Linea Etnika: A Clothing Brand Weaving Its Way Into Our Hearts

Linea Etnika is a local clothing brand founded by Looie Lobregat and Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte. After becoming friends through the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc, where they were both representatives of their fathers, they saw the potential to help keep alive the tradition of Yakan Weaving and offer Mindanao women a sustainable livelihood.

As President, Looie is very hands on with managing the company. She consults with Joy, who finds time to provide support despite her full schedule as Vice Mayor..

After learning about Linea Etnika and receiving the Pia top (pictured above), I was so moved by their brand’s mission that I invited Looie to share a little more about what they do in that hopes that you will be inspired to support them too.

Hi, Looie! What is the story behind the name of the brand?

My father is proud he helped me come up with the name!

Linea Etnika – n. Linea is a Spanish word for line. In Chavacano, a Spanish based creole spoken in Zamboanga City, it means the same. adj. Etnika comes from the word ethnic. It pertains to the indigenous weaves, which are proudly used on our clothing to keep our culture relevant to chic fashion

Looie with the Yakan Tribeswomen 

What is the mission of your brand?

My family is from Zamboanga City where we have the Yakan Weaving Village. The Yakan People were originally from Basilan but in the 1970’s some of them moved to Zamboanga City due to unrest. There are now over 40 families in the Yakan Village that call Zamboanga City their home. We aim to preserve and promote their culture and tradition of weaving using a backtrap loom by using fashion as our medium. It takes 4 days to fix the pattern on the backstrap loom and another 4 to 5 days to weave a meter. Weavers learn at a very young age from their mothers and grandmothers and pass on the tradition through memory. Yakan weaves are known for their tightness and intricate bold, geometric and symmetrical patters inspired by nature and island weaving.

Muse Margarita Valdes wearing the Elena Jacket paired with the Marta dress 

Our family’s relationship with the Yakan People at the Yakan Weaving Village in Zamboanga City started with my grandmother, Maria Clara ‘Caling’ Lobregat. I am grateful to be nourishing that relationship through Linea Etnika.

My heritage inspires me to create products that make weaves more mainstream and celebrate the stories of the hands that make them.

This process becomes more meaningful when we collaborate with communities empowered through dignity of work and respect of culture; when we build relationships that add value; and when we do things with gratitude which make the Filipino shine.

We look for opportunities to also involve communities from Quezon City. We work with communities in Payatas and Barangay Pasong Tamo for our packaging. We’ve also worked with the residents of the Quezon City Jail Female Dormitory at Camp Karingal for our notecards.

Which pieces have become your best sellers?

The Joy dress was the first product we introduced to the market. Joy took a photo of me wearing our sample and when she posted it on FB it generated over 1k likes. The positive feedback we received was encouraging. We knew we were on to something good! The Joy round neck tunic dress made in neoprene and embellished with handloom Yakan weaves on the chest area and shoulder detail is a favorite. Yes, it has pockets!

The Looie dress The V- neckline which suits almost all body types and draws attention to your face is a bestseller. Also made in neoprene which falls nicely and doesn’t crease easily. It is decorated with handloom Yakan weaves on the cuffs and bottom hem. Yes, with pockets too!

Elena Jacket – The entire jacket is made of handloom Pagal Bato Yakan weaves which are extra special since it is traditionally used as the Yakan bride’s jacket. The intensity of color changes depending on the light and angle you are viewing it from.

Lola Slip Ons – Launched last April during Lola Caling’s birthday. I was very close to my Lola and know that somehow she is guiding me on my journey. She was known as Nana de Zamboanga or the Mother of the City. She had a sapatilya in all colors to match her Saya. This was her everyday outfit. She was an advocate of culture. A Marikina shoe company called the sapatiya, Maria Clara, in honor of my Lola. I modernized her sapatilya and called it Lola =) Sending a photo of me wearing the Lola Slip Ons with the Yakan kids.

Tin Wrap – This contemporary wrap made in handloom Tausug weaves from Sulu was traditionally worn as a Kambut (belt/sash) by Tausug men. It adds pizzaz to a monochrome outfit and can be worn many ways. Some use it as a bandana or even put it on with the backside on the chest area. The splash of color reflects the weaver’s mood.

