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Amina and Rosanna

Amina and Rosanna

Aranaz is known for its iconic statement bags proudly made of traditional Filipino materials – and now the brand is about to celebrate its 20th year in the industry with an exciting new clothing line in the works.

Sisters Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Rosanna Aranaz share with us how their family fashion brand has evolved into an international name that evokes a leisurely lifestyle and how social media has helped them expand to the global market.

How did the brand start?

Amina: “It started because our mom had a manufacturing and export company and when I was in college, at that time Rosanna was still in grade school, we thought of selling our mom’s products in Christmas bazaars. It was a really fun family endeavor – Rosanna and I, along with our brother and our mom, would do the setting up and selling ourselves and that bazaar was so successful. After a year, we thought of creating our own brand since our mom won’t have extra bags all the time for us to sell and decided to name it after our family. And now, the brand is celebrating 20 years this year.”

Amina wearing the Pierra necklace

How has the brand evolved since then?

Amina: “In terms of developing the brand, it was really an evolution because there was a time that we just saw it as a family fashion brand. All we knew 20 years ago was that we were a family fashion brand that created products showcasing Filipino materials. That was it. To evolve into a more definitive direction that represents a resort or leisurely lifestyle only happened in the recent years.”

Aranaz bucket bags from their Geo Garden collection

“We made a conscious decision to take that position. I remember when our brother was still involved with the brand, he kept trying to drill us through a branding exercise because his background was in advertising. At that time, I didn’t fully understand what those concepts meant. It’s only in the recent years that I understood what he meant about how to have a strong brand positioning.”

Amina wearing the Rocasa earrings

“Back then, we didn’t want to lock ourselves in one box and say that we are just a summer brand. Now, we realize we are not just a summer brand just because we occupy the leisurely space. There are different ways in the future that we can expand that space.”

Aside from bags, Aranaz also has home and lifestyle items such as plates and cup and saucer sets

Statement pineapple purses

What are your roles and how have these evolved with the company?

Rosanna: “I handle our international sales so this began when we started doing all our trade shows abroad and we started getting more international attention. I handle all the buyers and international sales orders from all the different boutiques. I also handle branding and IT."

Rosanna with the Alana bucket bag and the Marjoram necklace set  layered with her own name necklace

"Our brand is still very small so we tend to do a lot of things on our own. For example, we still do our website ourselves. We have our own studio for our product shots. We’re very hands-on when it comes to the design of our store windows and interiors.”

The Aranaz store in Powerplant Mall is one of their three local branches 

Rosanna wearing the Curva necklace set layered with her own name necklace

Inside the Aranaz store in Powerplant Mall

Amina: “Rosanna also handles the graphics because she’s more skilled than me in creating visuals. I think it’s because she’s younger so she knows how to create an image that is more now and speaks to a younger audience. Many times, especially when it comes to imagery such as coming up with a look book or curating our Instagram feed, I’ll ask her for her opinion on how it can appeal to millenials. Even if our brand does cater to a certain market, we always want to move younger.”

Amina wearing the Quita choker with a clam shell necklace from the Montesa set

Bucket bags from Aranaz's latest collection called Tiki Seashell

Amina: “Before, I was just purely on the design side. My mom was very involved before so there was a time when my mom was managing everything because we were in school and I was building SoFA Design Institute. When I had the time to be more involved in Aranaz, that’s when my mom focused solely on the production side. Aside from designing, I’m also managing the business as a whole.”

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Rosanna: “Both of us are from the south so we don’t always go to the office. We don’t really schedule things together because we’re always chatting on iMessenger and Whatsapp anyway. I can do a lot of my work at home so I can just call or text her. There are no set hours for us.”  

Amina wearing disc and puka shell layers from the Taveuni set; Rosanna wearing the Kazari 3-layer necklace

Amina: “A lot of our planning happens through our phones. This morning, I woke up with an idea and I messaged her about it. So we have a new project for the brand, which we came up with while having breakfast. That’s how it works. When we do decide to meet at the office, it’s also when I set meetings with the rest of the team. Generally, she’s at the office more often than me because I also have to go to SoFA.”

Tell us more about your latest collection.

Amina: “When I was creating it, I really wanted it to evoke a more raw and natural feel. I wanted it to be a celebration of summer and the feeling of being at the seaside. Initially, I wanted it all in natural – sand-colored and straw complemented with the texture from the seashells and woven seaside animals. That was my first set of designs. I wanted to see if I can push it that way. But when other people started seeing the collection, I knew I couldn’t do a full natural collection and that’s when I injected some color.”

