The Handbag Designer...

Over the moon to be launching our first bag collaboration with La Filippine, we interview Julia Barba-Baudlot, the talented Filipino-Franco who founded and designs the brand. Handcrafted by filipino artisans, Julia draws on her heritage in craftsmanship and her background in art to design socially conscious and sustainable pieces that strike the perfect rustic-chic chord.

You make the most exquisite bags and shoes. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to start designing and to launch La Filippine?
La Filippine is like a long awaited child. For so long I’ve had the two most essential elements necessary to create an accessory collection, heritage and inspiration. But I worked in art galleries for some years and truly delighted in it. Turning 40 yrs old pushed me off my seat. It was then that I committed to create and design pieces of my own. My mother has been creating costume jewellery for over 25 years and my husband’s grandmother lives in Provence
whom we see every summer. Having been privileged enough to have these two assets influence me all these years, I decided to cultivate a collection that bore these facets.

Sustainability and female empowerment is clearly something you are passionate about. How do you champion this in La Filippine?
Before I did the groundwork I decided quite early on that I wanted to work only with small family businesses. My mother was a small business owner who worked with even smaller family businesses. I saw first hand how an intrepid woman can augment the quality of life for their family. At La Filippine our partner-suppliers are either owned or managed by a woman. Each one practices equal employment opportunity, between 40-50% of their artisans are male.

Sustainability for a fashion start-up on a budget can be formidable: finding the right fit in terms of suppliers and materials. Luckily the aesthetic that I was drawn to was using the Philippines’ indigenous reeds and stalks that grow abundantly in the rural parts of my country. Every village does a form of weaving, the puso rice pouch, the banig picnic mat, the bahay kubo home/hut, to name a few. So having these expert weavers craft pieces by using the materials that surround them is just a privilege.

Julia Barba-Baudlot with her daughter, Maxine

(Julia Barba-Baudlot with her daughter, Maxine)

You have built a cult following on Instagram and really do take the perfect picture- can you share your secret to building a successful Instagram brand?
Blush. Thank you! Number one, don’t be shy. Two, regard Instagram as a tool. For this tool to be most effective, give some thought to the composition of your photos: lighting, background and framing. IG is a visual platform, your photos should function as your mini-brand ambassadors.

What are your tips for remaining effortlessly chic in the humidity of Singapore?
My umbrella, knowing when to walk and when to ride, and choosing clothes that are most flattering to the challenges I face in height!

Julia Barba-Baudlot, designer of La Filippine with the La Tarte collaboration bag with Lilliput & Felix
(Julia Barba-Baudlot, designer of La Filippine, with the La Tarte collaboration bag with Lilliput & Felix)

You travel with work all the time, what are your travel essentials?
An E-book, a charged phone and face blotter.

Where is your ideal holiday or dream destination?
A roadtrip with my husband along any coast with wine and cheese pitstops!

Swimsuit or bikini?
Lilliput & Felix anything. Honestly, this is the first brand that doesn’t make bikini season daunting. It is such a female-thoughtful brand!

Julia Barba-Baudlot dressed in Lilliput & Felix surrounded by her beautiful show and handbag designs
(Julia Barba-Baudlot dressed in Lilliput & Felix and surrounded by her beautiful show and handbag designs)

What are your plans for La Filippine?
I envision it to grow in a pace where I am able to make sound decisions for both myself and my partner-suppliers. E-commerce is the next frontier for us but in the run up to it and getting there, we will stay artisanal and socially conscious.

Who do you look to for inspiration and what advice would you give to your former self?
My mother is my lighthouse. Providing me with light and guidance when I didn’t even know I needed it. The advice I’d give my former self, “get better grades!”

Lastly, can we have your recommendations on your favourite place for a short holiday in the Philippines? Where to and what to:
- Stay: Palawan
- Lunch: My mother’s house in Cebu
- Must do: Island hopping on our bangka native canoe
- Beauty: SPF
- Drinks: “piscine” your drinks (add ice even to wine)
- Dine: Surprisingly we are spoilt with authentic Italian-run restaurants
- Reflect: A drive along our coast is majestic, humbling and leaves you feeling grateful for what you have.
- Unwind: Massages til you turn to mush
- A secret tip: When you can, opt for the sikwate over the coffee
- Read: Local newspapers, Filipino journalists are one of the bravist and are sticklers for grammar!

The La Tarte handbag designed by La Filippine for Lilliput & Felix
(The La Tarte handbag collaboration by La Filippine for Lilliput & Felix)