This young designer is making a difference through her handcrafted bags. Find out how her business is helping sustain the lives of abused women.
What’s your story?
My name is Rocio Olbes and I’m 28 years old. I was born and raised in Manila. I was fortunate enough to have a childhood where travel, summers, and schooling abroad were part of my upbringing. I believe this has helped me greatly with having an international frame of mind especially at such a young age.
Having started in the world of fashion as a teenager I have always been a creative at heart.
About two years ago I recently left my original label ROCIO, which was my namesake. During this time I became the Chairman of the my grandfather’s foundation which is over a quarter of a century old, and spent most of the last two years lobbying for livelihood programs for women, prisoners, and learning about the fundamentals of humanitarian rights. I took the time to study, to learn, and to most of all, reflect.
After this timeout, I’m proud to say that im back to the floor that I love. The world of creating something different and throwing it out there to be received.
My most recent venture is a new label called H E N R Y which was co founded by myself and my cousin Natalia Soriano.
It was simple. We had a strong mission to launch a unique and elegant accessory label which aimed to bring something new to the market.
The thoughtful use of creating hand stitched and hand woven bags, which combined the ancient techniques of old Asian weaving patterns with the incorporation of luxe leathers and skins are what truly makes every piece unique.
But that’s not even the unique part. You see what makes H E N R Y a stand alone is that all the workmanship is hand crafted and woven and the stitching is done by recovering women from abuse and destitute. So yes, these pieces, hand stitched and woven, are from former women of destitute who want sustainability and are all naturally talented and gifted human beings. And that’s what makes H E N R Y so special.
It is part of our mission to not only see that their livelihood is created, but to help rehabilitate them into the world to achieve complete sustainability.
As well, 25% of all profits are allocated to their livelihood and sustainability funds. It’s not just about jobs it is about creating an actual future which gives something most of the girls something they have never had before, hope.
What excites you most about your industry?
The individuals you meet and the inspiration they can bring. The idea that art can be created and received by all individuals. That alone is an exciting thought.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Manila. And although I was fortunate enough to spend most summers, schooling and now my work life abroad, I will always call Manila my home.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Manila. Simply because I feel that our country is moving in the right direction and Manila is becoming an international hub.
This is a crucial time for the Philippines and I feel that with the right decisions made and our industry leaders we will hopefully be able to grow in the right direction.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do all things with a grateful heart. Choose wisely who you give your time to because it is the only thing in this world we can not get back.
Who inspires you?
My older brother and my best friend who lives in New York inspire me. The young women I have met and worked with in recovery centers and how they still wish and strive to be better. To be stronger people. They have the bravest hearts I have ever known. It’s my privilege to keep their company .
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That it doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone’s life. Just some time and effort is truly all that is needed to make an impact on someone’s life. And remember to laugh as often as you can with the people who matter the most.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would do nothing differently because I feel that without the lessons I have learned, although at times were painful, I would not be able to help people the way I do now. I believe life is a series of choices and that we all make mistakes and make wrong choices but it is how you correct them and go from there which truly determines the individual you are.
How do you unwind?
At home with my family and my dog. I read and write a lot.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Pamalican Island is the most beautiful place in this world. Not only does it possess some of my most precious memories and moments, but I believe that it is truly the most beautiful place. This is relative since it is a personal point of view but if one ever has the chance to experience and visit Pamalican I strongly recommend it.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Too Big To Fail by Andrew Sorkin. And Peter Pan by JM Barrie.
Shameless plug for your business:
The first collection of HENRY will be premiering in Beverly Hills over the summer. Natalia and I are very excited and we hope that our mission to intertwine fashion and livelihood will inspire others to do the same.
How can people connect with you?
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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