#YSGirlGang: Wiji, Thea, Deane, Esme, Aileen, and Tinay are girl boss goals

These amazing ladies show us who’s boss.

Deane Miguel, 26, @deanemiguel
CEO, Serious Studio

Young and headstrong, CEO of Serious Studio Deane Miguel is proof that one’s creative passions are good for business.  Through her company Serious Studio — which she runs with business partner and fiancé Lester Cruz  — Deane has been responsible for the branding and design of young brands such as Satchmi, Manila Creamery, Cyma, and Ilya, to name a few. The work is constantly growing, and Deane admits that navigating through the local design industry still comes with some struggle. But she fights her doubts by reminding herself of what she wants and persistently running towards it. If an opportunity ever presents itself, Deane would advise to just jump into it. “If you take your fears and just swim in them, you’re never going to grow,” Deane says. “Trusting the process will guide you along the way but making your own luck out there will help you get to where you want.”  — Ina Jacobe

Starting a business straight out of college is such a brave decision to make. Could you tell us how the concept of Serious Studio started?

When Serious started, it was just Lester and I. I was handling the business side while he was the one in charge of the creative side. The good thing about our dynamic is we know a little of both. After graduating, we agreed to give ourselves a year to set up a design studio and if it doesn’t turn out well then we can pursue other things. Everybody says to go after your passion after everything. Get a good 9-5 corporate job, earn your way to the top, and when you reach that age where you finally get all that money, that’s when you start pursuing your passion… But we don’t want to wait ‘til we’re old. Because by the time we’re both old, we would have so many responsibilities and it’s not like I can tell my children “bye muna, I’m just gonna pursue my passion ha.” (Laughs) But of course we don’t want to simplify everything we’ve went through for other people like “yeah, after school just do what you want,” because it’s a different story for everyone. We had to make our own luck. 

“Another thing that we realized is that it is so important to trust the process. Stop comparing yourself to other people and learn how to find your own voice. Once you’ve found it, try to stick to it til you fully develop it.”

Photo by Arabella Paner

You’ve mentioned that you weren’t as confident before when you had to face your clients alone because you’re young. How and when did you start building your confidence?

A lot of people didn’t take us seriously when we started, especially because I was young and was also a girl, I guess. When we started, the design industry wasn’t that good. But now it’s slowly growing. Anyway, facing clients on your own takes a lot of work. So what I did was I just jumped into it. If I take my fears and just swim in them, I know I’m never going to grow. If I don’t do it, then what will happen to the studio? So I just plunged into it. I just really aggressively run towards what I want.

As a young (but kickass) girl boss in the design industry, what advice can you give to promising designers?

I think not enough people are doing it for the craft; more people are doing it for the likes. I actually admire Lester for having an “art” Instagram account wherein he posts his unedited 3 AM thoughts because I think a lot of people nowadays put too many filters into work that they do. Advice-wise, like us, a lot of serious thought goes into the work that we do because, of course, we have clients we should be taking care of but we make sure to not forget to have fun too.

Another thing that we realized is that it is so important to trust the process. Stop comparing yourself to other people and learn how to find your own voice. Once you’ve found it, try to stick to it til you fully develop it.

Esme Palaganas, 23, @esmepalaganas
Designer, Basic Movement

Esme Palaganas has built her own fashion label, generated a following, and has been a fixture in the glossy pages of local rags and fashion shows. It’s hard to imagine that just a little more than two years ago she was still in college — but I guess that’s the speed in which millennial drive and success goes. Once you get to talking with Esme, you realize that she’s more than just a fashion girl. She currently handles every single thing for her label Basic Movement, from designing to dealing with production to corporate accounts. “I love the business side,” she shares. Esme is currently working on growing her fashion business — it’s in its “not a girl, not yet a woman” phase, she says — and she’s slowly realizing that it can’t just be a one-woman-show from here. “It’s the support of the right people,” she says. No harm in marching to the beat of your own drum, but you get by with a little help from your friends. — Neal P. Corpus

How is it balancing both the design and business aspect of Basic Movement?

