Clothing expertise that spans three generations

In the 1950’s, hablon was a popular woven cloth that was used by fashionable women.
In Iloilo, a popular hablon weaver at that time was Rufina Avancena who created shawls, household linens and patadyong with the use of hablon and pina.
Jaki with daughers Krizia (left) and Aisha (right)

Naturally, she passed this expertise to her daughters Violeta and Leonor, who started the
Philippine Handicraft along with the art of weaving, and then expanded to selling Philippine-made
handicrafts around the country.
This story was told by Violeta’s daughter, Jaki Avancena Alcantara-Penalosa considered as one of the region’s bankable fashion designers because of her creations’ clean and elegant lines and her unwavering support to the hablon industry.
“I grew up watching my mother and aunt work and I have come to appreciate and respect the craft, so I guess it came naturally for me to develop an interest for that kind of artwork even at a young age,” Penalosa said.
“In fact, I was already helping my mother when I was in high school. And when I finally graduated from college I ran my mother’s business both as a manager and store designer. Eventually my mother passed this business to me and now, here I am,” she added.
Penalosa narrated that while her friends played or rested, she was learning about the family business.
Krizia's modeling agency, Bijoux Creatives

For a child who wants to play, it was a sacrifice. But, her mother taught her that “nothing will grow without sacrifice”, so she focused on the business. Plus, she had the passion for it, anyway.
Her mother also taught her the importance of people in a business’ success. “This business cannot function without skilled people so my mother always taught me the importance of the workforce in our business,” she said.
For Penalosa, being a fashion designer is not just about earning money but it is also a chance to help society.
“Designing has not only opened up a lot of business opportunities but it has also opened my eyes to the opportunities of using my craft and my name in reaching out to more people. Aside from my advocacy on opportunities for the local weaving industry, I have also involved myself with several projects with the groups I am with. One of our projects was the collaboration of my group, Designers Guild of Iloilo (DGI) with Mga Kaibigan ng mga Kabataang May Kanser (KKK), for the benefit of children with cancer. That really hit home for me because I have lost several loved ones due to cancer. I have also collaborated with Rotary International for a fashion show for a cause, and this time it was to help patients for their operations. Currently I am a member of the Iloilo Chamber of Commerce and we have been organizing fashion shows and projects for a greater cause. Through this, it gives me immeasurable joy and sense of peace,” she said.
Her discipline, passion for fashion and crafts and love for people have rubbed off on her eldest daughter Krizia and youngest daughter Aisha.
Aisha is Robinsons Place Iloilo’s Design Lab 4th Run champion and currently a fashion design student while Krizia is an accessories designer, runs an online shop called “Hello! Miss Portia” and owner of Iloilo City’s first modeling agency, Bijoux Creatives.
Penalosa said that she has taught her children the same rules she learned from her mother and these are: “To live life with passion and to fuel that passion through dedication and hard work. I always tell them that learning never stops. That we always must welcome new ideas but never let go of where we came from,” she said.
Penalosa said that when Aisha was in elementary school, she was already drawing and designing. “She had a good eye for design and she, in fact, spends most of her time drawing pictures of girls in different styles of dresses. Of course, I encouraged her to pursue designing seriously. When my daughter started, it was her classmates who noticed her talents first and therefore, they also became her first clients.”
As for Krizia, Penalosa said, “she also helps with the family business as well as with our recent project, the Iloilo Designers Week that will kick off this coming November.”
As a mother, it is Penalosa’s hope that Krizia and Aisha would become partners. “Clothes, accessories and the right model go well together!” she said.
“Aisha is in Manila right now, studying at SLIMs Fashion school – one of the best in the country. I hope that when she comes back, she will be able to help me expand my business by opening her own line that focuses on the younger clientele. Krizia’s accessory line is very unique in concept and design, and I hope that it will be successful as well,” Penalosa said.
“I hope that both my daughters could make a name for themselves and when I am gone, I hope that they continue this business that I have put up with the same dedication and passion,” she said.
Indeed, nobody lives forever and it is a parent’s legacy to expose his/her children to the kind of business that made the family survive and to give them the freedom to be their own persons so that they, too can continue the success that the family business is enjoying. (By Kathy M. Villalon, The News Today, October 12, 2012)

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