1 of 2
MISS UNIVERSE 2018 Catriona Gray has been known to support local products on her Instagram page, such as sandals from local brands.
When she won the title in 2018, Ms. Gray brought lucky charms made by artisans from Paete, Laguna: wooden bags by Calli.
According to Calli founder Tessa Nepomuceno, Ms. Gray used their Rosa bag, which was carved from acacia wood into the shape of a rose.
Ms. Gray later collaborated with them to design the Catriona bag, shaped like a shell. “Iyon lang ang dala niya sa Bangkok (That was the bag she brought to Bangkok),” Ms. Nepomuceno said.
On July 12, Calli released a diffusion line called 10 by Calli. While their usual clutches and bags are priced up to P15,000, the 10 by Calli line is made from solihiya (rattan or cane woven into a sunburst pattern) and priced between P4,000 to P8,000.
The brand started in 2013, though Ms. Nepomuceno in partnership with a community in Paete, have been making bags since 2006. The small Laguna town is known for its woodworking craft, being declared the country’s woodcarving capital in 2005.
In 2006, Ms. Nepomuceno was in a partnership with a British brand that sold these bags abroad. Eventually, she started her own independent brand.
“Why not do it on my own?” she told BusinessWorld in an interview during the 10 by Calli Launch in Makati. “It (wasn’t) known to be made in the Philippines,” she said about these first bags.
Ms. Nepomuceno claims to have no knowledge of design, but we do see thought in bags shaped like trunks, or these wooden clutches shaped into all sorts of fantastic shapes and studded with jewels, or combined with denim.
“I don’t know how to draw,” she said.
But, when she travels or she sees something she likes, she says, “Doon pa lang, biglang naglalaro na sa isip ko (there, it plays around in my mind),” she said, adding she then asks a production assistant to make a sketch based on her ideas.
The brand, meanwhile, is a feminized version of her son’s name, Khalil. Later, she found out that “calli” in Greek means “beautiful” or “lovely.”
She noted the ease that comes with using local materials such as acacia.
“Acacia is the only wood that you can bend, unlike other woods that are very solid. You can’t carve it, you cannot form them into circles, or a triangle.”
In insisting upon building her own brand and using local materials and employing Filipino artisans, she makes a case for Pinoy pride.
“It’s from the Philippines, created by a Filipino. I wanted to showcase Filipino artisans and the skill of the Filipino,” she said. “Only skilled artisans can make that.”
Check out Calli’s collections at callibags.com. — Joseph L. Garcia