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How A ‘Small Trip’ Turned Into An Unexpected Fashion Journey

Updated

By Nicole De Los Reyes

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There’s a certain romance to traveling without an itinerary—to allowing yourself to become lost in order to find, to stumbling upon an unexpected discovery in a new, unfamiliar place.

Perhaps there was a time you wandered over to the stall of a chiringuito bar in Tulum and got a taste of an authentic michelalda. Or another moment when your plans unintentionally slipped away from you and you missed that last jeepney, then ended up spending a night in a hidden gem of a mountain town.

It’s these kinds of journeys that end up gifting adventurers with more than a souvenir to take home, and end up transforming how they see the world. Then again, there’s something about travel (even when it’s only a small trip) that always carries the potential to be a remarkable, life-altering experience.

This particular story begins off the east coast of Spain, on the summer-y island of Mallorca. There are girls dressed in breezy cover-ups and sandy bikinis, and they all happen to be carrying the same bag. It is the year 2015, and this rubber bag with rope straps is appearing all over the beaches in Europe.

Filipina lawyer Marta Garcia-Morera happens to be vacationing in the area. She chances upon one of these totes in a beach store and takes it home to give as a gift to her mother.

MARTA - SPAIN

Marta Garcia-Morera in Spain

Back in the Philippines, her sister-in-law Pia Ugarte Garcia-Morera sees the bag and instantly falls in love with it and the seed of a business plan begins to form.

PIA - BALI

Pia Ugarte Garcia-Morera in Bali

“I thought of how great a product it would be for the Philippine market,” she says. “We realized it was such a nice and practical accessory for our type of weather, which is sunny and rainy.”

Together with their third business partner, Marla Batallones, they decided to find a manufacturer and became the first to bring in the colorful, beach accessory into the local market.

MARLA - Shifen Waterfall

Marla Batallones in Shifen Waterfalls in Taiwan

Before this endeavor, Pia was working as marketing director at Enderun Colleges, and also had previous experience as an art director at the “disruption” agency TBWA/SMP. Marta and Marla are both lawyers. Marta lives in Spain where she works in business development at Instituto de Empresa, and Marla practices law in the Philippines. Neither of them had ever thought of founding their own bag brand before. Pia says that neither had she, despite her background in design. “But what we all had in common was an entrepreneurial spirit,” she says.

In 2016, Viajecito, a homegrown line of beach and travel accessories, was born. The name means “small trip” or “little travel” and it perfectly captures the nomadic spirit of the brand. “We started with one product, and have since expanded our product line,” the girls say. “We have tested a lot of new products! Some worked and some have not. But that is all part of the evolution right? We now know what works and what doesn’t. All these failures and success make you evolve as an entrepreneur.”

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The Splashkit Aperture Series is the brand’s latest offering on their website

 

The original beach tote, which they started with, still remains their most popular product. Over the years, they have developed the product further and now their line of bags is available in standard and midi sizes, with a classic finish or with a herringbone weave, and in every gorgeous color you can imagine!

Shoppers have access to many customization features on the Viajecito website. One can mix and match the colors of the straps and choose a preferred lining, creating one’s own highly personalized bag.

Working to become a global brand is the latest development in the story of Viajecito, which was discovered on a small trip, and has taken three longtime friends on the unexpected journey of founding their own travel accessories company.

Recently, they introduced two new waterproof accessories. The Splashkit is a waterproof case made from silicone rubber, which protects your sunblock, phone, and other valuables.

The Splashbucket is a waterproof version of the playful bag shape, with special hand-embroidery by 26 Gawad Kalinga workers.

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A local, homegrown brand with a global mindset

Other exciting developments are their expansion into men’s accessories and footwear. Their weekender duffel stands out in the market, due to its waterproof material and compact, extra spacious design. They also offer beautiful, vacation-ready shoes handmade by Latin American artisans.

One has a choice between authentic Mexican huaraches, which come in their traditional shape or as slides, or Venezuelan alpargatas or the Argentinian espadrille, which are made from handloomed cotton and feature adorable, cotton tassels.

“Whenever we create a product, we ask ourselves a few questions,” the girls say. “Is the design modern? Is it comfortable and practical? Can you bring it on a trip with you? Is the material of good quality? Is the price accessible? If we say yes to all these, then we will develop it because we feel that it sets us apart from other bags in the market.”

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Every product on the website can be customized with your own choice of straps and lining for a highly-personalized experience

Fast-forward to 2019, Viajecito continues to evolve and the brand shows no signs of slowing down with its growth any time soon. “We are now opening up to smoother international shipping,” the girls say. “We are now finding out what works outside of the Philippines.”

Working to become a global brand is the latest development in the story of Viajecito, which was discovered on a small trip, and has taken three, longtime friends on the unexpected journey of founding their own travel accessories company.

Get to know more about the founders of the Viajecito as they sit down with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle and talk about their business rooted by style and sisterhood.

How would you describe Viajecito’s aesthetic and personality?

Fun, relaxed, practical, and modern.

What was it like starting a business together with longtime friends?

Marta and Pia are sisters-in-law of three years, while Marla and Marta are longtime friends. We find it is a great combination. We do butt heads at times but we feel the business wouldn’t have survived without all our individual inputs. Our career backgrounds play a huge part as well. Overall, so far so good!

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Made of waterproof, silicone rubber

What are some of your favorite memories growing up and traveling together?

Our most recent great memory was our trip to Morocco. What a magical place! It’s very hard to pinpoint a particular memory, but the fact that we found a place on Google Images and planned this epic trip just to get there was great memory in itself. Yes, we got there and it was way better than the picture!

What are some of your favorite vacation spots?

Locally, Batangas and Palawan. Internationally, Bali, Vancouver, Madrid, and Morocco.

You recently expanded your product line to include Splashkits, Splashbuckets, men’s bags, and footwear. What do you personally love about each product in one word?

Splashkits, versatility. Splashbuckets, cuteness. Weekender duffel, compactness. Huaraches and Alpargatas, comfort.

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The Splashkit comes in an array of gorgeous colors

What are some of your current inspiration?

We get a lot of inspiration from movies, TV, magazines, and current trends. Reimagining a classic product using unusual materials is a big thing for us!

What are some of the creative ways you’ve used social media to market Viajecito?

We don’t use any methods that are super unusual. We share things that make us happy. Our feed is more curated while our stories are a bit more spontaneous—we hope our followers like that “no filter” aspect. We use our social media to reflect our community and the lifestyle that they live, so receiving pictures of people using our items in different places make us so happy and proud. We always make it a point to share everyone’s photos! So please share them with us!

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The models in these photos are wearing fellow homegrown brands @wear.anika and @rafikimono

Recently, you launched an international website. What are your future plans for expanding Viajecito into the global market?

Right now, it’s really testing our products on whether they are well-received internationally and getting our foot in the door through different trade shows and pop ups. Once we know what works, we will go full force. We are still heavily focused on the Philippines as there is so much more ground to cover.

You can check out the Splashkit and more at shopviajecito.com

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