Fashion

Bea Valdes On How To Build A Fashion Accessory Empire

She recounts the risks she took in marrying a business with a craft dedicated to capturing artisan work.
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I came across this quote by Chuck Palahniuk: “The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” I first saw it on Habitually Chic’s website (pre-Instagram days), and I realized that it holds a different meaning for me now than when I first read it.

When we first started the workshop, and way before then—when my first manang sat beside me and we set off to discover how to bead—it was really about trying to recapture the work that artisans did before. I still feel this strange surge of respect and wonder when I see things like beautiful brass work, or marbled paper, or a floral centerpiece, or an antique piece of fabric. I felt strongly at the time, and still do, that there is really something haunting about the depth and intricacy of hand worked objects.


When we decided to plunge (and that is the correct word!) into the unknown and see if there was a way to actually marry a business to a craft without losing its heart, it was terrifying. We never set out with the option of failure, but with the idea of seeing where it would go (this attitude is from my mother).

Many times, we made up the answers as we went along. Since there was no guide for our particular circumstance, we could only rely on what we believed in and what we hoped for, which I think goes for many things in general anyway.


Bea wears an asymmetrical turquoise collar necklace, beavaldes.com.

We did hope to make seasonless pieces, ones that could be handed down from mother to daughter, from grandmother to granddaughters—keepsakes for our times. We hoped to craft deeply and to showcase what human hands can do when “armed with just needle and thread.”

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In the end, what we really do can be seen as glass beads held together by thread. The piece itself may not be monumental because of the fragility of its materials. But, just as in clothes, when you tweak a hemline or explore a novel technique and the focus changes and the familiar balance is thrown off, the perspective becomes new and broader and that little tilt can cause the design paradigm to shift.


Bea dons a Louis Vuitton dress and earrings.

And perhaps that’s what we are a part of. That new collective that refocuses on what you can do yourself, with your hands, by growing a workshop that can learn together to craft something. Maybe it is that slight shift in perspective that honors our Philippine embroidery tradition in our own contemporary context. Perhaps being a part of that heartfelt rediscovery is the wave that endures beyond a singular piece.

And ultimately, I think we’ve ended up learning so much more than just how to make a bag.

This story originally appeared in the Town&Country Philippines October 2014 issue.

Styled by Carole Cuasay-Tagle
Makeup by Amanda Padilla
Hair by Cats del Rosario

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