littleHONEYvee: For Love of Art and Filipino Pride
Started as a daily blog with doodles and captions to reflect her day-to-day life, littleHONEYvee has been constantly evolving since its start in 2011. Mom-trepreneur Vee Caragay is the enigmatic force behind the apparel and stationery business that aims to pass down and preserve Filipino childhood traditions.
Originally from San Diego, Vee moved here ten years ago and has been living and creating all around the Bay Area ever since. Regardless of where she’s lived, Vee has been involved in Filipino and FilAm community organizations. Her work in the community is something that has shaped her designs and artwork.
“I've been working with and been involved with the Filipino community ever since I was in high school. I’ve always known that my work with littleHONEYvee was always cultural work, too. So whenever I can implement my culture into any designs, I will.”
Vee is the one-woman force designing, screen-printing, and selling the eye-catching tee shirts with phrases like “Kain Na!”, “Close Open”, and “Gigil” that resonate deeply with a Filipino upbringing. Vee’s designs are more than just her passion – they blend her love for art with an inherent pride for her Pinay roots and a desire to share Filipino culture with the world.
“There are so many customers that come to my booth and tell me, "I thought that was just something my lola and I did!” or "I thought that was just my family thing!" But little do they know that these phrases are a whole cultural thing. To know that my designs can connect people with the larger culture and be that bridge for them is awesome! I feel like my designs are gonna open up some doors for FilAm parents, especially second generation, third generation, and millennial parents, and give them the opportunity to pass down these traditions or "Filipino baby tricks", you know?” Vee’s energy and excitement are palpable as she laughs.
Each of Vee’s designs originates from her own memories of being raised by her lola who passed on the “Filipino baby tricks” that Vee hopes to share with her diverse audience. Being able to connect with her audience and to see their reactions to a familiar phrase from childhood is one of the biggest rewards that Vee gets from littleHONEYvee. It’s an opportunity to not only strengthen her own roots and culture, but to see these traditions take on a new life as they encounter new cultures and generations.
“Giving people a little exposure to the culture or just giving them something to connect to with other Filipinos and bond over - it's awesome. It's dope to have them share their stories with me. Even with customers who are not of Filipino descent that make purchases, because they not only like the art and design, but appreciate the culture. So it's also bringing other cultures together which is cool.”
Her design style is fun and upbeat – much like Vee, herself. She emphasizes the importance of her audience’s feedback on her products and upcoming designs, showing that it’s the connection with her customers that she values the most. Armed with a sketchbook full of ideas, Vee is throwing herself head-first into the recent evolution of littleHONEYvee’s apparel line. One of her best-sellers, the “Beautiful Eyes” tee for kids, is a throwback to the Filipino practice of telling a child “beautiful eyes” to get them to batt their eyelashes and foster a sense of self-love in them from a young age.
“It's kind of mind blowing because the smallest thing like the saying "Beautiful Eyes" - it's something that you grow up with and you take with you when you become a parent. It’s important for me to do this so I can give an outlet to these millennial/FilAm parents who might not have that access to their culture to teach their kids these traditions. As miniscule as it seems, it’s still a big thing because it’s a part of our Filipino culture and the traditional Filipino upbringing.”
For Vee, her work within the different Filipinx and FilAm communities throughout California have opened her eyes to the need for a stronger effort to not only preserve and pass on Filipino culture, but to see it thrive and grow. That’s why she loves Undiscovered SF – it’s a chance to regularly showcase her own work, and to see the new talent and goods that are emerging from the community. Make sure to catch littleHONEYvee’s new designs at Undiscovered SF on July 21st!
“That's why it's important for me to do it - for my son. To do this work - both my designs and the community work - to expose him to the culture because I feel like it's fading away. My grandma helped raise me so I know these traditions because of that upbringing. That’s what my designs reflect - showing people that this is what connects us as Filipinos and to be raised as a Filipino.”
Written by Cat Jimenez, Photos by Abby Asuncion