Posts in Retail
Magpie Alchemy: A Skincare Revolution

“We were just making soap part time, but in October 2018 I attended the Entrepinay summit. I never knew a space like that could be created. I thought it was just like a conference for entrepreneurs — but it was actually a really emotional experience, like a day full of crying! And what I learned was that, because I am a Pinay, I am well-equipped to own a business – more equipped than I thought I was. And that’s when I made the decision to do this full-time.”

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Jamie Cardenas and her partner Lucas Ives own and operate Magpie Alchemy, the Sacramento-based personal care boutique whose handmade, all-natural products provide a much-needed response to an industry drenched in synthetic chemicals and methods.

 

It is a project that grew out of Jamie’s frustrating experiences with industrial, prescribed ointments and remedies for her chronic pain and Eczema.

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“I would be prescribed something, and it might work a little bit, but I was having to manage a lot of side effects, and it was like, ‘Is this worth it?’ We really felt like there was a missing piece in western medicine and in researching botanical based skin care — it’s a really sinister industry, the personal care and cosmetic world. These companies aren’t legally required to disclose whats in these products,” Jamie says.

“Just some basic research showed us that a lot of the everyday products you buy from the store are full of chemicals that are bad for you. We wanted to reduce our chemical intake — and found that making our own products was a great way to control that,” Lucas says.

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What started as a personal solution quickly grew into a movement, with skin conditions being so prevalent in the Filipino community and supported by diaspora communities’ renewed interest in natural approaches that recall the healing practices of The Philippines.


“Specifically with the Filipino community, eczema and skin conditions are a big thing. So many  of us have tried medications, and injections, so our philosophy is really just kind of getting back to the basics — by remembering that consumption of products happens everywhere, and always taking it back to mama earth. We want to create a movement that supports community health, because a lot of people see something like all-natural, hand-crafted skincare as a luxury or a nicety — but it’s really not. It’s all about making those small changes, even in something like soap, that are going to be healthier for you in the long run,” Jamie says.

In this way, Jamie is helping Filipino people rediscover a pride in the natural (and sustainable) approaches to wellness that originate in The Philippines — and is also uncovering her own connections to her ancestors through this work.

“Medicines nowadays are really just synthesized versions of old medicines. So what we are doing at Magpie Alchemy is what our ancestors were doing — and I learned that my grandmother, Grandma Mary, was an expert in plant medicines and herbal remedies and made tinctures, soaps and salves. My Auntie Necie recently posted on Facebook about my grandmother on her birthday, and tagged me in it, and she wrote something like ‘Your grandkids are living your legacy, especially Jamie.’ I asked what that meant, and my cousin Edlynn told me about Grandma Mary’s legacy,” Jamie says. 

 

The significance of lineage to Magpie Alchemy extends beyond their storefront — recently made permanent at the Warehouse Artists Lofts (WAL) Public Market in Sacramento — and to the people that make up their community, not least of all their family.

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“One thing we have been mindful of from the start is that it’s not about the bottom line. We are trying to create and support a wellness community. It’s about helping people. So it’s been a great honor to witness Jamie grow and integrate her culture and ancestry as a deep rooted priority in everything she does. Jamie is the face and force behind our company, and the world needs to experience her as she truly is a healer. She has a gift, passed down from her ancestors, and she’s now sharing this gift with the world. It’s so important that she has every opportunity to shine as bright as possible. I also feel it's important that our daughter sees her mother as an amazing creator, healer and entrepreneur, and an example of a bold and brave Pinay,” Lucas says.

“The need for natural products is urgent; it’s not about selling products, it’s about educating people and sharing knowledge. Western medicine failed us, period. So when I talk to clients, I give it to them straight. There is a level of honesty that some other businesses might find jarring, but that’s important to me,” Jamie says.

Imbued with such a clearly articulated mission, Magpie Alchemy enriches the life of their community. Such work is significant in so many ways, not least of all for its ability to connect people with a greater sense of self-worth and well-being – in many ways paying forward the lessons they learned at the Entrepinays Summit in 2018.

“At the summit, I learned that, with this community we’re never alone. We might have fear that maybe something wont work. But you know that behind you there is a wildfire of support and love. I don’t water down my Pinay-ness anymore. I show up with my Pek Pek power shirt, and it’s just a whole new vibe. We feel great, because we know that we’re a part of something bigger than just selling skincare,” Jamie says.

Written by Paul Barrera.

