Thursday, March 19, 2015

March is Women's History Month - Who is Your Inspirational Woman?

Beverly Hills, CA – It is not everyday that you find yourself sitting in a panel interview alongside the most amazing women, which I had a pleasure to experience during The Inspirational Woman Project (IWP) book launch on Thursday, March 4th 2015, in Beverly Hills, California. It was an incredible evening filled with positive energy, dynamic panelists and attendees who flew in from all over US to connect and support each other.

Hosted by TGIF Guide and sponsored by Caress (awesome photo booth!),  NESCAFÉ, Hint Water and Glam Squad, proceeds of this event benefits Women Empowered, a non-profit organization committed to the empowerment of women through volunteerism, mentorship and networking.

This is not just another book that you read and file with other dust collectors in your library. “The Inspirational Woman Project is a powerful movement that encourages all women to connect with their power of inspiration,” says author and publisher Bri Seeley. Yes, Bri the Fashion Designer, that is why her name sounds familiar!

Bri shares, "Both the IWP and my fashion brand are centered around femininity. With the IWP, women are able to connect and embrace what it means to be a woman on the inside. And with the fashion, it's taking that inner knowledge and embodying it on the outside." Feminine style, clean lines and soft materials are truly her fashion signature!

Bri Seeley

L-R from top: Bri Seeley, Italia Ricci, Sharon Blynn, Dosse-Via Marine Trenou, Joan Flame, Chistina Galarraga

After successfully breaking away from paparazzis and group selfies, Bri assembled the panel behind the red carpet poles and prepped us for the highlight of IWP "standing room only" event. 

Panelists L-R from top: Lisa Linh (Blogger/Marketer), Jean Thompson (CEO Seattle Chocolates), Jacqueline Depaul (Model), Jaclyn Mullen (Coach/Author), Lindsay Horvath (Marketer/Activist), Tanya Rivas (PR/Blogger), Italia Ricci (Actress), Megan Bell (Founder Glam On Inc.), Sheila Vertuno (Journalist), Sahar Andrade (Diversity & Culture Competence Speaker), Brooke June (Doctor of Philosophy), Wendy Gladney Dean (Author/Entrepreneur), Kate Retherford (Blogger), Rachel Yahne (Author), Cassia Jones (Actress, Director, Screenwriter), Kristin Hatfield (Owner EquiptBaby)

Wonderful words of wisdom were exchanged... some touching testimonies, some called for action, some refreshing validations and some obvious but necessary reminders.  I mustered enough confidence and humbly shared my two cents: 

How do you inspire other women?  

I don’t know that I inspire, hence I wasn’t sure how I ended up sitting next to these extraordinary individuals. What I know is that I want a better version of me than yesterday every time I wake up in the morning. In the IWP book I stated, “I believe in working together and investing quality time to benefit another being, a community or an entity.  To me, giving back (especially incognito) and helping those who are in need is edifying. If I am able to touch and uplift even just one life then I am happy. I cannot say that I do what I do to inspire other women… I do it to make a difference.  If it inspires others, that’s good and I hope that they pay it forward.”

What one word would you say is synonymous to a woman? 

Grace – The manner that one speaks and acts is what makes a woman.  Some say you either have grace or you don’t. I’d like to think that every woman has grace, though some may have misplaced theirs.

What is your current mantra?

“Love~Learn~Teach~Grow” – Love what you do, and I do not mean just your work. I meant be passionate in anything that you do in life. If not, at least like it and be good at it.  Learn it well, so that you can teach others. By teaching you will help others grow, as well as help grow your network and self worth, and the cycle, learn, teach and grow!

What is your super power? 

Many may think of this as a weakness, but I consider my introversion as my super power. It allows me to listen intently, have deeper connection and truly understand the other person.  And I like to rejuvenate my energy with alone time and quiet self-reflections.

L-R: Sheila Vertuno, Mallory Armstrong, Brooke June and Jacqueline Depaul

As the audience continue to thicken, I started feeling exhausted from being out and speaking in public.  While this is totally out of my element, I found myself holding the microphone towards the end of the discussion to share one last thought with everyone. “Every second that goes by is gone forever. As women, we are often quick to verbalize our thoughts and by the time we realize the impact of what we said on others, it was too late and there’s no rewinding.  Say it only if it is KIND, TRUE and NECESSARY! More often than not, I fail to do so, but I strive to practice it every opportunity I get," I concluded.

To be inspirational does not mean you have to be a know-it-all, perfect and successful in all your endeavors.  It is actually quite the opposite! To be inspirational is about how you carry yourself through the ups and downs in your life journey and how you impact the surroundings and the people around you.

The IWP book features a compilation of stories, quotes and inspiring moments of, not the famous un-relatable public figures and celebrities, but of 99 strong, motivational and real women that anyone can correlate and assimilate with.  You might ask, why 99 women?  Well, the 100th woman is reserved for the owner of the book. The last few pages are reserved for her to write her own story and be part of the IWP movement. Visit the IWP  Facebook page here to learn how to get involved.