Kaia bucket bags in natural and yellow and the Merida clutch

Left: the fully embroidered Naya clutch made of tinalak and raffia

“It’s called the Tiki Seashell collection. It has a bit of a Hawaiian feel because of the fringes. One of the first bags that I designed, which I consider a pillar of the collection, is the Stella bucket with 3 levels of fringes that call to mind a hula skirt. I added wicker starfish on it because I imagined it as a hula girl with a starfish-shaped bra top."

The Raia bucket made with abaca and raffia

How was your experience with expanding into the international market?

Rosanna: “We are lucky because we are in the age of Instagram. In fact, one of our first accounts discovered us through our Instagram profile. We managed to tap other boutiques as well as international publications all through social media so we are very thankful for that. When we saw the reception of the international market, we took a brave step and tried joining trade shows. We joined trade shows in Paris and New York and it’s going to be our third season this year. We were very nervous during our first season but it was received well and we managed to get several accounts through that.”

Rosanna wearing the Marjoram necklace set  layered with her own name necklace

Amina: “From the very start, the big dream was for Aranaz to be an international Filipino fashion brand but we didn’t know how to do it. We’re a 20-year old brand but we were only able to penetrate the international market in the last 3 years. Social media was what opened it up for us. Prior to that, we really didn’t know how to do it. There aren’t a lot of success stories in the fashion industry that we could refer to or consult with. Many times, it was all self-discovery with hits and misses.”

“What we’d always hear from other Filipino designed brands that go international is that we have to join trade shows and be visible even if we don’t get orders during the first season.”

Rosanna: “We also joined some shows that we thought would be good for us. I guess it’s really knowing what kind of trade show you should be joining instead of joining whatever lands your way.”

Rosanna wearing the Kazari necklace set and Vivero earrings

Amina: “There were a couple of trade shows that we joined 3 times but we didn’t get a single order. But we persisted because we kept hearing that we need to continue. There’s no formula on how to go international. One of the main factors for us was taking that first step and deciding that we will do it.”

What’s the best thing about working together?

Amina: “I think we have the same vision and the same work groove. I know I can text her something work-related even at midnight.”

Rosanna: “Well, we were brought up by the same mother so we have the same way of thinking. We understand the brand and we know exactly what we want for it so in a way we get each other when it comes to the brand. Like this morning, she just had to name something and I could already envision it without her having to expound on it.”

What are your plans for Aranaz this year?

Amina: “We are trying to launch a clothing line this year to be sold in our stores. We want to do a trial run for the local market. Also, we hope to celebrate our 20th year towards the last quarter of the year.”

Amina wearing the Halma single necklace layered with a disc necklace

What are some of the self-care rituals that help you relax?

Rosanna: “I love getting a foot spa or a foot massage and getting my hair done. I like to sleep early. I sleep at 9pm. I like to travel, too. For me, that’s the best way to unwind.”

Rosanna wearing Heyjow statement earrings exclusively available at Aranaz 

Amina: “I like to have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. One thing that I also make time for is getting a facial. I don’t get to do it as often as I can and when I do, that whole day becomes my self-care day.”

Amina wearing the Rocasa earrings

What are your tips for aspiring designers and those who want to tap the international market?

Amina: “One is you have to define your creative voice. Try to see what you’re doing differently and how it can be relevant and attractive to the international market. I still believe that it helps to look into Filipino culture - see how you can take elements from it then modernize it when you create your position in the fashion market.”

Rosanna: “Be brave and don’t be afraid to take a risk. Even if your first buyer rejects you or your email to a department store is left unanswered, don’t let that discourage you.”

Amina: “When we started this entire journey of making Aranaz international, we created a wish list of stores where we want our products to be. We didn’t know how to reach some of them but we were able to put checks on that list.”

Rosanna: “Sometimes everything just falls into place.”

Amina: “I think it’s important to visualize it and be concrete about what you want, and of course, pray for it and ask for guidance. I really believe that when you’re able to concretize and talk about your dreams, that’s how it can come true.”

Follow Aranaz: @aranaz_ph

Follow Amina: @aminaaranaz

Follow Rosanna: @rosannaaranaz

Photography by Sheila Catilo (@sheilacatilo)

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