HABIness: Weaving Identities Together

“Weaving came just at the right time into my life. It is a vehicle which, in a tactile and kinetic way, helps me deepen my process of  re-indigenization as an Ilocana.”

HABIness owner and dreamweaver Rachel Lozada with son Andres and his wife Jojo at UNDSCVRD’s October night market.

HABIness owner and dreamweaver Rachel Lozada with son Andres and his wife Jojo at UNDSCVRD’s October night market.

Rachel Lozada, owner and in her own words “dreamweaver” of HABIness, the textile and craft pop-up, is a veteran organizer and activist whose pedigree in community work literally spans the Pacific Ocean. Still, she notes a recent evolution in perspective as a key motivator for her foray into small business, specializing in handmade and handwoven textiles directly sourced from the Philippines many of which Rachel herself sews into more wearable contemporary-designed pieces. Rachel explains, “Habi” is the Pilipino word for “weave”, so HABIness is a play on words that evoke the happiness that weaving brings into my life.”

“I immigrated to the States when I was 30, so I didn't have the ‘stereotypical’ experience that most Fil-Ams might go through. I had been an activist in the Philippines since my mid- to late teens, and so the anti-colonization and anti-imperialist struggle was very much a focal point of my adult life. But the awakening to the need to reclaim my indigenous Ilocano identity came in the last six years, and into further fruition when I got involved with Kalingaforina Laga, a weaving circle of women promoting the art of Kalinga backstrap weaving called “laga”,” Rachel says.

With its strong affinity to Kalingafornia Laga, HABIness invites people to connect with the story and tradition of the meticulous traditional handicrafts of the Philippines. To explore that connection through the threads of their own lineage and hopefully gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of where they come from.

“Kalingafornia Laga weaving circle gradually grew out of a common desire to learn laga, the art of Kalinga back-strap weaving. But it’s about more than just learning to weave, it's a traditional art form, a conveyor of indigenous culture that has survived despite colonization. And our circle engages in place-making projects and activities for community to gather together and connect around common interests around our culture, history and our roots both in the homeland and here in Diaspora. It's very much a decolonization and maybe even a re-indigenization project and effort,if people awaken to that level,” Rachel says. And hers is a continuous process as she now begins to learn “abel”, the Ilocano weaving tradition.

Certainly, the spiritual process of reckoning with decolonization and re-indigenization is as unique to each person as their individual history. But through both Kalingafornia Laga and HABIness, it has become clear to Rachel that it’s a process that many if not most Filipinos in the diaspora are undertaking, and is only strengthened by forming strong bonds with others who share national, ethnic, linguistic, and generational ties.

“There is a real curiosity in the Filipino-American community to see more handicrafts like what  HABIness offers. There are so many issues within our community that stem directly from colonization. Dealing with that has to start somewhere, and a good place to start is by recognizing and using our Filipino ancestry and re-discovering our indigenous identities that have been eroded as a base for building our identity and community. Art is such an accessible vehicle – it's visual, it's tactile, and it’s even wearable – and I think weaving is such a powerful vehicle for folks to experience that connection to ancestry and open them up to aspects of their indigenous identity that is there for us to reclaim and rediscover,” Rachel says.

In turn, Rachel cites childhood memories of traditional, heritage crafts as yet another touchstone for her relationship with her lineage and, by extension, the ways that HABIness looks to help its community strengthen their own connections to their roots.

“Growing up, my grandparents on my father's side would always give me and my siblings Ilocano woven blankets. They were beautiful. So I always had this romantic thing about weaving, something that I approached with the mindset of ‘Oh, it’s so pretty and I love it, but I could never do it. It’s too hard for me.’ And then as I learned to weave and furthered my practice, I found that it was also deepening my process of resurfacing my indigenous identity,” Rachel says.

As she continues to unravel the history and craft of weaving and her personal relationship with the practice, she has found that being part of the rising tide of entrepreneurs and small business owners concentrated here in the San Francisco diaspora constitutes a serious responsibility to the indigenous identity that all Filipinx people share.

“I think there's that umbrella of Filipino or Pinay-Pinoy entrepreneurship, whether it's Filipino-oriented graphic tee shirts, books, textiles, hand-carved pendants, or baybayin calligraphy on postcards – these are sacred pieces because, in these forms, they are vehicles for us to convey culture - especially indigenous culture - that has been eroded, suppressed, and marginalized within Philippine culture as well. That's a very powerful process for our people to engage in,” Rachel says.

