This Filipino Bag Brand Pairs Yakan Weaves with Timberland Leather
Martha Rodriguez was staying in London and finishing her Master’s degree in Fashion Business Creation at the British School of Fashion London’s Glasgow Caledonian University when she began to seriously consider menswear as a concept.
The Filipino designer would be around the city, “getting to the tube, going to work, having dinner out, [and] I realized that men are becoming very particular and conscious of what they wear. They are fashion lovers, too, with urbane but tasteful styles, from their socks to their suits.”
Vesti's bags are inspired by London and Manila
One thing she noticed was that, stylish as they were, the men still carried bags that were quite bland and devoid of character—a glaring oversight she didn’t hesitate to remedy through her Filipino brand, Vesti. This year, she launched Vesti’s first Signature Men’s Collection, which she says is inspired by London’s sophisticated commuter lifestyle and her own country’s rustic sensibilities.
The line came full circle, in fact, when it was presented during London Fashion Week at the Embassy Previews, a platform launched by the Embassy of the Philippines in London that highlights emerging Filipino fashion designers. “Inspired by London and showcased in London—quite a journey,” says Rodriguez, who adds that the positive feedback was overwhelming.
The pieces promote the weaving tradition of Mindanao
Vesti is committed to promoting Mindanaoan artisanship, particularly weaving traditions, in its products, and its debut men’s collection is no different, making use of handwoven Yakan fabric as accent pieces—used by the Yakan tribe of Zamboanga (originally Basilan) as head covers, and thought to bring good fortune. The intricate geometric details of the fabric go well with the surrounding Timberland cowhide leather in rich neutral colors, making for a stark but aesthetically pleasing contrast.
“[We] decided to use Yakan because of its diamond patterns, [which are] very geometric and deliver a masculine look,” Rodriguez says. “The silhouettes are very classic yet modern, [the] colors can be easily matched with the shoes, and of course the use of Mindanao weaves will not overshadow but only complement.”
The bags were designed with organization in mind
Envisioned as perfect companions for smart, stylish men on the go, both classic and contemporary, refined and refreshing, the bags and accessories are versatile, high-quality, and functional, available as backpacks, duffels, messenger bags, weekenders, wallets, and billfolds.
They have accessible pockets, two zippers, and durable straps, and inside are more compartments for cards, pens, laptops and other devices, and even shoes. “We wanted them to feel that this bag is a partner and that they rely on this bag for years to come.”
“The collection is made for the man who has a mindful, sophisticated [approach] to living,” Rodriguez adds. She has created pieces with the goal of presenting a new mindset for the men who will carry them: You can be organized, you can be anyone, you can take on anything, and look great while doing it.
It’s for men who maintain active lifestyles, she adds, who know their signature drink, who aren’t afraid to express themselves especially through their sense of style, who are jet-setters and are able to appreciate a multitude of cultures. In other words, she explains, “the modern and metropolitan man.”
Vesti is committed to improving the lives of Filipino weavers
Since 2012, Rodriguez has been passionate about working and collaborating with weaving communities. In her effort to adapt long-held traditions and make them contemporary and fashionable, she always keeps one thing in mind: “Always research on the fabrics or weaves that you are using especially [since] these were handed down to us by our ancestors,” she says. “[We respect the culture, so] we cannot just use whatever materials we want, it should elevate the product.”
Sustainable and ethical practices are also something Vesti prides itself upon. “We are 100 percent committed to ensuring that [the weavers’] lives will get better for them to exit poverty,” Rodriguez says. This includes paying the weaving communities up front and fairly, maintaining honest and open communication, and supporting upcoming programs for healthcare, job opportunities, and education for their children.
The bags, of course, help promote their creations and raise awareness. “We usually go back to the tribes, show them the bags, [and share our success] so they will be validated on their hard work.”
The collection is for the metropolitan man
With the theme Equinox of Freedom, Vesti’s men’s collection, is, Rodriguez explains, “a balance of both worlds, the slow yet fast life.” She adds: “[It’s] definitely something [men] can carry from work to the gym to concerts and to travel, even for the weekend.”
But the styling options are limitless, and Rodriguez already has a few ideas of her own. Her advice? Try “a clean tailored suit with perfect straight trousers, a watch, a hanky—I know most guys still carry one—[and] a good pair of leather shoes or loafers, combined with your best self.”