Tesoro, Dizon, and Aranaz And Their Lasting Impact On The Philippine Fashion Industry
Words by Chit Lijauco
Ever since she wowed the Philippine fashion scene with an embroidered voile blouse inspired by a cigarette ad in 1972, Ma Beatriz Fabella Pamintuan-Tesoro or Patis had begun, unawares, to write a strong legacy. Clearly, she was no ordinary designer: she always looked back (late 18th to early 19th century Philippines and the American Colonial being favourite periods), championing Philippine style and transforming Filipiniana fashion into both casual wear and haute couture.
Almost 50 years in the industry today, Patis has not only built an iconic brand but changed the mindset towards going local. This she did by not merely transforming a sketch into a jaw-dropping outfit but by immersing herself in Philippine design, in her home and her personal style as well.
Today you can find her, at least once a week, in a quiet corner of Tesoro’s in Makati, hidden behind her eye-popping creations, all Philippine-inspired of course. Here she meets her clients, who continue to fill up her calendar, hungry for “Patis-attention,” which has gotten to be a rarity ever since the designer moved to her creative haven in the mountains of Laguna, three hours away from the city.
The move is one of the major changes in her life in the last decade. The other is the death of her husband of 46 years, the lawyer Jose Claro “Tito” Tesoro, in 2016. A son died in 2008 but not before leaving her a granddaughter, now 14. Her first grandchild, Enzo, courtesy of only daughter Nina, has just graduated from university. Two other sons complete her family and yet, according to her, it took a couple of years to adjust to a life without Tito. She has bounced back, however, happily immersed in her creative world.
And now, she has a dream that’s getting her all excited.
“Since the last 10 years, I have been planning a mentorship programme on embroidery, age-old crafts, and other creative activities,” she starts. The concept was turned into a business plan by Nina, a management professor of De La Salle University who is now at the dissertation stage of a doctorate in Business Administration. Called Sinulid Workshops, it comprises many fields of learning like literature, behavioural sciences, performance arts, communication arts, lifestyles of health, and of cour ce fashion design and textile arts.
Giving Sinulid a special touch is the involvement of experts from the Festival International Textile Extraordinaire (FITE). “They will be the mentors,” Patis says of this association of cur ators from Europe whom she met when they invited her to exhibit her work in 2014 in Clermont-Ferrand, France. “They will impart valuable international perspectives and exposures that will infuse disciplines of a g lobal level to the different creative activities. With this centre, I hope to influence our people, young and old, to think beyond their comfort zone.”
The centre, of course, will be at her haven in the mountains, so idyllic and ideal a place for creativity. Planted with as many trees that you can think of, the huge space is more than enough to hold the 30 to 40 housing units she has set as a goal.
Her dream may just be a reality sooner than soon. Already, she is setting her sights on late April next year to launch it, with the management perspective from Nina to help her. Patis realises that her daughter is taking an entirely different path than hers, but that is the field where Nina found her niche. In the same breath that Patis has found hers in design. “My art is very personal, and I do not know how it can be transferred,” she says. But she is confident that her influence will be felt for generations to come, especially with her mentorship programme. “The roots are there. They are designers in their forties and fifties,” she says.
This designer, however, is not yet ready to finish off. Great projects from her creative mind await down the road and still much more to add to an already rich legacy.
Words by Marga Manlapig
Exquisite, unique, and all made by hand: these qualities have come to characterise accessories from acclaimed brand Aranaz—one that has also become synonymous with the best in Filipino creativity and craftsmanship when it comes to handbags and jewellery.
Since 1999, the business spearheaded by Becky Aranaz and her daughters Amina and Rosanna has risen to become one of the country’s leading accessories lines, and one that continues to raise local and global awareness regarding the work of indigenous artisans. Indeed, Aranaz has evolved so much, that it comes as a surprise that it started out as a hobby.
“It first started as a hobby and side business for our mum since she was heavily entrenched in her export business, while my sister and I were still busy with our studies,” recalls creative director and lead designer Amina Aranaz-Alunan. “I was in university and my sister in high school. But, as we grew older, we got more involved in the bag business.”
The business itself actually started serendipitously: together with their brother, Amina and Rosanna decided to join holiday bazaars where they could sell their mother’s export overruns. At that point in time—in the ’80s and early ’90s—Becky was manufacturing and exporting handbags and accessories for the international market, supplying a number of major labels in the United States, Japan, and Europe. The notion of creating a family business started there.
It was always, as Amina puts it, a family affair. “We each contributed and had our own areas of specialisation,” she says. “My brother was into graphic design, so he would work on our labels and paper bags. Mum was the main designer and manufacturer, while I was an assistant designer as well as the brand’s spokesperson. My sister was also starting to get into branding and sales. All of us would set up and man our bazaar booth in the early days. It was a lot of fun to go bazaar-hopping during the Christmas season, and Mum would give us a portion of the sales during the bazaar weekend.”