Capa del Sur – We transformed the Tausug Pis Yabit (headpiece) into a modern cape made in handloom Tausug weaves come from Sulu.

We now have over 15 clothing styles and 6 shoe designs. Our leather shoes are handcrafted by artisans in Marikina through a collab with Lupe Saenz. Each pair is finished with Yakan weaves.

We make carabao horn pendants too using the retazos of our indigenous weaves and semi precious stones. Upcycled and repurposed all the way.Another accessory is the Mai Wristlet made of snakeskin and enhanced with indigenous Yakan weaves. You’ve got the Philippine archipelago in your hands with weaves from Mindanao, snakeskin from the Visayas put together by hands from Luzon.

Our retazos are too precious to waste so we also use them on our packaging sewn in Payatas, QC and on notecards which were made by residents of the Female Dormitory of Camp Karingal in QC. The women awaiting dispensation of justice were given an opportunity to earn. They cut and pasted the retazos on the notecards. The designs on the notecards relate to Zamboanga City and Linea Etnika. We commissioned an artist to create the images using watercolor and ink.

We also had a collab with Casa Mercedes which involved the printing of the Yakan pattern on the abanico. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the fans were donated to the Yakan Village in Zamboanga City last December.

Who are some of the muses of your brand?

We love all our #LineaEtnikaWoman. They are modern women who wear many hats, are empowered and contribute to their various fields. We are grateful for their support!!

Our #LineaEtnikaWoman list includes…

  • Vice President Leni Robredo- we made her the Leni dress but the Daniela top is her favorite!
  • Senator Loren Legarda
  • QC Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte
  • Kelly Misa – Top Model and host
  • Marga Valdes – Accessories designer
  • Reese Fernandez-Ruiz of Rags2Riches / Things That Matter
  • Tintin Bersola – we named the Tin Wrap after her

Muse Vice President Leni Robredo wearing the Leni dress

Muse Kelly Misa wearing the Looie Dress

What do you have planned in the future?

Linea Etnika turns 2 in April! So much has already happened and we are grateful for all the opportunities, for the advocates believing in our mission, the stockists and various partners and brands we’ve worked with for the trust and confidence and most especially to our weavers, our sewers and the hands that make our products for giving our work meaning. We will continue to deepen our relationship with them and stay close to our advocacy to keep the beautiful tradition of handloom weaving alive by making weaves mainstream.

Last December we had the turn over ceremony of two weaving centers, a marketing office, high speed sewing machines and materials for weaving, a newly built fence and a concrete path at the Yakan Village in Zamboanga City. This initiative was made possible through the help of my father, Celso Lobregat, who is the Congressman for District 1, and the Department of Labor and Employment. There were representatives as well from the DTI and Tesda to encourage them to collaborate for the sustainable progress of the Yakan People. We will continue to use Linea Etnika as an avenue for various sectors to give more attention to the Yakan People. It was also during the Turn Over activity that we shared a portion of the sale from the fans to the community. They bought musical instruments for the village and kept some of it for future use.

Muse and Linea Etnika co-founder Joy Belmonte in a Joy dress during her oath taking

With the newly built weaving centers, the young weavers, from age 8 were excited to weave.

We will strengthen our presence with our existing retail partners and look for other possible venues to market our products. Joining fairs like ArteFino and Pop-Ups are still in our marketing plan. We enjoy the personal encounters during these events where we can get first hand feedback from our clients. Hopefully we get the chance to explore the global market too!

Part of our advocacy is to generate awareness about Zamboanga City and the Yakan People. I had the chance to work with the Fashion Marketing and Promotion students of SOFA last year and was also invited to speak at the launch of Things That Matter. I look forward to more occasions like these.

Where can people try your items?

We are stocked at Rustans Makati, Kultura SM Makati, Lily Lifestyle Boutique on the 3rd floor of Discovery Primea along Ayala Avenue and for the people in the North we have a rack at Rags2Riches in UP Town Center. In case the item they want isn’t available with our stockists they can shoot us an email and we can make arrangements for them to try at a venue in Makati.

