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)


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