But, even then, Becky was already working with various livelihood collectives throughout the country, and using natural, locally-sourced materials—something that made quite an impression on her children.
“She always reminded us to work with local weavers and materials because their communities needed work and a source of income,” Amina says. “So, it has always been the backbone of the Aranaz brand. The thrust was always to use Philippine materials and handiwork and promote them to the global fashion market.”
One has to learn how to walk before one gets to run. With that said, the Aranazes knew that, before they could go international, they first had to convince the local market that patronising the work of local craftsmen and artisans was the way to go.
“I would like to believe that Aranaz is one of the pioneers in making Philippine-made items cool and fashionable,” Amina opines. “Filipina women were our first target market. When we first launched the brand in the late ’90s, we wanted to introduce the notion to the stylish women of Manila that using Philippine-made straw bags could be chic and stylish. We wanted to make it part of their everyday consciousness.”
Aranaz’s success in the local market emboldened its creators to go beyond local shores—a risky venture at the time, but it was a risk that paid off. Aside from its local retail channels, the brand’s collections are also sold in major stores in New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo, as well as in key locations in the Middle East. As it keeps up with the times, it also does online retail and has an active presence in social media.
For the family behind the brand, everything they have done so far has been instrumental in making the world more aware of the excellence of Philippine-made products—and that, perhaps, is the key point in their legacy to the fashion industry.
Words by MJ Jose
The story of Jul B Dizon Jewellery began in the 1950s, when a 12-year-old girl named Jul Bañas was learning the ropes from her mum, who owned and operated Golden Earnings Jewellery Store. It was the first-ever design laboratory that collaborated with the most skilled of goldsmiths and experimented with precious stones. Jul would later venture out on her own, establishing her eponymous brand in 1978. Big, bold, and vibrant in colour, her showstopping pieces (“Art jewellery for the discerning,” says daughter Janina) quickly became favourites among Manila’s well-heeled. Having emulated her mother’s management style, Jul was lauded not only for her stellar design skills and business acumen, but also for her excellent after-sales service due to the good rapport she had with her clientele. She went on to become the most awarded jeweller in the Philippines, earning a Presidential Award for business achievement alongside numerous international design competition awards from the Italian Gold Council, Swarovski, and Korean Jewellery Guild. She was also the first Filipino jeweller to win the highly coveted De Beers Diamonds International Award in 1994. Not one to shy away from growth, she expanded her business to the United States, opening a boutique in Beverly Hills, California.
Following in the footsteps of her mother, Jul trained her children—Cedric, Janina, Candy, and Christopher—in the ways of the family business early on. After school, they would be required to work for her in some capacity, whether to clean the shop, answer phone calls, or to handle inventory. When they grew older, Jul would also have them attend to clients, and, later on, design their own pieces. “She was the perfect mix of mother and businesswoman,” recalls Janina. “She worked hard but knew the value of a happy family life. This is why on weekends, we close our shops so that we and our staff can spend time with our loved ones.” Sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer in her later years, and passed away at the age of 66. It was a devastating time for the family, but with regard to the business, there was nothing to fret over as Jul ensured that her children were ready to take on the reins. Ginny, an award-winning designer married to Cedric, and Lucille, a gemologist married to Christopher, also joined the formidable fold. The third generation Dizons are just as hands-on as their grandmother and mother were. Candy operates the Peninsula branch, Lucille handles the EDSA Shangri-La branch, and Ginny manages the showroom in Quezon City. Janina, who designs for the daughter line Janina for Jul Dizon, has her own shop in the Peninsula as well. As it is a family business, the Dizons spend plenty of time together, but do their best to keep work and personal matters separate.
In 2018, Jul B Dizon Jewellery celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special exhibition and coffee table book launch at the Peninsula Manila. Her children also presented reinterpretations of Jul’s most iconic pieces, each one done in their own style. This year, it launched the well-received Kalachuchi collection in collaboration with Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez (the company’s third time working with her to date) and welcomed Italian jewellery brand Sassi into its stores. Preserving the family legacy is of utmost importance to the Dizons, but so is moving with the times, which means embracing modern platforms such as e-commerce.
Because Jul had carved such a clear path for them, they all knew from the very beginning that they would be involved in the business in one way or another—and what had sometimes felt like a chore to them as teenagers quickly grew into their biggest passion. Will there be a fourth generation? “Yes!” enthuses Janina. “We are fortunate that a few of the grandchildren are developing an interest in the business. Perhaps someday we can ease up on the reins and vacation a wee bit more.” Indeed, Jul B Dizon’s beautiful legacy certainly rests in the best of hands.
This article was originally published in the October 2019 Issue of Philippine Tatler
- Photography MJ Suayan
- Art Direction Anton San Diego
- Outfit Tesoro and Gabbie Arcenas
- Make-Up Al de Leon and Rafael Bardon
- Hair Jaymar Lahaylahay and Patty Inojales
- Location Henry Hotel, Pasay City