Humbled and honored we were recommended by the DTI under their Go Lokal initiative to fast fashion retailers. We had just turned 1 when our slow fashion brand found a comfortable spot on the floor of fast fashion retailers such as Rustan’s and Kultura. Rags2Riches was our very first mall experience.

Muse Bambi Camus in a Capa Del Sur cape

Can people custom make a piece?

To as certain extent yes. We can make the pieces in your preferred color and find a suitable weave to complement. We can adjust the length of the hem and the sleeves too.

Want nab a Linea Etnika piece? You can order online through their:

Website | FacebookInstagram

They are also available online through www.thingsthatmatter.ph 

(All images courtesy of Looie Lobregat of Linea Etnika)

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SweetEscape: A Holiday Photography Service You Should Definitely Book!

A few weeks ago, our friend Kristy Onglatco, heard that we were going to be taking a trip to Sydney, she asked Carl and I if we would be interested in booking a session with SweetEscape: A Holiday photography service that lets you have a private session with a professional photographer almost anywhere in the world!

Given how much Carl and I love taking pictures, we’re usually not the type to sign up for professional photography services but we are so glad that we did this time.

It was as easy as opening an account SweetEscape and then setting our date and time. SweetEscape did the rest and booked us a lovely photographer named Joan. Joan contacted us a few days before we arrived to recommend a few places for our session. We met him in our desired spot near where we were staying and for two hours had a great time seeing new and old areas in Sydney.

A few days later, Sweet Escape let us know our photos were ready for download from the site and it was easy as selecting the ones we wanted and downloading them all onto a hard drive. Carl and I are so grateful that we now have pictures from our family trip with all four of us in them! These photos of us introducing our favourite city in the world to the kids are so special we are so glad we said yes to making this happen.

I asked our friend Kristy to share a little more about SweetEscape and I wanted to also share other photos of friends of mine who have tried this service. There is great promo code to avail of before the end of this month too! Find it at the bottom of this post.

Cat Arambulo & Family in New York

Hi Kristy! What exactly is SweetEscape?
SweetEscape is a holiday photography service that turns your holiday moments into beautiful photos. We connect travelers with the best local photographer in 300+ cities around the world.

Where is SweetEscape originally from and when was it launched in the Philippines?
SweetEscape is a global company that is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. We haven’t formally launched in the Philippines yet, but since our service is open to all travelers, we get clients from all over the world.

Jackie Go & Family in Japan

How does SweetEscape work?
You can book a session of two hours or more via www.sweetescape.com or our free mobile application. Choose a destination, a date, and time. A photographer will be assigned to you and within three business days, your photos will be ready to be downloaded through your desktop or mobile app.

How does SweetEscape choose photographers to work with?
Because we want to make sure our clients are handled with professionalism and care, we have to hand-pick the photographers joining our team. Usually, interested individuals go to our website and submit their portfolio. Our photographer relation team will then do a quick video call to make sure all these individuals understand photography, know the ins and outs of the city and of course, are very friendly. Apart from having a warm personality, the most important thing we believe photographers should have is passion. 🙂

Mikaela Martinez and her daughter Noelle in Hong Kong

What is the price range for a SweetEscape Session?
Our rate starts at USD $300-$500, and this is for a 2-hour photoshoot. The price range is dependent on the city. Please find the full city list in the attachment below.

How can someone apply to be a SweetEscape photographer?
We love working with photographers from all over the world; it’s like having a friend in every city. Anyone who has a love for the camera and is passionate about taking beautiful photographs of special moments can submit their applications here: www.sweetescape.com/join

Nicole Hernandez- De los Angeles & Family in Japan

Can you choose the photographer you can work with? 
Our SweetEscape team will assign the best photographer for each photo session. We do this because we know their skills and can best match them with the needs of our clients. We ask that you trust us because we only want what’s best for you.

