Design your Way Forward

As the chief designer of Beatriz, a Philippine-based international brand that was one of Oprah Winfrey’s favorites in 2016 and was featured in the US Weekly, How to Spend It by the London Financial Times and one of Manila FAME’s Katha Awardees for Design in 2015, Carissa Cruz-Evangelista grew her brand from being part of DTI’s CITEM-supported tradeshows in 2014 and ventured out to be part of the best of the world trade shows like NY NOW, Coterie, Premiere Classe among others and had wholesaled her brand to a total of over 80 stores worldwide.

The growth of Beatriz, which had highlighted the best of Philippine handwork through its painstaking gluing of individual threads to come up with a final pattern, was exponential due in a large part of the dream of Carissa to show the best of the Philippines to the world and the help of friends, partners, agents, collaborators and communities that also believed in the same dream.

ART in your hands with this Beatriz clutch.

The vision of Beatriz is to inspire and uplift communities with design that marries play and function, and thoughtful handiwork that sustains the livelihood of partner artisan enterprises.  Its mission is also to celebrate all colors and shapes of life through products which represent the boundless spirit, artistry and craftmanship of Filipino talents.

Carissa in her first job as a Trade Industry development specialist at CITEM in 1995 and as one of the first project managers of the Philippine Department of Trade’s flagship program One Town One Product in 2005 has seen some of the best of Philippine products and crafts.  When she left government in 2007, she still had the heart for public service and livelihood development and started on her journey first as a supplier to departments stores for garments and later as an accessories designer who found the courage to show her products with the best of Philippine designers and exporters in 2014.

“It’s strange how my life has come full circle,” she said. “My first job was at CITEM helping exporters and then later on in life I became an exporter myself.”

BEATRIZ designs and patterns in shells.

Being an entrepreneur, Carissa had to face difficulties on finding funds for payroll and to join trade shows and the challenges of developing collections two seasons or two years ahead from when the products would be shown in stores.

She recalled: “One time I fell asleep standing up in the airplane while waiting to go to my seat during boarding because I was exhausted. We had joined three shows at the same time and I already did not know what time zone I was in. We had a show in the US, NY NOW, that just finished, our first show in Paris being managed by our agent Agence Le Bon Mot at Maison et Objet and a big pop-up in Manila.”

Carissa advised: “To be in this business, it’s not just being creative that is important but also possessing the courage and stamina to bring your dream to fruition. Immersing yourself in your business is humbling. There are days you are a designer and there are days you are the driver, salesgirl and more. I look toward my mom Gina de Venecia and my aunt Josie Natori for inspiration, both such strong women that make things happen.”

“I believe God did not put this dream in my heart unless there was a purpose. I have learned so much not just from the successes of our brand but also from the trials we have faced,” she added.

The pandemic left an indelible mark on Carissa and her brand. She lost some very close loved ones to Covid-19 and other causes. She lost her business as the whole world had gone into lockdown in 2019 and she didn’t know how to rise again. During this time, her brother Congressman Toff de Venecia, the chair of the ACCIB block of the lower House of Representatives, posed her with a question as he was uniting the creative industry and the freelancers who all did not know how to survive the pandemic. “Ate, what will you do for the fashion industry?”

Incredulous, Carissa pulled herself together and thought of her life in government working at CITEM and the Department of Trade and pooled together with likeminded people who had a heart for the industry to form the Philippine Fashion Coalition (PFC) and the Fashion Accessories Makers of the Philippines (FAMph). Both groups had thought of how to reach out to fellow creatives.

“There is always strength in numbers,” Carissa said. With Gina Nebrida Ty and the members of the Magic 8 of CITEM’s Las Vegas Magic show delegation, FAMph grew into the first national business support organization for accessories and with Direk Jackie Aquino, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, JC Buendia and Carmina Sanchez- Jacob, the executive committee of PFC was formed with its policy group headed by Esme Palaganas, special projects by Robby Carmona, academe group by Emi Englis and Amina Aranaz-Alunan, textile and crafts group initially by Len Cabili and later by Michael Claparols and other luminaries in the fashion and creative field, such as Philippine Rodriguez, Dodjie Batu, Aztec Barba, Jonas Gafud, Pam Quinones as well as Gina Nebrida Ty, PFC aimed to become the unifying, driving force for creating a positive economic environment for the Philippine Fashion Industry and enable it to become a leading player in the Global Fashion Industry.

When posed a question if Carissa was ahead of her time, she modestly said: “I clearly see the vision behind goals, the individual strengths and talents of people I work with and have a unique understanding of how different people can work together. I can see patterns and its trajectories. Maybe my eye for design, detail and patterns also affects how I think and process information. Each person is unique and has something to bring to the table, we just need to know how to listen.”

Today both FAMPh and PFC are voices for the industry and Carissa knows that others will come to help both organizations grow to help the accessories and fashion and textile industries. For her firm, she now takes up where she left off in 2019. In 2023, her brand Costa del Sol will play a larger role in local Philippine shows. Beatriz, through its agent, sold to 10 stores in Spain and Barcelona and will work on its new collection that will be launched in October at Manila Fame at Paris Fashion Week.

When asked about her plans for the future, Carissa share: “I take things now one step at a time. I trust the Lord will guide me and send me the right people to help do the best good for all.”

Divine trust and living in the moment, these are the mantras that guide Carissa post-pandemic.