It’s very hard because my business isn’t just Basic Movement. I have the ready-to-wear, I do the shows there, and then I have the made-to-order, the entourage, the “designer” work, the gowns and all, and then I have a corporate account. So I have three aspects of the business. If we’re just going to talk about Basic Movement in terms of designing and the business aspect of it, it’s hard, because I’m at this phase where I’m, “Okay, am I going to make pieces that will sell, or am I going to make something new that people don’t know that they want yet?” In short, new ideas versus selling the ideas the are already existing and people are needing because of the trend or are ready to buy. It’s hard but I have to balance them. In my collections, there are pieces that are basic, saleable stuff but still fit in to the story, and the storytelling of the collection. At the same time we have the “work pieces” with embroidery, beading, braids. I try to balance it in a way that we’re still selling and showing the craft, and pieces that you can wear everyday.

Do you do a lot of these things all by yourself?

I have a team in terms of pattern making, developing the product, but designing, sourcing is all me. I do have some suppliers who go to me, but most of the time I try to go out and look for new suppliers in terms of craftsmanship. For my upcoming collection I went to Pandi, Bulacan, this province that’s really known for embroidery. I really went there to know if it’s possible to integrate it into the Basic Movement brand. In terms of business, like I said I’m slowly talking to some people who might join me and help with e-commerce and even the marketing aspect of it. Marami pang nangyayari, but basically right now it’s all me, business-wise. But we’re trying to expand that. Para hindi lahat sakin ‘yung stress.

“I think [the local fashion industry] is changing, but I think we have to be cautious about it because people will try to be different for the sake of being different, but not really true to their hearts in the way that they’re attached to a brand and want to tell a story.”

Photo by Arabella Paner

Basic Movement is all about elevating the everyday. What led you to that philosophy?

When I was in college, there weren’t a lot of brands here, locally. Outside of the Philippines, marami, in London, New York. If you look at the sikat na brands, they’re all ready-to-wear. Dito kasi, it’s all made to order. So back then, when I was quote-unquote blogging, all I could write about was these ready-to-wear designers that were outside of the box but I can still wear it, but they’re all outside of the country. Never here. It was just Proudrace. And Team Manila sinasama ko na ‘yun ‘cause their idea was still out of the box. ‘Yun lang ‘yung ready-to-wear that we have here. So when I was in college it was really my passion to look at the street style aspect of it. That was when sina The Sartorialist and other blogs were sikat, it was about personal style. That’s when we did The SDA Project then, ‘cause we really wanted to explore how people dressed up with the things that we only have here. So if you look at the people, it’s really just basics, wala masyadong brands. So when I did my grad collection, it was ready-to-wear, just basic. It was just cotton stripes. The rest of my batchmates were all doing beading, gowns, ganyan. Siguro bilang lang kami na nagready-to-wear. Way back when I was blogging, I saw that I couldn’t love my own (local fashion) kasi wala namang variety. As much as you want to support, [wala].

Do you think that’s changing now though?

Yes. I mean, coffee pa lang, food pa lang. Ang dami na ngayon. I think it’s changing, but I think we have to be cautious about it because people will try to be different for the sake of being different, but not really true to their hearts in the way that they’re attached to a brand and want to tell a story. It’s also about craftsmanship, because you can say “Oh I bought a shirt from a local brand,” tapos ang ganda, nilabhan ko, wala na yung kulay ng shirt. Kumupas na. It says a lot about not minding the product and just selling in in a marketing, Instagram-worthy way. They forget that fashion is still about the product and the clothing.

What are you most proud of in your work?

I think you should ask other people, not me. [Laughs]. I always come back to my grad show whenever people ask me that. ‘Cause everything, all of what I’m doing now is there. From the look book to the ready-to-wear aspect of it, shot it in Escolta, I used a Korean model, it’s stripes, it’s minimal, you can wear it everyday. It comes back to that. That’s me. That’s where the roots of Esme or Basic Movement are: it’s ready-to-wear, you can wear it on the street; I want to go international, that’s why I used a Korean model; I want to promote local, [that’s why we shot in] Escolta. I go back to that whenever I get lost along the way in creating things. That’s one of my proudest moments. Doon nagsimula lahat.

