From US success, Filipina designer tries luck in PH shores
Filipina Carla Sta. Cruz is a luxury bag and couture designer in New
York City, working in an office along John Street. While she has no atelier per se, she has more than a steady following for her online collections via www.carlastacruz.com and www.guerramanila.com. She has clients not only from the Big Apple, but also as far as the fashion capital of Paris.
Come February 14, the Filipina designer is set to hold her first major fashion show in the prestigious New York Fashion Week for its Autumn/Winter 2015 season.
An achiever in every way, it therefore came as a surprise when, during a visit to Manila last week, Sta. Cruz revealed how fearful she was of a new step she is about to take for her business. Expanding in the Philippines.
The young and promising designer explained she is not very confident how her fellow Filipinos would accept her line, especially because she observes them be very conscious about foreign brands.
“I don’t know if Filipinos [would]really appreciate Guerra Manila. I use the same factories [employed for manufacture]by high-end [international]brands, but here, I cannot command the same pride and price because I’m Filipino,” Sta. Cruz ironically explained.
Currently residing in Manhattan, New York, Sta. Cruz serves as creative director of her namesake brand Carla Sta. Cruz NYC. The label offers luxury high quality clothes, bags and accessories.
Born and raised in Manila, she worked as a field researcher in one of the local banks before she decided to fly to New York to pursue her great love for utilitarian fashion. There, she enrolled at the famous Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.
Gifted with both an eye for fashion and a good head above her shoulders, Sta. Clara was a two-time Dean’s Lister and an active member of the Styling Club during her time at Parsons. She also served as an intern for a number of big names in the fashion world including Vera Wang, Catharine Malandrino and Marchesa, among others.
Sta. Cruz graduated in 2010 and started her own business several months after her designs sold out from her humble apartment.
Today, the designer notes that her strongest markets include Paris besides many parts of the US, with interest also coming from Japan.
In taking on the world via the New York Fashion Week, Sta. Cruz is excited to unveil the Carla Sta. Cruz Autumn/Winter 2015 collections where she said, “We will pair everything together, the clothes, bags and accessories.”
Curated trade shows will soon follow after NYFW, one of which will take place at the Jardin de Tuileries at Paris, France.
Sta. Cruz also reveals plans of opening her very own atelier in New York soon.
Guerra in Manila
Outside New York, Sta. Cruz is all set to launch her Philippine-based website with a diffusion line that features her ready-to-wear clothes and bags with more affordable pricie points.
She tested the waters in December 2014 by holding a private sale at St Francis Towers-Shangri-La in Mandaluyong City, which proved to be a success. Incidentally, the designer donated part of the proceeds to Gawad Kalinga in her desire to “reach out and touch the land Guerra Manila will always be home to.”
A homonym of the Filipino word for war, “Guerra,” according to Sta. Cruz, is “a product of the Filipino mind and spirit.”
Asked by The Manila Times to elaborate the brand’s aesthetic, the designer replied, “Guerra Manila is more of the useful, go-to type of brand. It uses readily available materials like cow skin, unlike Carla Sta. Cruz that will stick to crocodile skin or extremely embossed floral leather. Nevertheless, we’re going to execute as much skill in leather craft for Guerra Manila just like we do for Carla Sta. Cruz.”
But while her career in foreign lands appears to be flourishing, Sta. Cruz only feels reluctance in starting her career back in her own land. She, for example, is not “so sure” how she will market Guerra here, realizing the process is not as easy as just opening a store or launching a brand.
“I’m still trying to figure it out but maybe after fashion week, everything will work out. Guerra may just be more appreciated by then. As for the store, I realized I should know a [wider]network of people,” she related.
Sta. Cruz’s fears are rooted in her observation of the “Filipino fashion culture.” She noted, “They like ‘may tatak’ [signature brands], and I don’t have the ‘tatak.’”
Nevertheless, Sta. Cruz promises to bring only the best products borne out of Filipino skill, ingenuity, creativity and a heart for the market.
Currently, Guerra Manila is offering handbags like the Julia Tote, a laser-cut calf leather tote with a contrasting, water-resistant nylon interior; and the Sarai Drawstring, a hand-woven goat leather drawstring bucket bag with suede lining and zipped interior compartments. Both styles come in various colors.
Guerra also sells minaudières, or clutches, that serve as couture accessories of the brand. All are proudly Philippine made and are delicately handcrafted using local ma-terials shells like mother-of-pearl, abalone and capiz, among others.
There are also couture dresses and small leather goods available at the website.
“Designing, creating something beautiful from scratch has always been a passion of mine, and I hope my fellow Filipinos will like what I’ve made for them,” Sta. Cruz ends.