The opportunity to write about this empowering brand gave me the honour of connecting with Jeanny Buan, the founder of VIAHERA. VIAHERA is the first Filipino Indigenous Fashion Brand to debut in Western Canada. Six months post-launch, and Viahera has already been nominated for three Emerging Entrepreneur Awards. Jeanny is currently travelling in Southeast Asia, looking for inspiration for her upcoming designs.
In 2013, there were two terrible disasters that changed how a lot of people looked at the Fashion Industry Jeanny explains: “First, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and left more than 10,000 people dead including women who were making clothing and bags. The second was the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 employees.” She felt it was her social responsibility to create a difference, and from there, VIAHERA was born.
Each one of VIAHERA’s products is made from recycled and/or natural materials including recycled mahogany, recycled pleather from old furniture, manila hemp and grass. Jeanny uses all natural dyes to bring life to her products, varying from bags, to headbands and scarves.
I had the pleasure of asking Jeanny the following questions!
Q: What do you believe makes Viahera diverse?
A: From our vision which states: "VIAHERA’s vision is to empower and inspire women of all colour, size and nationality from around the world to dress up more, laugh more, explore more and LIVE more!" We cater to ALL women and even women at heart. It does not matter what your skin colour is or the language you speak, everyone is welcome in our store.
Q:What is the main inspiration in your designs?
A: “Viahera" means female traveler in Spanish and we have been very fortunate to travel the world. Just recently, we were in Southeast Asia for two months. We draw inspiration from all of our travels- the details most especially. For the fall collection, it is inspired by coconut trees, the beach and dance from the Malay countries.
Q: Can you describe your creative process/what do you do when you have creative blocks?
A: Creativity for me happens everywhere- but most especially when I am at the beach and going for a run in a new place. In May and June, we spent 2 months at the beach and my brain was in "non-stop creative mode." The airplane, elephants, beach, coconut trees, traditional dance, traditional food, the manner of how people speak and think inspired me! One thing for sure, I have to be away travelling to spark my creativity that is just fitting for our brand name "VIAHERA."
Q: Why do you think it is so important to give back to the community?
A: I was born in the Philippines and life was hard, I was able to finish university as a scholar and even in Canada, I went back to school as a government scholar as well. I believe highly in education and passionate about it, as a matter of fact, this is one of VIAHERA's core principles: "commitment to education." I believe that we can empower every child through education and I promised myself that one-day I would give back and "pay it forward." Without those people who helped me when I was younger, I would not be where I am right now.
So we are sending kids to school in the Philippines and Indonesia, we have partnered with ASPECT (Advanced Learning Centre) in Raha, Indonesia. This is the first English Speaking school on the remote island. Through this effort, we are helping children have access to education which they would not be able to do so on their own.
Q: What style of designs can we expect at SFDF?
A: The fall collection that will be showcased in SFDF is a brand new collection with inspiration drawn from our recent travels in Southeast Asia. You will see a combination of Thai, Malay, Indonesian and Filipino tradition blended with contemporary design and of course, all materials are still made from sustainable materials.
Q: What are you looking forward to most at SFDF?
A: I have been a part of SFDF for the past few years as a model but this is the first time that I will be working behind the scenes, I am very excited to show everyone my transition from model to designer! This is the launch of my fall collection which I have been working on for the past half a year.
Jeanny runs a business that is selfless, giving, and frankly awe-inspiring. This is evident through her efforts to supporting the Red Cross Bullying prevention program, United Way of Saskatoon and Lung Association of Saskatchewan and also her efforts to empowering kids through education in third world countries. Viahera is the official partner of ASPECT, the first English School in Tongkuno, a remote island in Sulawesi, Indonesia. In addition, they also supply funds for students in the Philippines to go to school and participate in sports or art clinics of their choice.
As a proud Canadian, it is truly uplifting to see women support other women not only in Canada but also throughout the world. It is ESSENTIAL for us ladies to stick together! It is inspiring how Viahera helps others in foreign countries while also helping people within the community, all the while doing so by creating and supplying unique and timeless accessories!!
Products can be purchased from their store front located at 414 33rd Street West, Saskatoon. Products can also be purchased at Motion Fitness, Alchemy, Karavan, and McNally Robinson or at www.viahera.com.
Thank you Jeanny for taking time away from your busy schedule to answer some questions, and safe travels, we cannot wait to see your designs in October!