MANILA – What happens when a fashion accessories manufacturer collaborates with an artist of distinguished lineage and unique talent?
Gina Nebrida Ty of Agsam Fashion Fern and one of the founding members of Philippine Fashion Accessories Manufacturers (FAMPh), recently unveiled their impressive line of products showcasing Khristina Manansala’s unique artwork, granddaughter of the national visual artist, Vicente Manansala.
The Agsam Fern x k.Manansala capsule collection symbolizes and inspires hope and resilience in the midst of the pandemic. Both brands share a deep passion for timeless handcrafted designs that truly represent Filipino craftsmanship and ingenuity.
Each Agsam x k.Manansala handbag, beautifully and intricately hand-woven by indigenous women of Surigao del Sur, features a canvas from Manansala as she personally hand-paints her timeless work of art on each Agsam Fern bag.
Ty came across Manansala’s works in August 2020, through a mutual friend who posted some of the latter’s works on Facebook.
âI was so impressed with her unique and breathtaking artwork that I immediately called our mutual friend and the same day I met Khristina, digitally,â Ty recalls.
âShe was immediately excited when I came up with the idea of ââcollaborating with her to use my fashion accessories as a canvas for painting. My goal was to create beautiful masterpieces of bags that are not only functional, but also worth collecting just like a collector’s artwork.
The collaboration happened earlier than expected on both Ty and Manansala. âThe day I met Khristina and spoke to her on the phone, I shared with her that the concept would be grounded in a woman’s resilience, strength and hope, so very timely in these difficult times. And that this collection is also about women who help women, âexplained Ty.
As this is Ty’s first collection of handcrafted bags, as her fashion accessories are mostly personalized jewelry, she asked Manansala to specifically create face images of women that would inspire and invoke resilience and hope.
âAfter a few prototypes, we created three separate hand-painted images that beautifully represent a woman’s strength and resilience, while embracing her grace and feminine side,â Ty said.
“For example, one of the hand painted bags called Redonda [round in Spanish], has a captivating hand painted image of a woman with a fish on her face. It might sound abstract, but that’s the creative sparkle of Khristina at work, as she translates my design concept into a beautiful piece of art.
âThe fish on the woman’s face represents the job of a fisherman and that any woman can take on the job of a fisherman or any job if she wants. The work of art therefore represents the beauty and grace of each woman, but beyond that beauty is her reliability and ability to survive, despite obstacles. “
Collaborating with Manansala has been an exciting experience for Ty. “Our shared ideas and concept have always resulted in beautiful prototypes, so much so that it was difficult to choose the best piece of art because they were all just breathtaking.”
Before speaking to Manansala on the phone, Ty researched the artist’s paintings and immediately fell in love with his work. Manansala’s works have been the subject of various exhibitions in other countries. She describes her painting style as “daring and fearless,” which results in some incredibly exquisite works of art.
“Although her artistry is in her DNA, being the granddaughter of the national artist and Cubist illustrator and painter, Vicente Manansala, I was impressed with Khristina’s painting style – daring and fearless,” said Ty.
âHis subjects often focused on women. It is no wonder that his paintings are found in private art collections, both in the Philippines and abroad. She has also participated in various exhibitions in New York, Germany and Malaysia.
This is not the first time, however, that Ty has worked with an artist for his designs. Three years ago, she released a heritage-inspired collaboration with National Living Treasure winner (Gawad ng Manlilikha ng Bayan or GAMABA), Eduardo “Mang Ed” Mutuc, considered the best metal craftsman in the country.
“Called the Agsam x Mutuc Collection, the works translated Mang Ed’s concept of the value of Filipino heritage and craftsmanship into excellent pieces of metal art that served as an embellishment for my Agsam necklaces and bracelets.” , Ty said.
The limited edition collection was well received as stocks of Ty products in SM’s Filipino Kultura stores and the Manila FAME (Furnishings and Apparel Manufacturers’ Exchange) exhibit were sold out by the time they were on display.
