Feature: Dressing up in Senina
MISAMIS OCCIDENTAL-How far are you willing to go to do what you love?
For one fashion designer in Misamis Occidental, she did not stop with a dream alone; she actually made things happen.
Meet Cielo Cervantes. Cielo’s love for fashion started when was still a little girl. Greatly influenced by the dressmaking hobby of her grandmother, she picked up her own thread and needle and started to design and make dresses for her dolls. A few years later, she upgraded her skill by altering ukay-ukay clothes for her everyday wear. Cielo did not only find herself daydreaming about the endless possibilities of her interest but she also wanted to make a difference in what she wears. That was her armor to chase her dream in fashion.
Unfortunately, her interest was set aside when she took up Hospitality Management and got employed in Dubai for practical reasons. Though she was able to secure a good job, Cielo found herself to be less motivated with what she has been doing. After years of serving the hospitality industry, she packed her things and went back to the Philippines to once again chase her dream.
She enrolled in Slims Fashion and Art School in Makati City where she learned the trades and crafts in designing, cutting, sewing, and even marketing and enterprising her made-to-order wedding gowns and other pieces of fashion apparel. With her artistic skill, she earned the trust of some walk-in clients who bought a few of her designed pieces.
She went back to Dubai but this time as a master-cutter and pattern-maker at the renowned Dubai Design District. Her drive to challenge herself with more knowledge, techniques, and mastery in multi-cultural fashion paved the way for a few of her masterpieces to be worn by models in Dubai shows.
In 2016, Cielo finally returned to the Philippines for good to put up her own business—The Senina Fashion Shop. Despite the financial challenges and entrepreneurial birth pains she experienced, the support of her relatives and friends who became her first loyal and generous clients eased her burden of handling her business.
Her brand specializes in creating modern-day Filipiniana wardrobes for various occasions such as custom-made bridal gowns, gala uniforms for official functions, debutant gowns and dresses. Cielo keeps her concepts fresh and exciting by listening to her market and getting to personally know her clients. Her work ethics and professionalism allowed her to establish a name for herself in the local fashion industry and gave her the opportunity to showcase her creations in various platforms—fashion shows, exhibits, magazines, major prints and even in social media.
But as an event-dependent enterprise, Cielo experienced a drop in sales when the pandemic started because of cancelled big events such as weddings and gala shows. The production of wardrobes were put on hold. Closing the shop was the easiest option, but being one of the mentees who just graduated in the first batch of DTI-10’s online Kapatid Mentor Me (KMME) Program, Cielo relied on the mentorship program that taught her to rethink her business habits especially in this time when the fashion industry is greatly affected by the pandemic.
She shifted her focus to creating fashionable face masks including scarf masks, silk masks, and batique masks with turbans—all of which are comfortable, washable, breathable, and handcrafted to excellence.
The new direction of her business started when she sewed scrap fabric to face masks, which she then handed out to the frontliners for free. Seeing the face masks opportunity in the market, Cielo upgraded by using patterns and designs that reflect the Mindanao culture of modesty into her fashionable face masks.
She arranged an alternative work arrangement for her employees, where those at home can still earn by cutting the fabrics needed. The introduction of the fashionable face masks somehow augmented the day-today operation of the shop. Her loyal customers came back as Cielo has already established a brand of producing quality products, which now includes the fashionable face masks. With the shift to e-commerce, Cielo started building the online image of her brand and reached out to a wider market through popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
Add to that, she also had the opportunity to feature her new designs for the new normal and talk about her experiences as in DTI Misamis Occidental’s Facebook live selling during the first Virtual Kahimunan Trade Fair and Go Negosyo’s Balik Kabuhayan Series.
From dressing up her dolls as a child, Cielo has now become a household name in the local fashion industry not only because of her determination to continue crafting her dream but also of her advocacy to help the local weavers in the community. As of this writing, Cielo has offered her services by training members of the Buenacama Agrarian Reform Cooperative on how to make face masks made from abaca hinabol, which are being weaved by the Malahutayong IPs Organization.
For Cielo, the times of crisis is not an excuse to go less in fashion. “It is even an opportunity to go for more.” (DTI MisOcc/PIA Misamis Occidental)
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