Thea de Rivera, 25, @theaderivera
Restauranteur, The Girl and The Bull and 12/10

Fresh out of college and looking for a job, Thea de Rivera decides to help her boyfriend Gab Bustos set up his first restaurant The Girl and the Bull. “When we opened the restaurant, we found this need to manage the business,” shares Thea. “As Gab wanted to become a chef, he started working more on the back-end of things. Somebody really had to take care of everything else — the business end, accounting, front of house.” And that’s when Thea found herself in this new unexpected place. “It was challenging. I was never under anybody so I was the boss kaagad.” But in true #girlboss style, Thea pulled through and carved out her own way. Now with two restaurants under her belt (the second one being 12/10), Thea proves that having virtually no training in your chosen field isn’t necessarily a setback. This is also a goal she wishes to impart to her staff, where growth is a team effort: “You have to learn how to make your business grow in terms of making the people who work for you grow as well.” — NPC

How did your journey with food begin?

Our first restaurant [The Girl and The Bull] opened in Parañaque, that was back in 2013. How I found myself there — I don’t know if this is really women empowerment — but my boyfriend wanted to become a chef, and at that time I just graduated, so I said, “Okay, let me help you out.” I was actually looking for a job then, but for some reason wala lang akong makuhang trabaho. And then when we opened the restaurant we just found that there was a need to actually manage the business — since Gab wanted to be a chef, he was working on the back-end of things — so somebody really had to take care of everything else, say, the business end, accounting, HR, front-of-house. So that’s how I found myself in it.

“We like to keep everything personal, everything is a reflection of ourselves. In a way, it’s an inspiration for us to keep going, to keep on learning, giving something new to people.”

Photo by Arabella Paner

How was the process of putting up your first restaurant? Did you have a background in managing a restaurant?

The funny thing is I went to Ateneo taking up Communications and Technology Management mainly because my family was into business. And then pag-pasok ko ng second year, parang gusto ko maging mas free-spirited. I don’t see having a nine-to-five job, so I shifted out to Interdisciplinary Studies. The only background in hospitality I got was growing up seeing how my family ran our business. But that’s it. So when we opened, it was a challenge, not only because I didn’t have a background in hospitality, but also because it’s my first job ever. I was never under anybody so I was the boss kaagad. It was difficult in that sense because I was 20 years old, so I didn’t know anything. So if I had to look up something my only source would be Google. Both our families aren’t from the food industry, so we didn’t have anybody to consult. Mainly the biggest challenge was learning everything on our own.

Tell us more about your restaurants. What’s the story behind The Girl and The Bull and 12/10?

When we opened The Girl and The Bull, Gab really just wanted to put up something that was a reflection of what we were doing then. He sees himself as a Taurus — he embodies what a Taurus really is; bull-like. He’s the type who really does what he wants. He’d charge at whatever he wants to do, so he really refers to himself as a bull. I really hate saying this, but I have to: that’s why I’m “The Girl”, because I’m the one who tamed him [Laughs]. That’s the story behind The Girl and The Bull, it really was just a reflection of what we were doing then, and what we’re doing now. Just constant reflection of how we evolve in our craft.

Our approach to 12/10 was more mature; it has an extensive bar, parang mas nag-grow na siya. Since The Girl and The Bull was sort of an introduction of ourselves, 12/10 is the next step. You know how in every relationship, you meet each other, get to know, blah blah blah. And when you’re ready to take on the next level, that’s when you’re like, “O sige, tayo na.” That’s why we named it 12/10, because that’s actually our anniversary. So that’s when we were ready to take on something more. ‘Yun. We like to keep everything personal, everything is a reflection of ourselves. In a way, it’s an inspiration for us to keep going, to keep on learning, giving something new to people.

Aside from managing the restaurant, eating, and drinking, what else are you into?