Convinced yet? You can avail of a 50$ discount on your first session with SweetEscape if you reserve your photo session date before January 31 using my promo code CAT50 upon checkout! Your session can be for anytime this year, you just need to book it using my code by January 31!

Learn more about SweetEscape by heading to their:

Website | Facebook Page | Instagram 

You can also find them in the Apple or Google App Store. 

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Clare V. Bags at Shop Stellin

I recently discovered a new brand that I am absolutely smitten with called Clare V.

Designed by Los Angeles-based designer Clare Vivier (more about her below), Clare’s bags are timeless, high quality, and at price points that are actually affordable for a designer brand. I am absolutely in love with her signature Alistair-Petit Bag in the color Cuoio with Cream Facing. Here are its specifications:

  • Reminiscent of circular vintage luggage, the Cuoio Vachetta Petit Alistair’s top handles and long shoulder strap paired with its pronounced edges give this bag a beautiful look that is refreshingly modern.
  • Style #CB10030-863
  • Dimensions: 9.5″ diameter x 3″3
  • Handle Drop: 3.25″
  • Strap Drop: 19.5″ (removable)
  • Interior Zippered Drop Pocket
  • Removable shoulder/crossbody strap
  • Dropped, contrasting cream goat panels with a light grey zipper
  • Italian Vachetta is a natural vegetable-tanned cowhide with a very light surface finish, allowing natural skin variance, color and texture to show through
  • Clean with a soft, dry cloth
  • Crossbody Multi Braided Webbing strap can be purchased 
  • Made in LA

This bag is just the right size for a day out. I’ve been able to fit my long wallet, phone, and makeup touch up kit without any issues. The leather is a gorgeous quality that doesn’t scratch easily, but will age beautifully.

For us bag lovers in the Philippines, we’re in luck that top bag distributor Shop Stellin carries Clare’s beautiful bags on her site! I invited Kat of Shop Stellin to answer some questions about these beautiful must-haves. I guarantee you’re going to want one when you get to the end of this post and I’ve got a great discount for you if you do!

Where is Clare V originally from. Can you tell us a bit about its founding story.

Designed and produced in Los Angeles, California, Clare V. was founded by American designer Clare Vivier in 2008. As a journalist working for French television, Clare Vivier noted the lack of stylish laptop cases on the market and decided to create a line of bags and accessories of her own to address this need. Her designs are inspired by her strong connection to France and is known for elegant functionality and timeless simplicity.

(Clare V in LA Times feature. Read it here)

How did Shop Stellin discover the brand?

We first noticed the brand back in 2015 when we spotted their leopard foldover clutch bag and immediately fell in love with its impeccable craftsmanship and dual style – you can carry it like a flat clutch or folded. We’ve been a fan ever since. Our current favorite includes the Petit Alistair bags and Petit Simple Tote.

What is it about Clare V that you like?

It is affordable luxury. You get well-crafted and elegant bags without breaking the bank.

What materials does Clare V often use in their bags?

We only carry select Clare V. pieces and all of them are made with vegetable-tanned leather, suede leather or calf hair.

What are Clare V’s best sellers?

The Simple Totes and the foldover clutch bags are their classic and best-selling styles.

Have any celebrities been spotted wearing their items?

Katie Holmes, Jessica Alba, Sophia Bush, Kirsten Dunst, Emma Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence to name a few.

Jessica Alba with her Clare V. clutch. (Image from here)

How can people order a bag from Shop Stellin?

They can place an order through our website www.shopstellin.com or contact us on Instagram @shopstellin. We accept payments via BPI/BDO bank deposit or credit card paymnets through PayPal.

Run don’t walk! These beautiful Clare V bags are currently available at the Shop Stellin site. The Alistair is even sold out on Clare V’s official site so you have better chances of nabbing it here!

I’m offering my lucky readers a 15% discount on Shop Stellin’s web page for ANY beautiful item! Simply type the code CATJL15 upon checking out! Code is available till December 18, 2017 only! 

Learn more about Shop Stellin through their:

Website Instagram Page

(The detachable leather pompom on my Clare V bag is an added addition from Shop Stellin exclusively!)

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