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#LifeLokal: Pinas Sadya encourages self-empowerment with chic and loud staples

By Melanie Uson Published Mar 17, 2023 10:38 pm

Like most businesses, the pandemic greatly affected entrepreneur Skeeter Labastilla-Turgut, especially since Pinas Sadya was just established seven months old when the lockdown happened. With everything else put into a halt, she and her co-founders decided to fold the business in the meantime. 

When she reflected on what she would do in the next few years, Skeeter said she could "still see myself doing" business. And so she chose to stay in the country and continue running Pinas Sadya, a clothing and lifestyle brand.

“Pinas Sadya was born out of my core being,” she told PhilSTAR L!fe. “I realized I would rather be an impact here in the Philippines while I am here."

"I believe I am a contribution to building empowering platforms that help build a generation of proud Filipinos,” she continued. 

Aside from keeping the culture alive with vibrant and loud-styled staples, Skeeter aims to further promote self-empowerment. We celebrate many things, but we rarely celebrate ourselves. We always celebrate others,” she told L!fe.  

“Pinas Sadya is a reminder for the bespoke things,” she said. 

"My intention [is] to celebrate women and to celebrate the individual you—which is 'nag-iisa, walang katulad.'"

Reversible Cape with Kantarinas Weave and Hand Embroidery 

What’s the story behind the brand’s name?

"Pinas" is Philippines and "Sadya" is the intended purpose. But I’m Bisaya, "sadya" is joy. So, it basically means, “joyful purpose giving." I'm doing everything with intent and purpose.

And it also means "sadya" or "nag-iisa, walang katulad"—which speaks volumes about who you are [and] who I am. There’s no one like you, there’s no one like me, I am nag iisa—walang katulad. Which makes sense for all the pieces I am doing. I don't create thousands of pieces for one design, I only do three to five pieces per design.

That's the intention of Pinas Sadya, celebrating our being Filipino [and] at the same time it’s celebrating your being you in really embracing that there’s no point in comparing yourself to others, there's no point of finding yourselves through validation from others ‘cause no one else can do it the things that you do except you. 

Maharlika Purse

How would you describe your brand's aesthetic?

Very Skeeter. The thing is, there’s no template for my design. I am definitely not plain, I am very colorful and loud, [and] my design inspiration and aesthetic is the festive, joyful "sadya" feel.

I'm using most of the Philippine weaves that we have available. [There's] the Binakol of Abra, Kantarines of Isabela, I’m also using the contemporary weaves of Negros, which is a hundred percent cotton. I’m [going] to use Philippine silk which is also in Negros, I'm using Yakan of Zamboanga, the Pis Siyabit of Maguindanao and Tausug, and I'm [also going] to use Langkit of the Bakwits of Marawi. So, I want to represent the different tribes in one. 

How does your Filipino heritage/culture influence your brand values and identity?

I think the value of pride and joy of Filipino is ever present in all my designs, and I really showcase it, I take pride in wearing this because number one, nag-iisa lang ‘to, hindi siya mass-produced, wala akong katulad. And number two, I am wearing the dying culture of weaving, for example in Abra, I’m making it alive by wearing it and supporting it so designers like me can continue to support the community, the tribe. 

Yakan Throwpillows

There are so many competitive brands within the world of fashion right now, how do you make your brand stand out from the rest?

There’s no one like me. Siyempre dumaan na ko sa insecurity. I design everything by heart so I draw everything on a piece of paper, and I just patch the fabric together and make something out of it, so it really comes originally from my head.

I am confident that there’s no one like me because everything comes from my brain, everything comes from experience, everything comes from the relationship I have with the communities, and my aesthetic from the very start which is the makulay, ma-happy, plain pero may malaking flower. 

What other obstacles have you faced while creating your brand and how have you overcome them?

A lot. I went through a pandemic—we opened in August 2019 and then the lockdown was in March 2020. Business-wise, I [almost gave up].

Pinas Sadya was founded by three amazing women who are my friends, [and they] started to just say like “Hey, we’re going to go back to corporate” or they will establish their own. So, I was thinking of folding Pinas Sadya, which we did. We parted ways in 2020.

And then I started asking: “Ten years from now, how do I see myself?” I started to travel within and I still see myself doing this, because this is an extension of me, eh. I cannot take myself out from Pinas Sadya, because Pinas Sadya is a visual representation of who I am. 

It’s a good risk, and worth investing on because I know that it will grow. But I’m happy where I am right now. Pinas Sadya [has] definitely grown so much since then. 

Do you consider your brand as sustainable?

It’s sustainable because I don’t throw things away, and I am sustaining, building, and growing a community with it. Every fabric that I design or get from the weavers, I never throw them. I make them as my [label], I make them as my butones.

It’s very sustainable in the sense that it’s just reinforcing each other. The more I produce, the more the community will grow. 

How do you want your clients to feel when they're wearing your clothes?

I want them to feel a simple pride and joy for being Filipino. I want them to feel—and they will really feel it—that they are part of keeping the heritage alive.

I tell my clients, so we have this thing [card], it says here, “The story of Pinas Sadya is your story, it’s about the love for country, pride, and joy of culture, and the joy being able to call yourself Filipino” so that's a reminder, that’s what they get when they get an item from me and then I put something handwritten here.