I Am Her: Amina Aranaz Alunan On Sparking Culture Appreciation | Clozette

Our “I Am Her” series features the female movers and shakers of the industry to learn how femininity and power coincide beautifully and seamlessly together.

From exotic prints to indigenous artisan crafts coming in the shape of chic and modern handbags, ARANAZ as a fashion label made a name for itself in the international market as early as the '90s. Today, their creations are donned by personalities both in the Philippines and abroad (Olivia Palermo, anyone?), Hollywood A-listers like Julia Roberts...

...and various European royalties like Queen Maxima of Netherlands.

But despite their massive success, nothing inspires the brand's Creative Director Amina Aranaz-Alunan more than going back to your roots and promoting local appreciation. With the announcement of their first-ever collaboration with a Filipino fashion retail brand, we sat down with Amina and talked about her vision for their partnership with Plains & Prints, her inspirations inside and outside of ARANAZ and how being a dreamer keeps her going. 

This is the first time ARANAZ partnered with a local fashion retail brand. What’s your vision for this collaboration with Plains & Prints? 

It was Plains & Prints that first approached us. And I’ve always known the brand since I own pieces from their label even before we ever thought of collaborating. I know the other designers they collaborated with and I’ve seen how they do their collaborations and it’s always executed nicely. But what was even more attractive with Plains & Prints is that through them, we could reach a wider market of Filipinos. Our focus has been international so we figured it’s time for us to do something for the Philippine market.

As you know, ARANAZ has always been about exports and merchandising off-shore. In fact, when we started our business at that time [before we made it into a brand], I felt so sad that we were making all of these products for international designers and nobody knew that they were made in the Philippines. So the reason why we started ARANAZ was to introduce Filipino-made to the Filipinos. We really wanted to spark that appreciation and that’s what we’ve been doing all these years and somehow that brought us again into the international market as ARANAZ."

Given that you have now collaborated with a fashion retail brand, do you see ARANAZ venturing more into having a separate fashion line?

We have a line of printed fabric tops in our stores but most are tied in with our speciality which [is] the bags. We really do have plans to expand beyond it since we feel that we need to add new things to the mix but of course, we don’t want to diffuse the fact that the biggest association of our brand is with bags.  

A lot of people would keep family as one aspect of their lives and business as another. How is it like running ARANAZ, considering it is a family affair?

Well, it has always been a family business [even before it was actually ARANAZ as a brand]. My mom started the manufacturing and export business around the ‘70s, the time that I was born. When she started it, she was really focused on producing for American brands and my life growing up was basically knowing that my mom was making bags. My sister and I would go to her factory and look at how she does her business.

And then when I hit college, that’s when I started becoming aware of how things are. Back then, it was never ‘trendy’ to buy things that are locally made. But then I started noticing whenever we buy Harper’s Bazaar US, InStyle US, Vogue US [magazines] every month, we would see the bags my mom was making for other brands. And that’s when I realised that here’s the international market, buying Philippine-manufactured products and in our own country, it’s not even a thing. 

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Eventually, my brother started marketing my mom’s overruns to his classmates and it was a hit that it gave us an idea to sell the bags in bazaars for fun. My mom did the designing, while I, my sister and my brother were in charge of marketing. To think bazaars weren’t as big back in the ‘90s as it is now. But we kept on doing bazaars over bazaars which led us to open our first store. That grew and grew, and to be honest, a lot of people think I’m the one really hands-on with the business but it’s really my mom. When I, and eventually my sister, got back from studying abroad, that’s when we started to plan out that we can bring ARANAZ as an independent brand to the international market.

Fill in the blank: I'm a sister, a fashion entrepreneur, and __________.

A teacher. SoFA is a big part of my life. Starting SoFA back in 2007 was one of the reasons why I somehow needed to step back a bit from ARANAZ. At that time, I really didn’t think of myself as a teacher or in education. I opened SoFA because I want to professionalise the Philippine fashion industry and so far, [I'm glad] it evolved. It’s not just about fashion anymore so we changed it to SoFA Design Institute because it now involves Interior Design and studies on furniture, lighting, and so on, expanding into the whole design field.

You are the definition of looking good while doing what you do. What keeps you inspired and empowered?

I think I’m just so blessed that I’m naturally excited. I always have something that I wanna do. I’ve always been a dreamer and I never stop dreaming. For me, there’s always a bigger thing to do. Always. And because of that, I don’t feel like I’ll run out of ideas. I feel quite lucky that [running out of motivation or ideas] still hasn’t happened to me. Not to say that I don’t feel burnt out, but I’ve never reached that point when I told myself that I don’t want to do this anymore.

Share with us your five Clozette essentials. 

Concealer. I super need concealer because I have naturally dark under eyes so I always need it for everything. Then, my cell phone, especially because I have so many things going on; I have to manage several teams and people. My phone really keeps me connected wherever I am. The third is the Carrie City bag, which is a straw tote we launched in 2013 and it’s still one of our strongest products. I use it as my extra bag if I need to bring a lot of things or use it as a day-to-day bag. And even if it’s a straw bag, I bring it with me even when I travel during the winter season. I just love the contrast between winter wear and something tropical.

Another thing is that before I never used to have this as an essential, but now I do: ballet flats. I used to be such a high-heels person and then things changed, life changed, and now I just feel like I always need to have a pair of ballet flats. Lastly, I’m a low maintenance person when it comes to skincare though I know I should be more conscious about it. But I say a good cleanser would be my top skincare product at the moment.

(Cover photo from: @aminaaranaz)

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