Like many entrepreneurs, designer Beatrice “Bea” Valdes researched on how to navigate her accessories business throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, while keeping her artisans safe.
Her namesake label is famous for one-off, intricately embellished minaudières and purses, statement neckpieces and decorative panels for institutions. Like most luxury brands, the label felt the strain wrought by pandemic restrictions. The government-
reduced workforce slowed down production time and output. Foreign trade shows to meet new buyers were canceled. With fewer events to show off accessories, Valdez is focusing on conscious gifts.
The designer realized that consumers choose to spend on products that reflect ethical values and sustainability. “The idea of gifting and sharing the proceeds with charity or to help out a community is important now. It also moves the crafts forward. It’s an interesting way to grow,” she says.
Valdes is collaborating with retail platforms that team up with fashion companies that seek to benefit the community. She recently finished a collection for Relevé Fashion, a London-based luxury site that showcases ethical and sustainable brands.
Since January, Valdes had been planning to design jewelry as gifts for the Christmas season. She produced exclusive holiday collections for Lanai lifestyle store, Maison de Mode (an online luxury retailer known for innovative and sustainable accessories), and the annual Designers Holiday Bazaar (DHB) at Greenbelt 5 and its virtual counterpart. DHB organizers Paloma, Bea and Sofia Zobel have gathered over 30 brands, all of which will donate 20 percent of their sales to scholarships for underprivileged children.
Among Valdes’ special gift pieces are knot necklaces, inspired by the knots from the back of her beadwork and embroidery panels. “The story is about what it is like to reveal what is hidden and pair it with unusual stones. People are looking into unique pieces. We have the advantage of crafting things,” says Valdes.
The color palette for DHB is festive, and the designs more graphic in keeping with the bazaar’s celebratory theme. “It’s about ‘conscious gifting’ but reflective of the Filipino spirit, which is playful and generous. Every time we work with a group, we want something unique for them,” says Valdes.
For Lanai, the pieces were more classic in color—whites, pale salmon and gray set off by colorful stones such as rose quartz, imperial jasper and agates, and accented with gold for shine.
The Bea Valdes brand positions itself as an ethical label as it empowers women. Each piece is embroidered, knotted and sewn by women who work from the heart.
The brand likewise espouses sustainability by avoiding wastage. Leftover materials are repurposed for other projects. Valdes sees potential in retaso (cloth clippings) and turns them into an accessory or top. Instead of discarding flawed stones, she highlights beauty in imperfection. One such gift item is a pair of turquoise earrings with black veins that don’t match. The earrings make a visual impact with their proportion and bold shapes.
When Valdes started almost two decades ago, her design peg was modern heirlooms inspired by keepsakes from her grandmother, the late jeweler Fe Panlilio. For instance, feathers and ornaments, salvaged from vintage items, added fun to her purses.
“I wanted to make things that would be passed down for generations for their value and meaning. The piece would have emotional durability and not be a throwaway,” she says.
The brand has come full circle. During the pandemic, she found saved items that could be modified. “The idea is to look around, make use of what is available and give it a meaningful story,” she says.
A client requested to turn a large necklace into an accessory that could be worn several ways. “We’ve done this for a few clients—reworking pieces to accommodate a modern lifestyle. It’s an interesting way to design. It gives the piece longevity. What you bring new is the skill—handcrafted, bespoke pieces imbued with character,” she says.
On her plans for 2021, she says the brand will continue to produce “a little bit of everything.” Throughout the quarantine, private clients commissioned Valdes to create art pieces. The relationship with loyal patrons and institutional retailers helped keep the business afloat. Bea Valdes pieces are still sold at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Hotel Crillon in Paris and Rosewood Hotel in Hong Kong. “Amid the pandemic, the minaudières will still have fans, but there will be fewer occasions for them. Through these years, the necklaces have lasted from season to season. As long as we work by hand, we can create personalized items,” she says. —CONTRIBUTED