Annie & Lori shoes next to an iPad showing the British Vogue page that focuses on the brand.

IT’S NOT every day that a Filipino brand makes it into the pages of British Vogue, but here we are, talking about Annie & Lori, a homegrown brand featured in this month’s issue, under the Designer Profile section.

BusinessWorld reached Faith Mijares, the brand’s head designer and founder about the international recognition. The shoes aren’t easy to ignore. They’re lightweight leather sandals that have been worn by Miss Universe Catriona Gray, as well as Filipina Victoria’s Secret model Kelsey Merritt. The brand takes inspiration from local design, such as the country’s native bakya (wooden clog) and indigenous fabrics.

“Knowing how our artisans, our sapateros (shoe makers) have poured passion into creating quality shoes, I believe that it is but important to recognise them by highlighting that we are a Filipino brand,” said Ms. Mijares. “I’ve always wanted to showcase to the world how great Filipino craftsmanship [can be].”

The brand was launched in 2015, and Ms. Mijares recounts how it started. “The brand started out as a personal project. When my grandparents passed away, I knew I had to channel my sentiments to something productive and creative. I named the brand after my grandparents, Annie and Lori, two special people in my life who inspired me to start the business,” she said. “Before Annie & Lori, I was at the peak of my corporate career in a multinational company.”

Speaking about how a young brand can get international attention quite quickly, she said, “It has always been a dream — to be recognized and get featured on an international publication but I did not expect it to happen so soon hence it felt surreal. But it definitely inspired me and the brand to continue creating more beautiful shoes for the Filipina and for more women in other parts of the world.”

By being produced locally, Annie & Lori can tick off a box when it comes to sustainable measures, but Mr. Mijares takes it a step further. “We are aware of the impact of the fashion industry on our environment, hence it is but inevitable for us to think of sustainable and eco-conscious initiatives.”

The brand is known for using leather, but has now offered an alternative in the form of vegetable-tanned leather (leather processed by using plant-derived compounds, instead of other potentially harmful chemicals). “The vegetable tanned leather is lovely, but among all the things you’ll love about it most is that it leaves a minimal carbon footprint because of the use of organic materials and the natural tanning process,” she said. “The vegetable tanned leather collection is our most eco-friendly collection to-date but we are committed to discovering and using more eco-friendly materials in the future.”

It used to be that Filipino designer, in seeking international attention, would have had to hide behind more cosmopolitan names and designs, but times have changed. Ms. Mijares said, “Filipino elements are beautiful to begin with — which we do hope that more Filipinos get to appreciate someday. Aside from its beauty, some Filipino elements are unique, intricate and above all made with love and passion. Mixed with our brand’s modern and minimalist designs, those things perhaps make it translatable and relatable to the rest of the world.”

“Ours is a craftsmanship that is at par or sometimes even better [than] other global brands. If we will just continue to highlight the elements that are all uniquely Filipino (and that definitely includes high quality), the global market is definitely willing to embrace and recognise it.”

The brand is available through — Joseph L. Garcia