In that way, people who come to Undiscovered SF and take home or buy a gift of an Ilocano weave sewn into a contemporary wrap or scarf from HABIness are doing even more than just supporting local business, or even growing the Filipino Cultural Heritage District. They’re preserving traditions that are hundreds of years old and helping advance alongside their rightful bearers as Filipinx people continue to connect and make community.

“For me, HABIness is a way for myself and for others to publicly manifest  our proud identity as ‘Filipinos Living In The Diaspora,’ or ‘Filipino-Americans’ or however people want to identify. My hope is that HABIness contributes to inspiring Filipino people into centering ourselves and making our voices heard and positively project our place in society. I want to encourage people to learn more about weaving and handmade crafts as a tradition and a language of our people!”

Written by Paul Barrera and Cat Jimenez.

RetailCat Jimenezretail
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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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.

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“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!

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“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

Retailmarky enriquez
Angle Is Attitude with Tilted Brim

“I grew up in the East Bay, in Union City, a suburb of Oakland, and I came up with a lot of different people. And Filipino kids were always known to have a lot of style that was respected not just within our own group, but also was respected and lauded by all the other groups as well. I think that really carried a lot of weight to me, like, 'Hey man, it's cool to be Filipino!' And maybe when my parents were growing up, especially my dad growing up in Queens, it probably wasn't that cool to be Filipino.”

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Justin Bautista, along with partner and college buddy Nathaniel Torres, opened the streetwear boutique Tilted Brim in the Tenderloin just over a year ago with the intention of creating a shop that expressed their core philosophy: Angle Is Attitude.

“My style icons were my mom, my dad, and my grandpa... He always had a really good style, pretty tailored, because in his day you didn’t buy stuff off the rack — the finest dressers always had their clothing made.

“The attitude that we try to bring in the store is kind of like a street smart, hustling appreciation for the City and sports and style, and attention to detail, all wrapped together through a look that is as nonchalant as it is rooted in street fashion and sport style.”

Still, Justin is careful to highlight how, despite the influences of streetwear and hip-hop culture, his family and his upbringing had a major impact on his understanding of aesthetic — and therefore, the approach to clothing on display at Tilted Brim.

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“My style icons were my mom, my dad, and my grandpa. My grandpa came to New York when my dad was seven. He always had a really good style, pretty tailored, because in his day you didn’t buy stuff off the rack — the finest dressers always had their clothing made. And then my mom's mom was a dressmaker, and all of my mom's clothes growing up were all made by her mom, my grandma. So I think that’s where I get my eye for style and fashion, because it is ingrained that deeply into me. And I also think that my dad’s childhood in New York also had a huge influence his style, and therefore on me, and therefore on the store's style, and its location, and its identity as sort of an underdog.”

Presenting that mentality through a carefully curated lineup of brands and products, Tilted Brim stocks wares that evoke a sensibility that’s decidedly modern and urban, while still paying respect to the heritage brands that helped institute the idea of streetwear in the formative late ‘80s and early ‘90s

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“We have our own line, Tilted Brim, the name of the shop. And it consists of cut-and-sew, accessories, and printables. We've got Ben Davis, which is a work wear brand that started in San Francisco -- and Ben Davis' grandfather actually helped invent blue jeans with Levi Strauss, so we thought it was important to bring that type of connection, given that jeans were invented in San Francisco. So Ben Davis kind of was a street wear brand before there was even street wear, because there weren't any brands that catered to more discerning young people. But on the other side, we have Champion from Europe. And Champion is kind of another brand that people wore as street wear before there were dedicated brands. And it's fabricated really nicely, with great details and great fit -- and it adds an element of exclusivity, because we are the only store in the City with this collection.”

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Working with a boutique mentality has helped connect Tilted Brim with the other small businesses in the Tenderloin — a tight-knit community that Justin indicates as a key driver for Tilted Brim’s involvement with Undiscovered SF, where he feels the project helps contribute to wider goals of ownership and economic empowerment for Filipino-Americans in the Bay Area.

“One of my neighbors over here at the shop plugged me into Undiscovered -- Andy Alvarado of The Family Room. He is one block over and two blocks up from me, and he asked if I was interested by the Undiscovered show. And I thought it was a really good idea, and Andy signed up for the first one, and he got us into the first one, back in August. And we both had a really good event -- it was crazy, that first one, just how many people showed up. And the night after, I remember, we booked for the rest of the Undiscovered calendar for the year. I like the idea of food, retail, and entertainment all together -- it's not just something that Filipino people like to do, but something that people like to do.”