By Paulyne L. Fermin
I chanced upon designer Merriam Batara’s Instagram account and found myself tapping the heart icon on so many of her posts. Her creations, which include wired cuffs, bejeweled bags, intricate necklaces, and tassel earrings, excited me. A week later (and after an animated phone conversation), we sat down in a well-lit café to talk about her eponymous brand.
“I only produce just two or three pieces per design. This way my clients feel special when they wear my one-of-a-kind creations,” she shared as she lay the accessories on the table. How absolutely beautiful, my thought bubble exclaimed as I picked up one lovely piece after another.
Merriam’s first foray into the accessories business started in college where she and a friend made and sold ornamental wired butterflies. Her parents owned a jewelry business in Bulacan and she honed her skills by practicing on leftover and defective stones found in the shop. As a struggling entrepreneur, she made the rounds of bazaars before meeting people who introduced her to influential people in the fashion world.
“I was so thrilled to see my work displayed at Firma and then my pieces were carried by Rajo Laurel’s atelier. But I had to overcome problems like capitalization and my reluctance to delegate. My business was growing and I had to evolve with it if I was to succeed.”
Merriam admits to the presence of politics in Philippine fashion. She has been rejected several times by stores and trade expos. Closed doors only made her more determined to excel in her craft. Through her travels, constant research, and practice, her designs are now being recognized locally and on the international stage. Her present roster of stylish clientele includes celebrities and fashion insiders.
Unlike other designers, Merriam rarely draws her designs. She instinctively knows which stones will go well together, what colors will blend and complement and how to marry the right fabric, thread, and gems. She does check color forecasts and keeps herself in the know about the new season’s fabrications and cuts.
The designer’s primary skill is bead embroidery. Glass beads, Swarovski crystals, semi-precious stones, and zippers are her preferred choice of materials. Her house still serves as her shop and she now employs a dozen locals who she rigorously trains. It’s interesting to know that all the backings of her pieces are made from scrap leather from a friend’s furniture business, which is Batara’s own take on going green.
Merriam describes herself as resourceful, hands-on, and cerebral. “Lately, I’ve been more focused on quality and editing. Although I’m constantly trying out new styles, I now find myself making more and more classic pieces. I want to exercise restraint while showcasing masterful craftsmanship,” she says decidedly.
The designer predicts that the current fascination over earrings (tassel, florals, pompoms) will carry on to the next season. Embellished purses made from local materials, cuffs, and hand/slave bracelets will also be must-have accessories.
What advice can she give to aspiring young designers? “What comes easy does not last. It’s patience and perseverance that got me here. I did my time and patiently waited for my turn. Be the best at what you do and, with hope, success will come to you in some form or measure.”
Merriam Batara jewellery is sold on shopvera.ch and seektheuniq.com, at Lanai at the Karrivin Plaza and at Firma at Greenbelt 3.
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