Advice from experienced creatives on how to break into the big leagues

Creating a brand identity and establishing a strong presence is imperative in the contemporary marketplace. The increasing shift to digital retail and marketing has given rise to the necessity for brands and designers who handle the creative and business aspects of their labels to be equipped to handle these challenges. Last September 13, the SoFA Design Institute spearheaded its first Speak Easy lecture entitled “Get Your Brand in the Game.”  Designed to be a conversational talk among four creatives on how to thrive in the creative workplace, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Carl Jan Cruz, Nela San Jose, and Geo Custodio convey valuable insights on how newcomers can build their brand by becoming conversant with the best practices employed by successful designers and retailers.

On building the perfect brand DNA, Amina Aranaz-Alunan shares: “Your story is everything. When you think about your story it’s not only branding it’s really your essence, the product you make, how unique your point of view is.” As the creative director of Aranaz, the bags and accessories mogul further explains that the concept of brand DNA is not simply marketing. “It’s about what your values are as a designer, what lifestyle you’re promoting—You have to be very very strong about your brand DNA. It has to be compelling enough but not too constricting that you can’t go anywhere. You also have to know where your products belong. You have to do your research. When you’re creating your products you have to think of what products will you develop, what will become your signature. Sometimes they might not even be your best sellers but because they tell your story so strongly it has to be there in your collection.”

For fashion designer Carl Jan Cruz, design is an individualized experience built on interpretation and reinterpretation: “Everyone can learn technicality and the industry but not identity. People will of course be [opposed] to this idea of veering away from the ‘industry’ but honestly it’s up to the person to bring the ‘industry’ anywhere they are.” The young creative, who carries with him European sensibilities brought about by his work and educational experiences in London, further elaborates: “I was just honest with myself and I don’t regret that to this day.  As much as you want to say it has to be the same as London, it has to be the same with Paris, to be honest it will never be the same. That’s the beauty of it. That’s how we arrive with how we think aesthetically—it’s how we do design developments. There’s a lot of collaboration; it’s multi-relationships of people. For us it’s creating a culture. I think now I realize it’s not just become a visual autobiography of myself I think it’s a cultural Filipino contemporary brand that it’s become. It’s not something I pictured in my mind but I think that’s something that’s arrived from my past experiences.”

One of the highlights of the conversation was the importance of staying up-to-date not only with creative trends but also with technological ones. Nela San Jose, a retail and styling consultant, shares her observations: “Non-traditional or new media is key in today’s market place,” she says  “Emerging forms of marketing methods now include digital billboards, LED digital posters in brick and mortar stores, and collaterals in unexpected places.” As a fashion marketing instructor, this is something she constantly reminds her students of. “Digital is so impactful. Where we are geographically, it’s not exactly a fashion hub. Social media is imperative for a global presence.”

In connection with the changing times, Miz and Moxie founder Geo Custodio also notes that it remains necessary to incorporate the principles of a brick and mortar store to an electronic retail shop. “[An online platform] should be the same as your store. It needs supplies and consignments. When people come to your website they need to feel like they’re shopping your brand, and you must show the balance between tangibility and physicality.”

Be part of the conversation at SoFA Design Institute’s next Speak Easy. Attendance is free of charge. Contact our Admissions Office ( / 478 4611 or 22 loc 115/ 0917-501-8136) RSVP now!