Meet the label: Aesca

Anna Escalona

CEO/Designer & Watercolor Artist

Alelia Ariola

Painter & Illustrator

Aesca is the creative vision of Filipina artist Anna Escalona, who promotes and supports local artists and artisans with her collection of handmade footwear. We were lucky enough to catch up with Anna and talk everything from art as a tool for social change to the best hidden holiday gems in her native country.

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How did Aesca start out?

As an artist myself, I am always meeting very talented local artists in my country, the Philippines. I founded Aesca on the belief that their art should be showcased on more platforms beyond traditional exhibitions. By incorporating art with locally-made products we allow people to proudly wear Filipino art, whatever part in the world they are in.

Tell us more about your amazing footwear?

Foreigners come from all over the world to experience the beautiful islands, tropical nature and sunny weather of my home country. I painted the Tropik Collection so that people could wear these tropical patterns and colors and remember the Philippines wherever they go.

Alelia Ariola painted the second footwear collection. She is a feminist artist who explores Pinay (Filipina) beauty in her Kayumanggi Collection. “Kayumanggi” means “brown”. In the Philippines, women are adored for their golden-brown skin. Through her artworks, Alelia wanted to empower all kinds of women to love and embrace themselves.

How did you meet Alelia and how did you know she was right for the brand?

A friend who paints murals introduced us. I love how powerfully she conveys messages through her art. We invited her to make a collection and she agreed because she wanted to let her voice be heard through her artworks. Her collection went viral immediately.

We love working with artists who are passionate, bold, and up for something new. They are inspiring, they’re role models and their voices breathe life into Aesca products. We believe that art is a powerful tool to build a more socially-aware society.

Which famous person would you love to see wearing your shoes?

Oh, a lot! Aesca loves real people who inspire their followers.

Kelsey Merritt was the first Filipina Victoria’s Secret model and has gone on to model for many other big international brands. She glows with Pinay pride and we would love to see her in our shoes.

We would also love to see Vanessa Hudgens wear our locally-made pieces. She is Filipino-American, (her mother is a Manila native) and she has brought a lot of pride to the Philippines. We are always proud to see our fellow countrymen showcase their talents around the globe.

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What has been the proudest moment for Aesca to date?

Since our launch in February 2019, our proudest moment was when our Kayumanggi Collection went viral without any paid promotion. It showed us how sharing such an important message through art can touch peoples’ souls.

What lessons have you learned along the way?

The biggest lessons came from the challenging period before launching the brand. We learned the importance of believing in your product and taking risks to make your dream a reality.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

I am inspired by our brand’s advocacies. As a social enterprise, we help communities through our brand.

First, we have partnered with JKL Foundation in the Philippines to fund the empowerment of traumatized women. Second, we help our talented local artists earn a living, as they receive a percentage from every product sold. Third, we help the communities that make our products, all of which are handmade by local artisans. Working with these communities is a huge inspiration to us and helps propel the brand forward.

Why is supporting mental health institutions important to you?

In the Philippines, the topic of mental health still lacks awareness and education, it is detrimental to peoples’ lives. Aesca holds monthly programs and workshops for a mental health facility to empower those who need more help.

Which of the current issues facing the world do feel most passionate about and why?

Lack of education. More than 72 million children throughout the globe are not enrolled in school. Part of our monthly program involves offering education programs to children. We believe that if we can empower the youth with education now, we will help prevent issues arising later on in their lives.

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How does this affect your process at Aesca?

It drives us to work harder on our products so that we can dedicate more time and money to these facilities. Advocacy gives our everyday work meaning, no matter how tough it gets. We believe that every business should contribute to the betterment of society.

How do you start your day?

I start my day with my dog, cuddling her and talking to her. I attend to her morning needs before I make my coffee. Reading emails, answering inquiries and addressing work priorities will only start once I’ve had the perfect cup of coffee.

What do you do to unwind?

I love to travel, see new places, and also learn about how art is used in every country. I visit a new country at least once a year to help expand my art concept. When I’m at home, I usually take a trip to the beach with my dog and friends just to recharge. We all need that spiritual time to rejuvenate and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It helps me to be more creative.

What’s your favorite thing about the Philippines?

The people! Besides having the best weather and amazing islands, I also truly love Filipino food! A lot of Filipinos are great cooks. I grew up in in a family that loves eating, so when I travel for months on end, it’s the cuisine I crave. I start to look for my favorite white rice and Sinigang, a Filipino stew with pork and vegetables characterized by its sour and savory taste.

The Philippines is a dream holiday destination for many! What’s your top tip for tourists visiting for the first time?

My top tip would be to research the places you want to visit. Since we have so many beautiful islands that each offer a unique experience, it would be best to research each one to help make the right choice. Talk to the locals to avoid tourist traps because there are just so many amazing corners to visit.

What’s your ultimate travel destination?

It would be great to be able to visit Macchu Picchu in Peru. I’ve seen so many beautiful photos and always wondered what it would be like to explore. Another dream destination of mine is Egypt. I would love to learn more about their epic history!

Model wears “Morena Handmade Canvas Leather Slip On Mule” shoes

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How can we make our fashion choices more sustainable?

I think we need to realize that sustainability is not a trend, but a necessity. It comes down to being ethically responsible each time we design, purchase, consume and consider our day-to-day fashion and usage of materials.

What advice would you give to young designers just starting out?

Trust your creativity! I think many designers are afraid to execute their ideas. It can be intimidating to see previous generations of designers and how much they have achieved. but never let your doubts and fears stop you from creating, and creating, and creating. Be obsessed with your ideas!

What’s your motto?

“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” by Erin Hanson.

What’s coming up for Aesca in the future?

Art, art and more art! We want to create more beautiful locally-made products intertwined with more local art. We won’t stop with footwear, scarves, and furniture, so stay tuned!

Aesca’s stunning and unique handmade
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