Manila FAME Katha Awards’ Best Product Design for Fashion 2015 winner Carissa Cruz-Evangelista shows what Filipino designers are made of
by Angelo G. Garcia
You could say designing is in her blood because accessories and bag designer Carissa Cruz- Evangelista is the niece of famous international designer Josie Natori. But Carissa is her own designer, brimming with her own design ideas. Since launching her accessory brand Beatriz, she has created elegantly crafted pieces that have wowed tastemakers. In fact, the gold metal clutch from her latest collection just won last Friday at this year’s Katha Awards during the Manila FAME exhibition.
Her latest collection is called “Space, Nature, and Color,” made up of three separate mini collections inspired by each of the three words. “Space” features organically shaped metallic totes and evening bags that can be twisted and shaped by the user for a more personalized, modern look. “Nature,” on the other hand, showcases statement pendants, cuffs, and clutches with organic influences from driftwood and coral. “Color” is an expansion of last year’s “Tropical Edge Collection” and uses photoprints of colorful, geometric shapes and leather trim on totes, toiletry kits, iPad pouches, pencil cases, and coin purses.
Manila Bulletin Lifestyle sat down with the designer to talk about her accessories line, her inspiration, and why Filipinos are creating and will continue to create a buzz in the international market.
WHEN DID YOU START DESIGNING BAGS AND ACCESSORIES?
I have always loved accessories. I loved earrings, bags, shoes, color, shine, glitter and have had a longstanding affair with statement pieces. I had worked in the garments industry in the past and have been supplying department stores but I never had my own label. We launched Beatriz at Manila FAME in late 2012 and now our designs are being sold in Singapore, Bangkok, Paris, Spain, and New York.
WHAT’S YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATIONS?
Designing, for me, is fun and, at the same time, nerve wracking, especially when you have a deadline. Sometimes, you design based on a theme or you get inspired by music or movie or some shape or color, Sometimes, you think of an idea or a concept and you translate it into a product. For example, one time, I had to make neckpieces for Criselda Lontok’s fashion show, where Inno Sotto gave design direction on how he wanted shine to reflect and complement the clothes. I had no idea how to come up with the organic shapes that would reflect shine. The shapes we cut out looked like something I could use to teach my three-year-old daughter different shapes and so… I broke plates! And I followed its patterns and it worked!!! Somehow when you are open and interested in experimenting, things fall into place somehow.
WHAT MATERIALS ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WORKING WITH (FOR BAGS AND ACCESSORIES)?
We have used a lot of materials in the past and we continue to look for new and innovative materials to use. We have used textile; cow, fish, and lizard leather; acrylic; cotton cords; repurposed computer cords (and handcuffs, knuckle rings and industrial nuts and bolts), silver, brass, precious stones, semi precious stones, raw titanium, fine wire mesh, leatherette and braided straw.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR AESTHETIC, YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
My personal style is very simple. I love clean, classic lines that have surprising twists or punches of color. There is a huge appreciation for art and music in my family (am a Cruz and a Vera Perez) and somehow, that has influenced the way I imagine and see things.
AMONG THE CLASSIC AND ICONIC BAGS IN THE MARKET TODAY, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITES? WHO ARE THE DESIGNERS YOU ADMIRE AND LOOK UP TO?
I love the classic shapes of Chanel and the cool, studded rock glam bags of Valentino. I look up to Josie Natori, Tory Burch, Vera Wang, and Alexander McQueen. I am also inspired by the work of my fellow Manila Wear designers and artisans.
What are the challenges in operating a fashion business in the country? Are there more local designers now to compete with? Are you affected by the number of international brands opening their shops here?
Starting a business from scratch is pretty daunting. Yes, there is so much competition now, both locally and worldwide. But that’s just the way it is. The best thing that you can do as a businesswoman is to make sure that you have quality products. As Josie Natori told me before, “Just keep working. One step will lead to another.”
FILIPINOS LOVE BUYING IMPORTED DESIGNS, HOW SHOULD A LOCAL DESIGNER SELL HIS/HER PRODUCT TO LOCAL CONSUMERS?
Actually, Filipinos love buying Filipino products now, perhaps because they are slowly realizing that Filipino design and artistry are world-class. It’s just a matter of making the best product you can and finding the right method to market your product at a reasonable price point.
I attended a talk yesterday that featured interior decorators Nathan Turner and Mary MacDonald, hosts of reality television series Million Dollar Decorators. Mary said that they were so happy to come to the Philippines because all the things they saw at this year’s show were so beautiful and could definitely be something that they would put in their clients’ homes.
I am so blessed that locally Firma, AC 632, Cura V, Vitostudio.com, Bijoux at Greenbelt 5, and JMA jewelry at Edsa Shangri-La carry Beatriz.
DO YOU THINK THAT FILIPINO DESIGNS ARE READY FOR THE WORLD? WHY? WHAT DO YOU THINK SETS LOCAL DESIGNS APART FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD?
Our local designers are amazing! We can create the most beautiful things from scrap materials and can create breathtaking pieces from the simplest shells and cord and twine.
IS THERE A DESIGNER (LOCAL AND/OR FOREIGN) YOU’D LIKE TO COLLABORATE WITH? WHY?
I am working now with Mitch Shivers on a Beatriz capsule collection called “Repurposed Redux,” which uses repurposed computer cables, neoprene, leather, and industrial nuts and bolts. We already have prototypes and will complete the collection soon.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE TO ASPIRING DESIGNERS/ENTREPRENEURS?
Keep working ,and praying, and creating, and believing. One step will lead to the next. Don’t worry. You will find your path and it will be a beautiful one!
This article was first published by Manila Bulletin.