you ! #BeCalli #iamfilipinaz #filipinaz2018 #fashionaccessories

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She is the creative director of Calli, a brand that produces unique and artisanal bags which are hand-carved to perfection, creating a unique experience to every woman. Each piece possesses its own identity. Initially for export, Tessa later realized it makes a lot of sense to cater to Filipinas. The bags go through a 19-step process that includes cutting, sanding, and painting.

Calli is all about wood, specifically acacia which is a sustainable wood. Some of the bags in the collection for FilipinaZ 2018 were hand-painted, hand-carved, and handmade. For now, the brand only offers bags, but there are certainly plans to expand it.

“The brand embodies elegance, beauty, and sophistication. It doesn’t cater to just young ones, it’s for all women—everything about women,” Tessa says.



Ronna Manansala





Visual artist Ronna Manansala, the granddaughter of Philippine National Artist Vicenta Manansala, displays grace and poise, qualities that her paintings likewise possess. Using oil, acrylic, watercolor, and mixed-media, dancers are a prominent subject of her paintings. “I like the movement. I like the soul, especially ballet,” she says. Ballet is actually something that’s close to Ronna’s heart, having taken classes for it for several years when she was younger.

Ronna lets us in on her FilipinaZ set: “A lot of dancers: ballerinas, tangos, flamencos, but there will also be a few children with cats and dogs because I am also an advocate of saving stray cats and dogs, so it’s my way of showing people that these animals are also God’s creatures and we should take care of them.”

Through her collaboration with FilipinaZ, she hopes to empower women by showing their strength through her creations, saying, “Me, as the creator of the art, I know there’s strength in there... being able to stand up and do what you want.” 



Elena Bautista





Coming from a family whose into the jewelry making business, Elena carved her own niche and founded MiaBella. “Basically, I deal with upscaling jewelry, so I rework old pieces, and come up with new ones that are more relevant, more wearable for women right now,” Elena explains.

Originally from Meycauayan, Bulacan, she works with the plateros that her family has been working with for years. She says, “In a way, it’s like I’m also trying to help them maintain their own livelihood by continuously creating pieces for me and my clients.”

MiaBella also offers a few original pieces, embracing a minimalist but detailed style that’s wearable and practical. For FilipinaZ, Elena designed tambourine-inspired jewelry fusing colored stones and beads to give them a more modern spin. Joining FilipinaZ, Elena says, has given her a venue to showcase the excellent craftsmanship of their plateros.



Malou Romero





Malou Romero, the founder and creative director of fashion accessory brand Joanique, credits her passion for creating in the success of her business. Her background on interior design (her college major), fashion (she used to be a model), and art influence her brand's aesthetic.

Since Joanique's launch in 2011, Malou has been putting forth jewels and handbags that come in quirky and fun designs. Proudly made of locally sourced natural materials, her handcrafted pieces speak of a story that lingers beyond a moment—the inspiration taken from her travels, the artworks she sees, and "just about everything.”

She believes that bravery played a big role in her pursuing this passion. “Never be afraid to do what you really want to do and just be confident of your talent,” she shares, adding that focusing on your individuality as a woman and as a person is a crucial element to achieving your dreams. Currently, she’s busy crafting her newest collection called Pattern Play, which she describes as very geometric, more easy going, and an everyday style that you can wear from day to night.



Governor Sharee Ann Tan





“It’s a lifestyle,” Gov. Sharee says about Samar’s pride, Lara. Aiming to help connect the community of weavers in Basey, Samar in introducing these banig bags to the Manila clientele, this public servant continues to spread the word through the upcoming FilipinaZ fair.

What started out as one of the pursuits of the Spark Samar campaign, to revive their culture and tradition of weaving, eventually gained positive results after their launch early this year. Since then, they've been focusing on improving the designs of their bags. And with the continuous effort and support of the whole organization in partnership with the provincial government of Samar, the weavers noticeably increased by number as well. “Our weavers are encouraged to improve their craftsmanship. Right now, they are more polished. They gained confidence. I believe nagkaroon sila ng pride of place,” Gov. Sharee shares with Metro.Style.

Apart from their beautiful Pintados collection, they’re bringing bigger clutches this time—in Gov. Sharee’s words, “You can have your clutch with everything in it.”



Zarah Juan




“My design aesthetic is always in a form of gratitude of where I came from and how I grew up,” Zarah shares. Case in point: the Islaw Kalabaw and Takatak Horse wicker bags, pieces which are dedicated to her grandparents. Her experiences living in the province with her lolo and lola back in the day are parts of her foundation as a person and as a woman.

The self-confessed empowered woman sees her business and her art as platforms to spread the word on her advocacy. Creating artisanal pieces with her partner community Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe in Davao, this sustainable livelihood has greatly helped the women of this community. They are now dabbling into producing smaller items, gifts that are perfect just in time for the Christmas season.


Photographs by Daniel Soriano