Well it’s part of my job to try the food, and to drink whatever’s available. I love eating and drinking. But in terms of where I want to take myself in the future, I’m actually self-studying to be a sommelier. There are organizations around the world that hold tests to test your knowledge about wine. I’m fortunate enough to be in the food industry so whenever I get to talk to suppliers they let me try different things, so I learn from there. Learning about wine is like learning about history. It’s really rooted in wine-making techniques, so it goes way back to when the Romans did it back in the 18th century until today, and how technology has been evolving. How you make wine affects the taste of wine, so that’s how you study wine. That’s why they say the older the better. That’s my goal for 2017, to be a certified sommerlier.

Aileen Adalid, 25, @i_am_aileen
Travel blogger and entrepreneur

There’s a lot more to the wanderlust lifestyle than sponsored Instagram posts. Travel blogger Aileen Adalid aims to prove that. Two months before she quit her corporate job, Aileen had been self-learning all the skills that would let her work independently while finally exploring the world. From doing graphic design and SEOs for foreign clients, she transitioned into building her own online retail company. While she says there are still a lot of places for her to visit and her business is just starting out, she emphasizes that the key to success is to be in control of your life. It seems like nothing more than just another millennial privilege but Aileen argues that “each and every person has a different set of life cards and it’s up to us on how to play them right.” Aileen’s story is more than just about traveling; it’s really about being brave enough to challenge our own limits. — Tin Sartorio

Young STAR: Can you tell us more about your blog?

My blog is iamaileen.com and it was launched September 2013. I just wanted to document my travels at that time when I quit my job.

If at first it was just mainly for sharing my travels and stories, it suddenly transitioned into a platform where I can help others and inspire them to do the same. What I went through is kinda similar to what millennials feel like; they’re stuck in something and they don’t know how to get out of it. I noticed that most of the things that stop people from going after their dreams is because they don’t have the information they need and ideas on how to start on it. I know making a big life change is scary but I found out that regret is a lot scarier. The concept indeed of freedom was really what inspired me. Of course, the travel and being my own boos is a part of that freedom.

“The Internet in itself can already present you a lot of possibilities. Each and every person has a set of life cards and it’s up to us on how to play our cards right.”

Photo by Arabella Paner

A lot of Filipinos are into travelling now. What makes your story different?

Before I jumped into the travel lifestyle, I made sure that I had a stable online client that I can work for. I mean it’s fine to go after your dreams and be haphazard. It’s fine to do that, but I still want to instill in them to always think in long term. You can be spontaneous but at the back of your mind, you have to have a safety net cause you can’t just keep on doing this forever. The thing about being a digital nomad is that you can work anytime and anywhere you want. It’s one of the things I recommend if you want a job or some of my other friends whom I’ve met during my travels are English teachers that travel from one country to the next. Those kinds of jobs will still keep them going. The Internet in itself can already present you a lot of possibilities. Each and every person has a set of life cards and it’s up to us on how to play our cards right.

A lot of people are becoming their own bosses these days. What advice can you give them?

It’s fun that you get to control your own time. It’s also giving you the financial security that you’ve been searching for. But on the flipside, since you’re your own boss, you sometimes get strayed away from being productive. I think it all boils down to discipline and priorities. The way that I became successful in what I do is basically pushing myself. I set a schedule for myself. It’s a matter of discipline. Desperation in a way helps to keep that discipline. I was just starting so I really wanted to be successful and I didn’t want to get stuck in the situation that I was in.

Wiji Lacsamana, 32, @curiouswiji
Graphic designer, tattoo artist, and entrepreneur

The creative journey of artist Wiji Lacsamana is unlike any story you’ve heard. From drawing ever since she was a kid, to taking up Political Science in college, to being a graphic designer, tattoo artist and now a budding scent and vegan makeup entrepreneur, she seems to have tried it all and then some. “My tattoo studio is called the Curious Studio because you always have to question your motives, your purpose,” she says. While she believes in experimenting, she also admits it’s not a very secure way to live. It involves a lot of risk and hard work. But she also argues that “guts is very important because a lot of people are curious but not brave enough to try.” As she explores one artistic platform to another, she develops new skills but most importantly, she learns more and more about her authentic self. For Wiji, what matters is not so much on where you’re headed but rather having the commitment and courage to keep moving forward. — TS 

What makes you go after the things you like?