As the fashion industry was hit hard by the pandemic last year, with the cancellation of shows and exhibitions, as well as the intermittent closure of retail stores, Ty’s initial fear was how to maintain his business afloat.
âThe new normal would mean low production of our handcrafted accessories,â she admitted. âSo providing a sustainable income to my artisans will be a challenge. So I immediately had to find a way to make our products easily accessible, while still being visually appealing to our customers, while still being safe in the comfort of your home.
âAs my company produces on demand, it was also a challenge to outsource the locally produced raw materials due to the ECQ [enhanced community quarantine] and travel restrictions.
âBut it didn’t cool our spirits, as we sat down with our workers and told them we had to do an AFC – Adapt, Find Ways and Carry On. And we did it by instantly strengthening our digital presence, first and foremost.
As fashion brands were hit with trade show cancellations and everyone was forced to adjust to the new normal, Ty saw the ups and downs of business as a learning curve for her.
“It was imperative that our brand be more visible than it was before the pandemic,” she explained. âBefore the pandemic, while we have active social media accounts, there was no shopping experience.
âMy products were readily available at the country’s largest retail chain, SM’s Kultura Filipino, where our products were displayed in 12 key branches nationwide, for the past six years.
âWith the new standard, we have created a seamless shopping experience (www.agsamfashionfern.com) to ensure that our valued customers can easily purchase their favorite Agsam Fern fashion accessories from the comfort of their own homes. “
Ty was forced to reorient her marketing efforts. “From B2B [business to business] to B2C [business to consumers], she argued. âThe old way of doing business is not going to pick up any time soon, if at all. So those who survive and prosper will be the ones who will watch carefully and immediately adapt in order to function, given this new normal. “
As customer preferences and behavior shifted towards the new normal, Ty’s Agsam Fern has strengthened its digital presence. âWe also created a collection that would be relevant and functional at the time,â she explained.
This is why the Agsam x k.Manansala capsule collection was born. âIn addition to our handmade Agsam Fern bags which are hand painted with the vibrant artwork of Khristina, we have also released artistic care kits and tote bags or simply called We-Care set, in edition limited.
âThe care kit, with digitally printed artwork by Vicente and Khristina Manansala, includes a washable neoprene face mask and three personalized bottles that can be used to personalize alcohol, hand sanitizer and hand lotion.
“While the black tote bag that can be used to store your PPE [personal protective equipment] set or other essentials, also comes with a washable neoprene face mask and a pair of removable Agsam Fern earrings, for extra flair and pop-art style, which you can also wear anytime. The tote bag and face mask have the same digitally printed artwork of Khristina Manansala.
Ty insists that she was forced to continue to create “products with a purpose” through her new collection, as she always had been. “But this time, making our customers understand and appreciate more than when they buy Agsam Fern products, they are not only helping a community of artisans, but they are also helping us to preserve and promote our magnificent heritage and our culture, âshe said.
âThe new normal has also seen increased consumer interest and patronage for sustainable products. So, our brand’s unique history of creating charming fashion accessories made from durable materials and using a 45-year-old weaving heritage is also how we stay significantly relevant.
âConsumers are now buying less but buying better quality, goal-oriented products, so this is where Agsam Fern sets itself apart. We are and have always been clear with our brand philosophy and our unique selling proposition and it has served us very well, in the midst of the pandemic. “
Ty also pointed out the increase in working from home under the new normal mode. âWe saw this as an opportunity for Agsam Fern to further promote our necklaces.
âI call it the era and power of the self-adornment, as fashion-conscious consumers try to look their best in online business meetings or virtual gatherings with family and friends. friends. So, most of our social media posts focus on vibrant necklaces and how they can be worn in different ways. “
Gina Nebrida Ty, Agsam Fashion Fern, Fashion Accessory Makers of the Philippines, Khristina Manansala, Vicente Manansala, bags, fashion