I am a self-taught designer who recently moved to New York. I have been making jewelry and taking photographs since I was 5 years old. I grew up in a small beach town in Southern California. My mother is from the Philippines and my father is Irish-American from Georgia. I also had a long term babysitter from El Salvador who taught me Spanish. This hyphenated identity greatly shaped me as a child. I started working in fashion when I was 17 years old. I worked at a surf shop where the owner (a little old lady from Japan) cut and sewed surf trunks. I helped her organize patterns and cut fabric. I also took all the custom orders and took their measurements. From here I kept working in fashion, eventually moving to Los Angeles, where I learned product development and production manufacturing. I love working with people from different countries, and I love working with people who have high skills and use their hands, so this job was perfect for me. Plus because most of the factories in Los Angeles were Spanish-speaking, I got to use the Spanish I had learned from my baby sitter as a child. More importantly than enjoying myself in my work, I felt that I was doing a service to the working class immigrants of our country. Working with my hands myself my entire life, I identify with the laborer and felt that my work with them in a factory setting was very important. Because I have a strong ethic of human rights, I treated everyone I worked with fairly, showed my appreciation for them and made friends with them. This is something I saw that was lacking from other people who worked in my position. They were “the boss,” whereas I was the friend. I also felt my work to be important because I was supporting the production of US made goods. Since I was a kid, I’ve been against “Made in China” products and consumerism, both from a social and an environmental standpoint. Later in Los Angeles, I studied philosophy and (visual) anthropology at the University of Southern California, earning two bachelors degrees in my mid-20s. Because I found work I loved so much, I didn’t go to college directly after high school. In the end, I’m happy I made this choice, because I was able to find meaningful work for myself without the pressure of choosing my career path while still in a classroom, without any real work experience. Because of this, I also ended up studying subjects just because they interested me greatly, so I feel I was able to excel in my education since I really enjoyed the subjects. While I was in college I still worked in production, and continue to do so today as a freelance consultant for small businesses who product apparel and accessories in the United States. Since I established my jewelry & accessories line, Bagtazo, at the end of 2013, I have been able to meld all my interests, and do something good for humanity. Because my products are made in USA and created in limited quantities, I feel that I am helping reverse mindless consumerism while also supporting our domestic economy. I feel strongly about working with laborers in the US, because I am aware that without laborers, there could no products. I feel that most laborers are mistreated or treated as less-than, when they are in fact the foundation and the glue that holds our entire society and economy together, so I am happy that I have found a way to show my appreciation for them and support our economy.
This loan is special because:
More about this loan
Bagtazo was established at the end of 2013. I make hats, jewelry, scarves, and bags. Everything is handmade or hand-finished in the USA. No manufacturing happens outside of the US (except for one beret I released this fall, which was made in France by a small manufacturer who’s been making berets since the 1400s).
Bagtazo is gaining major traction at the moment – My hats were in Vogue UK and my jewelry is going to be in Harper’s Bazaar next month. I also had a successful market week this month and am now in need of capital to produce my large orders.
I started doing wholesale markets 3 seasons ago (or a year and a half ago) and in this past market in August, I went from having 4 wholesale accounts to having 20.
Because I make a range of products, my customers range from elderly women (mostly with the hats and jewelry), to women in their mid 20s and 30s, as well as some men, and a lot of gay men, both young and old. My wholesale customers are currently all in the US, but my retail customers who purchase directly from my website are global.
I thought it would take me another 3 wholesale market shows before I had 20 accounts, given that I am a small brand that hardly anyone knows about, so I am pleasantly surprised and the quick growth I’ve seen. My goal is to continue attending market shows so that I can transition from consulting other brands on domestic product development and manufacturing, to employing some people to work with me so that I can focus on Bagtazo full time.
(I will probably always consult some brands because I love it so much, but I would like to not work on a project just out of financial need, which is what I am doing at the moment).
Once Bagtazo grows, I would like to open a retail store and build out the business to offer more ethically made in USA products – from home goods to apparel. Since I have a background in products, I feel I am well equipped for the job.
I am most proud to say that I make in the USA and that I work with a network of small business to make this happen. From paper printers and leather sellers to sewing houses and metalsmiths, everyone I work with is independently owned and operated.
Bagtazo is a family surname from the Philippines. It was my grandmother’s maiden name, and I chose to use it because I feel that my company is a representation of my family’s hard work immigrating away from the Philippines, as well as a melding of my interests in Philosophy & Anthropology.
What is the purpose of this loan?
This loan will help me manufacture my products so that I can fulfill the recent purchase orders I got.
I will manufacture hats that will cost roughly $5,100.00. These hats are made with a small hat factory in Pennsylvania. They often talk of their former glory days at this factory and my goal is to revive their productivity.
I will also produce jewelry in my studio and with two metal foundries, one in New York and one in Los Angeles. This will cost me approximately $3,000.00
If I have left over funds, I will help relieve my tight personal cash flow and pay for my upcoming market show this October in Los Angeles. At this show, I hope to secure new accounts and sell from my available merchandise in hats (there is a minimum order that exceeds my current sales, but not by much, so I’m hoping to sell from these available units).
By obtaining this funding, I expect to meet my new customer’s needs and maintain a long-term working relationship by providing good quality, made in US products in a timely manner.
This loan will also help me and my husband. We are newly wed last September, and since my business has been growing rapidly, I have had to work a day job to fund it, and work on nights and weekends on my business to keep it going. I am exhausted and would love to have more time for my new family. My husband is also a creative, so he very much supports and understands me, but I would like to have a better work-life balance by eventually working normal hours with Bagtazo.
Also because Bagtazo is a family surname from the Philippines, my family here in the US and overseas are very proud of me. It makes me happy to bring our humble farmer name to the printed pages of Vogue magazine because it makes my immigrant family so proud.
Years in operation: 1 year – 3 years