I guess it’s inherent in me. When I really like something, I really get into it. It doesn’t happen all the time but there are things that I just really fall in love with. I’m very curious. When I feel like there’s nothing for me to learn there, I leave. I never lasted more than 6 months anywhere. I can’t. I salute people who can do that but I just work in a different way.

“When I really like something, I really get into it. It doesn’t happen all the time but there are things that I just really fall in love with. I’m very curious. When I feel like there’s nothing for me to learn there, I leave.”

Photo by Arabella Paner

What’s the turning point in life where you were able to tell that you’re being your authentic self?

Actually, a lot especially in my early 20s. The common question is: am I doing this life thing the right way? I’m glad that I was surrounded by friends who were grounded and going through the same thing. Now I see them flourish in what they chose to do. Pero ako I’m lucky that I was surrounded by people who wanted to do this life the most honest way possible. My tattoo studio is called the curious studio because you always have to question your motives, your purpose. Hanggang ngayon din naman there’s a turning point somewhere and I’m sure a couple of years from now I’ll be doing something new again. There’s not one turning point but I was bombarded by all these questions in my early 20s.

What will you do next?

I don’t know yet. I’m a very bad planner. I just do things when I want to do it. I don’t really recommend it for everyone but I’m just lucky that it kinda works for me. I think it’s a good sign if you question yourself because it means you’re trying to see yourself in a bigger picture. That’s okay.

Tinay Villamiel, 34, @tinayvee
Creative director, Artwork

Visual artist Tinay Villamiel joined the family business as local clothing brand Artwork’s creative director after studying fine arts in college. While the brand is known for its creative designs and catchy taglines — making her a perfect fit — she still had to learn a lot about the business. “It’s always good to have your voice heard but at the same time, always think about the world that you want to reach out to,” she says. Having discovered the importance of knowing her market, she became smarter about executing her artistic vision. She even created a separate brand called Bleach, a lifestyle store that focused on home products. Although Bleach closed down in 2015, this never really stopped Tinay from sharing her inspirations. While she’s still busy with Artwork, she teaches art and branding on the side. The creative expressions may change but her love for art remains the same. Like the rest of us, she’s still learning, but that attitude in itself guarantees that Tinay will be alright. — TS 

You studied fine arts in college. But coming into the business, you had to deal with some things you weren’t so familiar with. How was the transition?

Siguro yung first that I learned was always think of your market. Kase sa arts walang ganun eh, you just express what you want to. In the business, you have to take into consideration a specific market. When I started Bleach Catastrophe, I wanted it because we were so much inspired by the visual arts. I wanted to marry somehow the arts and us being in the garments business. We actually set up a store that looked like an art gallery instead of a normal apparel store. It created a buzz but, then again, you have to continue [knowing] your market and how to sustain the overhead, ganyan. Di siya feasible at that time that’s why we had to rebrand it.

“Never stop learning. Make it a point to listen. When you’re tired, don’t give up. Just try looking at things in a way you haven’t seen.”

Photo by JL Javier

The Artwork team is very young. How do you draw the line between being a friend and being a boss?

I learned that over time. Siguro because I started young also in the company. When I was able to set my own team with these kids, yung age gap mga 3 or 4 years lang. Back then it was just like working with a group like being assigned a project in school. Until now ganun parin, I don’t feel like I actually grew up. Feel ko I’m still the same age as I started. I have to say some friends told me in this business, you can’t afford to go old.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in your career?

Never stop learning. Make it a point to listen. When you’re tired, don’t give up. Just try looking at things in a way you haven’t seen. It’s always good to have your voice heard but at the same time, always think about the world that you want to reach out to.

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