JUST as Catriona Gray's patriotic earcuff went viral and very famous online, so was Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados' Watawat earrings. For some, it was Gazini's version of patriotic accessories.
It was well-appreciated and loved on social media. We wonder who the designer and the artist behind this beautiful craft. And we discover, through Gazini's and other Miss Universe 2019-related post that it is Dabawenyo designer Kay Fanlo.
But Fanlo, as an artist, is more than just the Watawat earrings worn by Gazini. Her journey towards where she is now is much more interesting.
Fanlo grew up in a family of creators - her mother a seamstress and her father loved to tinker broken appliances and furniture in their house. This natural atmosphere of creativity in their household cultivated her interest in fashion accessory making.
"I am not acustomed to toys because my mom won't buy me new toys from the store. Instead I usually get hand-me-downs or she would let me play with her retaso and beads. That was playtime for me. Back in highschool, our mom would ask us to put beads on the gowns she made. The task was so tedious. We can't go out unless we finished the beadworks but at the end of day she pays us for our day's work," shared Fanlo.
It was in college when she decided to make a business of the accessories she were making. She started making beaded butterfly, dragonfly, and spider necklaces which she sold at Eden Nature Park & Resort.
Even if she worked in Cebu for seven years, she still found spare time to be creative and made fashion accessories which she sold to her colleagues. On Christmas, she would send it to her sister here in Davao City to sell in bazaars.
Her creativity and love for tinkering did not entirely stop as she would always find time to practice it and come up with finished products. In 2018, a friend encouraged her to join Habi Kadayawan, a fashion accessories competition in Davao City during the Kadayawan Festival season.
Even with only three days preparation for the hobbyist category, she pushed through but did not expect it when she was hailed the grand champion.
"I’d say it is because of the versatile designs which combines traditional Mindanao culture and contemporary design of urban lifestyle. Also the fact that our conversational art piece is something new in the industry," Fanlo shared when asked what she thinks made her win the competition. Fanlo's winning necklace depicts the 11 different tribes in Davao City.
Looking back, Fanlo said, this competition paved way for her for other bigger opportunities. She was invited to showcase her creations at the Arise Mindanao Fashion Show in Manila. One of the models there was Gazini together with the other Binibining Pilipinas winners.
"While I was lining up to take a photo with her, she noticed the neckpiece I'm wearing and took a picture with it. When I got back to Davao, I received a call from her styling team to make 10 earrings for her to bring to her Atlanta Miss Universe Pageant," she said.
As the styling team also asked her to provide clutch bags made of T'nalak, Fanlo tapped her fellow designer Carmaella Braceros Alcantara of Crystal Seas for Gazini's clutch bags.
"The reception was overwhelming and at the same time very heartwarming. We are so grateful to the people who paved the way for the opportunity to showcase our Davao-made products internationally and most importantly to bring sustainable income opportunity to our adopted communities. It gives a noble purpose to what I am doing," said Fanlo.