Filipino-owned businesses represent the growing community in New York – NBC New York

The Philippines, a small archipelago nation in Southeast Asia, is home to beaches, friendly people and the iconic Jollibee.

While the Philippines is more than 8,000 miles away, there are over 80,000 Filipinos in New York, according to the Asian American Federation.

To bring Filipino Americans a little closer to home, Mestiza and Narra Studio are two women-owned businesses that hope to elevate Filipino fashion not only in New York, but across the country. Both companies aim to update classic fashion and add a more modern twist to their pieces, while connecting the culture of the Philippines with customers in the United States.

Studio Nara

Narra Studio, founded by Katte Geneta, was created to give independent weavers in the Philippines a platform to sell their products. Before the pandemic, Jenetta was asked by a weaver to share her work in the United States. This blossomed into the beginning of Narra Studio.

However, despite being a unique business proposition, starting Narra Studio was not easy for Geneta. Not only is she the founder and weaver of the company, but she is also a museum director and a mother.

In addition to her busy schedule, during the first year of starting the company, Jenetta was still raising her one-year-old son while earning her master’s degree.

“I was one of those people who just didn’t sleep much,” Jenetta said, adding that many people said she would have to put her dreams on hold while raising a child, an idea she didn’t believe. On the contrary, she said she achieved more after having her children.

Since then, Geneta has increased the number of independent weavers who can sell their products through Narra Studio. The company currently works with about 20 weaving communities in the Philippines.

Jenetta said these one-of-a-kind handmade items connect people to their culture and spread Filipino fashion in the United States. There are even times when customers will ask Geneta for a piece woven in the city they or their family is from.

“A lot of Filipino-Americans may not be as connected or able to visit the Philippines at all or as often,” Jenetta said of why some customers want certain items made in a specific city or area in the Philippines.

In addition, Geneta says Narra Studio does charity work in the Philippines, especially when there are natural disasters that directly affect the livelihood of the weavers they work with.

“We try to give back to non-profit organizations when we can, especially when there are emergencies in the Philippines that affect our weavers and artisans,” Jenetta said.

Eventually, Jenetta hopes to expand her team and continue to bring more Filipino culture to the United States.

Jenetta says the Philippines is a country full of talent, and these artisans, weavers and creatives need a platform to showcase their work.

Mixed race

Luisa Rechter and Alessandra Pérez-Rubio founded Mestiza after bonding over their shared Filipino culture. At a friend’s dinner, Perez-Rubio shared with the table how he hails from the Philippines. Similarly, Rechter’s mother had grown up there.

One day while dating, Perez-Rubio and Rechter come up with an idea to start their own business. They only had one thing that was certain, the name of the company: “Metiza”, which means a woman of mixed race.

“When we started the brand, we really wanted to use a name that spoke to this idea of ​​the blending of our cultures,” Perez-Rubio said.

Mestiza’s goal was to make timeless pieces that would eventually be passed down from generation to generation.

“Metiza is really about taking inspiration from the Philippines and the vintage clothes our mothers and grandmothers left us and making them resonate with the modern woman to create something beautiful and something she feels confident in.” Rechter said.

In addition to sharing their Filipino culture through fashion, Perez-Rubio and Rechter also wanted to make sure their company wouldn’t impact the environment in the same way that fast fashion does.

According to Earth.org, the world throws away about 92 million tons of clothing every year. Because of this, Metissa knew they would have leftover clothing and they didn’t want to be wasteful. Instead, they worked with the Heirloom Project, which allows Mestiza to donate dresses to women in the United States. This led them to work with Pink Ribbon Good, an organization that works with individuals and families affected by breast and gynecological cancer. Mestiza is supporting the cause by donating her artwork in hopes of making patients feel and look confident.

“Not only are you wearing something that makes you feel good, but you know the brand is doing good things and you’re standing for something,” Rechter said of the Mestiza brand.

Like Jennetta, Pérez-Rubio was pregnant with her son when she started Mestiza. The day the website launched, Perez-Rubio gave birth.

“Seeing the company develop and grow at the same time as him has felt like such an honor,” Perez-Rubio said.

Both Perez-Rubio and Rechter say motherhood has helped them be entrepreneurs and better business partners.

“Mothers do it because [they] should,” Rechter said.

As for the future of Metis? The company hopes to develop its business in various fashion lines such as bridal, sports, accessories, shoes, bags, etc.

Click here to go to Narra Studio and here to go to Mestiza.

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