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This Filipina's Heritage Brand Is Helping Tell the Stories of Her People

Bea Constantino is spreading awareness about her rich Sulu heritage through clothes.

by Steph Sison | Mar 15, 2019

"The kind of Filipina that we are dressing are women who are discerning and proud of their roots."

Bea Constantino has always been on the go. She used to live in a fast-paced world, working as a professional stylist for 16 years. And with a much-needed break, she's found herself deep in a project that hit too close to home.

This Chavacano-Tausug has returned to her roots and felt a compelling urge to provide a platform for others to know more about Mindanao, apart from its war-stricken reputation. She continues to do so by reaching out to communities that are from the far-flung provinces like Sulu. With her brand, Herman & Co., Bea acts as a vehicle for the weavers' rich tapestry to reach us. And since she's from the same community, she does her part in respecting cultures and traditions, minding her usage of textiles.

Thus, we think Bea rightfully deserves a spot in this year's feature on inspiring Filipinas who are changing the local fashion scene. Bea's earnest intention of upholding and preserving precious local legacies has since motivated others to do the same. Below, get to know more about her perspective on slow fashion and how provincial life can be a gold mine for modern fashion.

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Dress (worn as top), HERMAN & CO., wearherman.com. Wrap skirt, P33,400, CAROLINA HERRERA, Greenbelt 5

Please tell us something about yourself. What do you do during your spare time?

"I'm actually a dancer. Obviously, I haven't danced in a long time, but that is my first love. I was a ballerina growing up and I even went to New York to study dance for a time. But the element of dance always comes out when I do shoots, like movement in terms of poses or just artistic movements like fluidity and mobility, which are both important in my work."

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What is Herman & Co.? How did it all start for you?

"Herman & Co is a heritage fashion brand. It aims to bridge the gap between communities from the different tribes in Mindanao or in the Philippines, especially those in the peace conflict areas like my province. I'm originally from Zambaoanga and Cebu, so I'm Chavacano-Tausug. We aim to bridge the gap between those peace conflict areas, their products, and their craft to the mainstream market place.

"I'm originally a fashion stylist, I've been one for 16 years. In 2016, I wanted to take a break for a little bit. I just wanted to do something with more substance in my life. So I decided that I wanted to marry what I do for a living and my heritage, and so a clothing line just seemed like the most sensible thing to do.

"We aim to put a special spotlight on products, textiles, and anything artisanal from Mindanao, most especially in Zamboanga and Sulu. While we're zooming in on these areas in the south, once or twice a year, we do something with the communities in the north. Like last year, we did something with the weaves from a village in Abra; the previous year, we did something with weaves in Banaue. For us, of course we want to work with communities and we all feel connected in some way but it's just that we're—my business partner and I—are from Mindanao and we aim to really push [the culture] through the brand.

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"Aside from bridging the gap, we also want help people to change the way they see Mindanao. If they see it in a bad way or if they think it's all about terrorism...yes, that's happening—but for us, aside from the terrorism, there's also the beautiful culture that doesn't disappear just because there's a war going on."

What is your brand's overall aesthetic? What kind of Filipina are you dressing?

"It's really embodying the slow, provincial life. We want easy-wear, slow-living, intentional-living [clothes] and we don't really mass produce our stuff. It's a low-volume brand. We want to show the vibrant culture of Mindanao because if you go to Mindanao, in any other province there, the colors are always vibrant and bold. Taking all those charactersistics, we then try to make it appear in easy-wear. Most of the pieces that we have are in bold and bright and clashing colors and prints but still embody the slow afternoon in the province. That's where our direction is.

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"The kind of Filipina that we are dressing are women who are discerning and proud of their roots. She is into fashion and at the same time she knows how to look back at her roots, where she came from, and someone who is proud of her heritage. She is someone who is proud to be Filipino."

Does your brand have any advocacies? What makes your brand proudly Filipino?

"Herman & Co. recently started collaborating so we're gonna have a few efforts this year with Sinag-Tala. They are also from Mindanao. It's a women's weaving co-op that Jamela Alindogan, a reporter from Al Jazeera, actually put together. The women here are weavers who were displaced during the Marawi siege. So we source some weaves from them and we're scheduling a visit to them soon. So people think that we're a social enterprise, but we're not. The brand started with just me, with my own resources. Until now, we're still trying to strengthen the brand identity and we still don't have the resources to sustain a whole community, donate, etc., but we are a business and we practice fair trade. The way that we help sustain communitites is by going to the inaccessible areas. I go to Sulu, because my family is from there, and I go to the weavers and artisans there. They churn out all these products but they can't bring it to the consumers because not everyone can go there. So what I do is purchase from them the products using fair trade practices. We tweak them according to our brand's aesthetic, of course with their permission—like if we can use certain patterns and colors as a top—and always with consideration towards tradition. This helps sustain them because they have a steady source of income.

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"It's proudly Filipino because we help champion the communities from different tribes. More so, because we traced back our steps and went back to our heritage, our traditions. We want to keep the legacies of these traditions alive because it's so easy to modernize everything and be trendy but we wanna keep them Filipino, tribal, indigenous—whatever appropriate word, right? We want to keep it alive and relevant. So we are so proud of our roots, we're so proud to be from Mindanao, of whatever communities we're part of. We want to not just to bring that to the mainstream marketplace, say, Manila, but also we want to expland to Southeast Asia and all over the world.

"For us, we want to keep telling the stories of the tribes, the communities, to the rest of the world. We imagine our brand to be participating in a fair in Paris."


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Slides, P2199, CHARLES & KEITH, Greenbelt 5

Why do you think it's important to cultivate a local brand?

"There are two things. In terms of consumer behavior and retail shift, now, people are willing to take the time before buying something. Before, it was all about fast fashion, instant. I-want-it-now attitude. Now, people are more interested in the story. They're more interested in the artisans, in slow production. They are okay with a little imperfection, something that's been done by hand. Now, we feel that people are ready to take the time to really listen to the story. And second, being from Mindanao, we feel like now, Mindanao is so relevant because people are being more outspoken about it. That they're from here and there are beautiful places that are undiscovered that's now being discovered."

What initial impressions did you have about having an online business and what has changed now?

"A lot, but there hasn't been anything negative really. As time goes by, the narrative changes, because when I first started the brand, it was to tell the story of Mindanao and my family, but then we discovered about the artisans there who needed help to promote their craft. So it shifted towards that. Um, in terms of it changing, I feel like there's just really more brands now wanting to promote wherever they're from or whatever community they are from and I think that's great. We support all of the brands because that's what we're all here for, right?"

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How would you describe today's Filipina in terms of fashion?

"They are more deliberate, more aware, and more courageous. They put more thought into what they're wearing. 'Where's this from? What material was this made of? Is it sustainable? Was it ethically produced? Who's the designer?' There's more rationale behind the way they consume. They are more courageous they're more playful in terms of how they dress."


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What do you envision for your brand in the coming years?

"We want to be all over the world. We want to have stockists in Europe, the US, and Southeast Asia, and to just continue telling the story of the brand, of the people, of the community. "

Produced and Styled by Yanna Lopez

Co-produced by Jam Nitura

Art Direction by Mark Buenaobra

Photography by Tarish Zamora

Hair by Mong Amado

Makeup by Patrick Alcober for Make Up For Ever

Shoot Assistant: April Lozada

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