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Online Store of the Week: Herman & Co.

This homegrown brand celebrates the colorful heritage of Mindanao.
Online Store of the Week: Herman & Co. This homegrown brand celebrates the colorful heritage of Mindanao.

There’s beauty in Mindanao that we don’t usually get to see in the national headlines. Often regarded as a conflict-ridden region, its fascinating culture is repeatedly sidestepped by such criticism. This is exactly what inspired fashion stylist and entrepreneur Bea Constantino to launch Herman & Co., “a heritage brand showcasing indigenous textiles and artisan products from Philippine tribes.” Read on to know more about her online shop.

IMAGE Courtesy of Bea Constantino

Bea at the weaving village in Sulu

What sparked the idea to start Herman & Co. as a business?

“Last year, I reached a point in my career wherein I wanted something more than just shooting and collecting paychecks—I was hungry for something with soul and substance. I spent a lot of time asking myself, ‘What's next?’ One day, I woke up and realized that I wanted to marry two aspects of my life that I felt defined me: fashion and my colorful heritage. I wanted inspire dialogues and conversations about my hometowns, Zamboanga and Jolo, Sulu, and eventually, Mindanao in general. But in a positive light, not the conflicts, but the amazing culture and people. Then I felt that fire again that I had been missing. That if I can inspire one person to look at the other side of Mindanao, I'll be fulfilled.”


How did you make the transition from styling to design?

“I always say that I don't really consider myself a designer. I have so much respect for designers because of all the years of mastering this craft—their dedication and skills just amaze me and I would not consider myself one until I've spent enough years learning fashion design. I think I curate concepts in my mind—as we mostly get inspired by what we see everywhere anyway, and then I tweak it to fit a specific story in my head. I would love to learn fashion illustration, though.”

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IMAGE Courtesy of Bea Constantino

Blazer with Yakan weave accent

What drew you to indigenous materials as key elements of your brand?

“Well, foremost is my family's origins: My grandfather is purely Chavacano from Zamboanga and my grandmother is Tausug. I've always felt such a strong sense of self knowing where I came from and this sparked my curiosity about the tribes in my hometowns. Through immersing myself by my frequent trips down south and seeing their ways, it made me understand my family more. I remember the first time I saw the Tausug people's weaves and textiles—it was love at first sight. So much history, tradition and culture in every pattern, every thread. I wanted to integrate this into everyday wear but with respect towards tradition and that maybe through this, the demand for weaves can grow and more and more people can see our local textiles in a different light, not just for Linggo ng Wika.”


IMAGE Courtesy of Bea Constantino

Tausug pattern on traditional Tausug textile called Pis Siyabit

Could you tell us the state of traditional weaving in Mindanao?

“From what I've seen, the weaves are still traditionally used for the Tausugs. Yakan weaves (from Zamboanga and Basilan) are more accessible. Tausug weaves' state is normal. It's just harder to access the weavers because of security concerns sometimes in Sulu; hence, turnover (sales) is not as frequent as the Yakan weaves.”


Are the skills still being passed on to the younger generation?

“Yes but I would like to see more young people weaving, that's why Herman & Co. and other like-minded brands try to keep the demand steady so that the youth will see it as a sustainable livelihood and lifestyle as well. The brands that I admire are Yakang Yaka by fellow Chavacano Kelly Marian Mortensen and The Manila Collectible by Charisse Tugade because she champions intangible heritage. How cool is that! They've taught me a lot in this journey.”

And do the women have the financial capacity to continue?

“As far as I know, organizations such as the Habi Textile Council ensure sustainability for the communities by giving them opportunities to showcase their artisan textiles and products by holding fairs locally and abroad, which make the weavers earn and it goes to them directly. They also grant opportunities to travel abroad to expose the weavers to international markets.”


IMAGE Courtesy of Bea Constantino

Batik top with Ifugao weave sleeve accent

What’s the most challenging part of your business?

“Production and at times, supply. The weaves take time to produce. It's not like they have massive yardage on demand. That's where respect for tradition and skill comes in because you have to wait for when they can finish the weaves. One of the ways that Herman & Co. practices fair trade is by respecting their timing. Aside from weaving, they have families to take care of and that is their priority and we support that. Garment production—because it's hard to find a manufacturer you can rely on and trust because of the low volume of my orders. I don't mass produce due to the uniqueness of the weaves, so it's hard to find manufacturers who accommodate.”


Tell us about your latest collection. Where did you draw inspiration from?

“It's called Norte x Sur because the past few months took me to the North (Ifugao province of Banaue) and of course South because of my visits back home in Jolo, Sulu. I learned so much about the Ifugaos and was able to see how different their traditions are up north. In spite of the different cultures, we are actually all still connected. So I decided to use weaves from Banaue and some with Yakan weaves. Hence, North to South.”


IMAGE Courtesy of Bea Constantino

Bomber jacket with Batik and Yakan details

What type of woman did you have in mind when designing the line?

“Women who wear different hats and live a constantly curious lifestyle. Curious about their roots with a discerning style while championing local artisanal work.”

Do you have any favorite fabrics or patterns that you're particularly drawn to at the moment?

Yakan weaves for their mesmerizing play of hues and Tausug for their bold patterns and colors that speak of the Tausug peoples' courage and pride. I would love to experiment with Maranao textiles. So intricate!”

What’s it like to see someone on the street or in the magazines wearing one of your creations?

”I get shy! In my head I'm like, ‘Someone liked my crazy idea!’ But mostly I feel proud of and for the weavers. I always show them photos of their weaves worn and you see this gleam in their eyes—priceless.”


IMAGE Courtesy of Bea Constantino

Linen dress with Ikat bib and sleeve details

Who would you most like to see wearing your clothes?

“Our celebrities and them knowing the tribes it came from so that the culture can be recognized and promoted. I would love also for international women of substance to wear our local weaves.”


What's your style philosophy? How do you like to wear your favorite pieces?

“Right now my style philosophy is understated high-street—outfits I can wear from day to night because I usually do varied things throughout the day. What I like to do is wear classic pieces but with a statement detail, like a crisp white button-down but with bell sleeves and then jeans, and a local artisan piece like a rattan box sling bag.”

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