I’ll admit it – I’m a label whore of all things Filipino fashion. I’m always astounded by the amount of sheer talent the Filipino artist has to offer. Whenever I travel, I proudly bring my clothes and accessories made by some of my favorite designers: separates by Mandy de la Rama, Rajo Laurel, TC Alvarez and Boom Sason; cocktail dresses by Maureen Disini, Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguez and Charina Sarte; exquisitely designed jewelry by Joyce Makitalo, Aziza Mondonedo, Nicole Whisenhunt and Michelline Syjuco and clutch bags by Rocio Olbes and Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez. Every single time I wear (or hold) one of their pieces, no matter how I’ve mixed it up with my high street brands and luxe labels, they always garner the most attention. “Where did you get that?” “That’s beautiful!” “Is that available here?” The most memorable experience I had with a local designer was when I wore a Patrice Ramos-Diaz gown to a wedding in Strasbourg with Parisians and I was the best-dressed woman there!
FINO Leatherware has been around since 1992 – long before any of these designers started making their own beautiful things. Since then, I’ve been buying FINO’s key chains and coin purses as gifts for friends or wallets and bags for myself. Today, FINO has grown leaps and bounds. The brand now has 10 retail stores in the Philippines and employ over 80 local artisans who are trained to meticulously create and craft its personal leather goods, home accessories and contract furniture. Both at the FINO store at Rockwell and at the FINO press lunch at La Creperie, I was able to see exactly what FINO has been up to in terms of bringing Filipino-made products to an international level. Gorgeous imported dyed leathers in vibrant red, deep purple, chic camel or versatile aquamarine, with classic and modern shapes for every type of woman and featuring intricate details and stitching techniques, it was a little bit hard not to fall in love with these bags.
“What differentiate FINO bags [from other brands] are the small intricacies in sewing and craftsmanship which is highly visible on the product’s exterior and even its interior. We would like to think that every item we make is well-thought-off, lovingly and carefully created by minds and hands of Philippine Artisans,” says its president and creative director Dr. Rommel Bautista, M.D. This is encapsulated in the latest from FINO: the Artisan Braids collection that modernize classic bags with a handmade, artisanal touch. Gorgeous crinkly leather dyed chocolate brown, soft taupe or aquamarine are crafted in classic shapes together with leather braiding, wrapping and stitching techniques. Each bag handle features leather braiding that gives it a bohemian feel yet is strong and sturdy enough to be used every day, perfect for a modern gypsetter.
I adore the fact that FINO’s creative team gleaned inspiration from traditional Philippine weaponry for this collection. Tribal knives and spears handles are also wrapped in this manner and FINO translated it wonderfully. What makes FINO merchandise even more covetable is that it offers after sales repair and retouching services – eliminating the need to look elsewhere to ensure your leather item is at its best. Filipino fashionistas need not look farther than their own backyard to find local, well-designed handbags made of fine imported leather one can proudly wear, no matter where in the world they are. The Artisan Braids collection will be available for a limited time in FINO Leatherware shops beginning March 2015. For more information, visit finoleatherware.com.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.