The Aranaz brand as we know it today was launched in 1999. But it traces its origins decades back, when Becky, the family matriarch, established her own manufacturing and exports firm. By the turn of the century, the brand became known for its roomy totes and luxurious box clutches made with indigenous materials.
Becky was now joined by daughters Amina as creative director and lead designer, and Rosanna as head of international sales, branding and marketing. The brand has its share of local and foreign clients, but Amina, who is a cofounder of the SoFA Design Institute (formerly the School of Fashion and the Arts), said, “The main direction of the Aranaz brand is growing the international market.”
At the moment, they are considering joining international trade shows to be noticed.
“We haven’t really joined any, but we’ve been able to connect with buyers because of our online digital presence. That was the biggest surprise for us,” said Amina. “They see us online, on our Instagram account and they e-mail us, place orders.”
She narrated how one morning she was surprised to receive an e-mail from Moda Operandi, the online luxury retail site.
“I have a wish list of stores I want Aranaz to be available in, and Moda Operandi was one of them. When I saw that the domain name was @santodomingo, I was so excited, I couldn’t read the e-mail. I had to call my sister to open our company e-mail and read the message.”
The retail site is owned by socialite turned fashion mogul Lauren Santo Domingo.
“Turns out, the e-mail was from one of Lauren’s relatives who had seen our Instagram account and wanted to check out the merchandise,” Amina said.
“Fortunately, my sister had a trip scheduled to New York City so she was able to bring some samples to the Moda office. They saw the pieces and bought the entire collection. That was two years ago, and the brand is still sold on the site.”
Since then, the brand has slowly been gaining ground. Their business partner and distributor who shuttles between Dubai and London was able to get the brand into a prestigious store, although Amina said she couldn’t preempt the announcement.
It also helps that the designs are periodically featured in online magazines like Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler and Marie Claire.
The totes and minaudières have a very resort feel, with details like pom-poms and embroidered coconut palms, flamingoes, toucans and tropical fruit decorating the pieces made mainly out of straw, wood and leather.
“The local market likes our vibrant designs, but the bestsellers are still the classics like the Carrie, “an abaca tote that we sell so much of locally.”
Foreign buyers also like the brightly colored bags but prefer those with more details, the ones with a lot of handiwork, Amina said.
“We’ve been lucky so far that we never really had to approach stores to pitch our products; they’re the ones who contact us. I know there’s so much more that’s still untapped.”
Amina manages to juggle multiple responsibilities as school head, designer and creative director, wife and mother, because of the teams in place at the school, at work and at home.
“I am able to delegate; it’s also due to proper time management. The digital world is really helpful; even if I’m not at the office, I’m in touch with my team. My rule is that they have to be online all the time,” she said.
Aranaz was one of the exhibitors at Manila FAME held Oct. 21-22 at the World Trade Center and the Philippine Trade Training Center in Pasay City. Visit www.manilafame.com.