I asked what's next for the IWP movement, and Bri said, "The goal is to take the book to 10 cities around the country. In each city we will host an event as well as a book signing. The idea is to start developing IWP pockets around the country to increase and expand the movement."  So far the movement is on target to reach 5,000 women by mid year, which means this project could reach up 10,000 by end of year.

‘Twas was an exhilarating night! I only wish there was enough time to have a one on one with each of these wonderful women that I admire. Thank you and kudos to Bri Seeley, for paving the path for this movement. Expect IWP to hit these following cities soon:  Phoenix, San Diego, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, NYC, Chicago, Miami, LA and Austin. Dates, to be announced so stay tuned!

What a way to kick off the International Women’s Day, an occasion that is celebrated every year on March 8th since 1911.  By the way, it is also Women’s History Month, who is the inspirational woman that you are celebrating this month?

One day this month, I am celebrating ME as it is my birthday month =) As far as my inspirational woman, my one and only mother. She is my rock! 

Get your FASH on, keep styling and make a fashion scene. Visit and LIKE “Chasing Sheila” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

(Photos courtesy of The Inspirational Woman Project and Desert Rh1no Photography)


Saturday, March 14, 2015

BANAGO, a Philippine-made international brand!

Los Angeles, CA - Like a little kid going to a candy store, I found myself walking a bit faster as I trekked the streets of downtown L.A. towards Banago US headquarters.  Past the entrance are exposed high beams and brick walls, a perfect contrast to the colorful stock of beautifully hand crafted Banago bags and accessories that lined the walls of the loft style warehouse.

Founded in 2011, Banago is a brand created to support and expand sustainable livelihoods of artisan communities, as well as preserve the waning arts and crafts in Samar, Philippines. It started when Founder and Creative Director Renee Patron travelled to the Philippines to visit and care for her ailing grandmother.  Renee who was born and raised in the US appreciated the simple living in the province during her extended stay compared to her metro lifestyle in New York City.  During her visit, she met her “kapitbahays” (translation: neighbors), many of whom are local “banig” (Translation: handwoven mats) weavers working at home as a cottage industry to earn a living and provide for their families. Renee was quickly drawn to the laborious grass farming, detailed curing and pounding, leaf dying, and the traditional weaving process; a technique passed down from generations.  It didn’t take long for Renee to recognize the possibilities to innovate the native product and she took the opportunity to share her ideas and collaborate with the local weavers to create a handbag made of "banig" for her own personal use.

Upon her return to New York, 15-year fashion veteran, Renee showcased her customized handbag to retail buyers when she reported back to her work at Pret-A-Porter Paris, a business development company for Europe and Asia based mode brands.  Her business partners did not only love the style and graphics she designed, they were also inspired by the story behind the craft, and asked if they could order products for their stores. Proud of Banago success story, Renee related, “We had more orders than most indie designers in New York could compile in two years from the US and Japan. I decided then (that) the right thing to do was to take a chance, quit my back then, dream job and see where this would take me.” That was the birth of Banago, named after the beach where Renee’s mother, who also worked in the fashion industry, grew up.

V Collection Malaya Tote - $98
Envelope Clutch - $82
Pintados Laptop Case - $99
Sunglass Case - coming soon

Envelope Clutch - $82

Banago ottoman in colorful chevron design

With major orders pouring from J. Crew, Anthropologie, Nordstroms and hundreds of other retailers and boutiques globally, Banago battled to survive the typhoon “Hagupit” during the height of its Spring/Summer 2015 production in Samar, Philippines. Hagupit, the most intense tropical cyclone in 2014, traced almost exactly the same path as Haiyan, the deadliest and strongest typhoon recorded in history on November 8, 2013. Renee has since been on ground zero reviving the flattened Banago factories and cratsmen’s dwelling place, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped fund the brand’s restoration project, mostly to buy raw materials washed away by the storm, to fulfill tens and thousands of orders from abroad.

Mark my word and see for yourself, watch the less than 4-minute length video in the very recently launched Banago website,  It is very heartwarming to see the positive impact of Banago to the artisans and their families, to the community, to the Philippine economy and equally important, to the art itself. The quality of these hand crafted products is truly extraordinary! This I am certain of because I am a proud owner of a Pintados Malaya Tote by Banago for Tommy Bahama, listed as number 3 out of 41 top summer must haves by Lucky magazine, knowing that my purchase helped enrich more than just my closet and my outfit! 

Pintados Malaya Tote - $97

This is only the beginning… stay tuned for part 2 of the Banago story.  In the meantime, visit and like Chasing Sheila on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for notification of an exclusive Banago discount offer.  

Mabuhay ka, Renee Patron and more power to Banago!  You and your brand will soar high including the hundreds of families beneath your wings.  I am an advocate of fashion with a cause, and will always be a Banago fan!

(Photo credits Banago and Desert Rh1no Photography)