Marga & Bea Valdes: A Myriad Stories in their Bags


Marga & Bea Valdes: A Myriad Stories in their Bags is a cover story in February 2008 issue of Forbes in Touch.

This is a repost of an article for Forbes in Touch about the Valdes sisters, which I wrote many years back.

Yeah, at some point, I miss writing again.

“The business doesn’t work without them. There’s so much emphasis on design,” exclaims Bea Valdes, together with her sister Marga, on a bright, sunny morning in their comfy Forbes home.

The name Bea Valdes does ring a bell all right. She’s a celebrated Filipino designer whose creations have been graciously featured in local and international magazines such as Bazaar, Glamour, Marie Claire, Newsweek, Preview, Philippine Tatler, Town&Country, Vogue, W and O magazines; snapped up in trendy stores like Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue; and worn by high-profile celebrities like Sharon Stone, Kate Hudson, and Rachel Roy. Her collections are getting innumerable while her client base is mounting and growing diverse, too. There’s no doubt that she’s behind all these works. Yet without a great tandem found in the family (a trio, actually), the designer brand beavaldes won’t appear much in full gloss.

Bea Valdes’ tinsel town of beads and semi-precious stones is comprised of 40 workers managed by her mom Pamela and an equally hardworking and enthusiastic sister, Marga, who has been very significant in bringing beavaldes to the high fashion limelight as well as to topnotch foreign clienteles.

Marga in Focus
As Bea puts it, Marga has a more fascinating life. Marga’s been away for eight years, living independently in London and Paris. “What people don’t realize is that Marga’s life is more interesting. She lived in Paris and worked there in UNESCO. Then she went to London, took a master’s degree in Gender Studies in Economics, and worked in the House of Lords. She just came back for business,” Bea elaborates.

“Apart from being very lucrative to come and join my family, I thought I really can contribute. I also want to be home again and be with my folks and Bea. And she was pregnant when I came home! I was also trying to help a bit when I was away, and so is my brother in New York. So it’s a logical conclusion,” Marga explains.

Marga shares snippets of her life abroad, “I was a student in Paris in a class of eight students from different countries. Our background is very different, very diverse, a great experience all around.” Her most memorable experiences include the Olympics bid and the London bombing. “My boss is part of the British Olympics Association. When London got the bid for 2012, everyone gathered together, rejoicing. Another one was the bombing. I got earlier in the office, and it happened at the same lane (where the bombing was). So I have to walk home for two hours in heels. Because of that, I got to start wearing trainer shoes! My life there is really quite different, more independent.”

Indeed, Marga is very keen on her role in their business. She has handled numerous markets from different countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. She also coordinates sales orders and design requests and ensures that shipments are delivered on what’s been agreed upon. “We work in different areas. Bea creates the piece. I send them off and track their movement around the world,” Marga giggly says. It may seem daunting to sell her sister’s creations and to accommodate, as Bea dubs it, “international” e-mail, but it didn’t turn out that way in Marga’s case. Luckily, they’ve got loyal customers who approach them more. “In the beginning, I was a little bit nervous because you’re not sure where to find them, but the market found us. They recognize her creation as a work of art. I came in to nurture the relationship while Bea is in control of her designing work.”

Bea in Transition
Bea’s life began to change when she gave birth to Bella five months ago. Her daily work is almost allotted to designing, with lesser rest in between to spend more time with her daughter. She summarizes, “I keep the ground running. Check on everybody and create multiple designs.”

Apart from having her bundle of joy, which enabled Bea to work more efficiently, Marga also amusingly shares how the baby impacted Bea’s creativity, “Her collections started to take on different colors. She used to choose dark, bold colors and then she began taking pastel, light colors. It’s hormonal imbalance!”

So how does Bea start her artistic work? “Every time I start working on a new bag, I’d say ‘This will be my most favorite piece.’ And then, the next time I start another, I say it again. That’s my motivation.”

Marga claims that Bea got her artistic leaning from their dad while Bea confirms that she draws inspiration outside the fashion realm. “My influences are a little bit outside of fashion. My international one was from Edward Gorey (a children’s book author). The last collection I also had with Inno Sotto, we’ve drawn from Alhambra (of Spain). Presently, this one from another French poet Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil. I like pieces that tell a story. The references are mostly from literature that has rich texture, and I can draw from there and find different perspectives.” Marga also adds, “She designs everything for herself; something I would wear, something she would wear. It’s just something she would like.”

Bea pursues to diversify her works by exploring different materials and increasing the level of craftsmanship. “It will take much time to gather what’s needed and nurture the designs before we fully launch them. Marga’s been doing really well of getting new markets abroad (particularly Mauritius and Kazakhstan), nurturing and establishing relationships. We are at the point of growing organically. We are not in a rush,” Bea explains.

Best Siblings Forever
Their relationship is described as having a unique sense of humor and being considerate and accepting despite their differences. “We know it’s a good day when we’re going home, we’re laughing,” Bea recalls. Marga even adds, “There is this time when I didn’t go to work, and she called me eight times. We really get along well. We’re very comfortable with each other. It’s a good thing, especially when you have one goal.”

Bea further explains, “We’ve actually got different points of view. I think the pretty thing about liking each other i that you learn how to listen well, and you’re kinder. We never make decisions without consulting each other.”

It is quite understandable for an artist like Bea to be erratics at times but Marga, for being highly organized, keeps Bea focused. Marga on the other hand, is well complemented with Bea’s humor.

“Continue what she likes doing,” Marga tells her sister while Bea candidly says, “I’d like to give my message to her in a novel instead. But give me back my trainer shoes!”

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