Angela Sison: Founder of Conrado
Recently, I shared about my favorite new additions to my closet. Today I get to introduce you to the incredible woman behind them! Angela has the most widespread and lengthy experience in fashion of anyone I've interviewed. I'm fascinated by her story and everything that led up to the creation of Conrado...
Share a little about your background
I have been in the fashion industry as long as I can remember. I was born in San Francisco but I grew up in the Philippines where my mother owned a small garment factory. My earliest memories are of counting buttons or trimming thread. I knew how to sew even before it was taught to me in school. I always knew I would be an entrepreneur one day. Naturally, I decided to study fashion in college. I went back to San Francisco to study fashion design and eventually worked in New York and Paris. Before launching Conrado, I was designing for a huge fashion corporation in San Francisco.
Now, I call Martha’s Vineyard home, where my boyfriend is from. It’s been incredibly inspiring since we’ve moved to the island, but I divide my time between Massachusetts, San Francisco and the Philippines to run Conrado. Traveling has always been part of my life and I love showing this through Conrado pieces.
What was your main inspiration for Conrado?
Conrado is my grandfather’s name and my heritage in fashion is what brought this brand to life. I was very close to my grandfather because he lived with us when I was growing up. I always heard stories of him traveling for work and I loved looking at old pictures of him. His style was seamless and embodied the whole persona of the traveler.
My unique upbringing is also something that I am proud and always inspired of. My parents treasured traveling (they got married in Chicago while they were on a road trip), and I’m glad they instilled this in us at a very young age. I grew up in Manila, the city capital of the Philippines only about an hour away from the beach (hence, my “City to Beach” theme.) I spent most of my summers and holidays in San Francisco too. Transition, simplicity and versatility are key inspirations when designing new styles for Conrado. I believe the pieces are very New-England-meets-the-Tropics with the effortless California vibe.
The use of dead stock fabric also came naturally to me having worked in the industry. Seeing the massive amounts of sampling done and the excess waste of fabric that is perfectly usable a wake-up call to do something about it!
Has the brand changed much since you first started?
Since starting it last year, it has evolved to be even more than I envisioned. I’m proud to be able to use dead stock fabric and happy to be part of helping cut back waste in the fashion industry. It has also opened up a world of collaborations and being able to market the brand in new aspects like selling at local markets or pop-ups with local shops. I never planned on doing as many pop-up as I am now, and I really enjoy meeting new faces this way!
What's been the biggest obstacle in this?
Starting Conrado required a lot of preparation. Learning about starting a business is especially challenging – filling up forms, registrations, taxes, etc. and clearly understanding them is not easy, but with perseverance and passion to start Conrado and with help from others, you overcome these fears. Reading, taking advantage of classes and online courses helped me a lot. There are resources out there. You just have to dig in deep!
There are challenges that come up everyday. I’ve learned that you cannot be prepared for every obstacle that comes your way but keeping organized and not being afraid to ask for help is a way to overcome these obstacles. Learning from other business owners and sharing knowledge empowers you and your community. It is good to build a support system with fellow entrepreneurs and girl bosses!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I've heard other entrepreneurs say, "There is no such thing as a typical day..." and I totally agree with that! My schedule changes constantly and I’m still trying to grasp it. A day could start out with answering emails, upkeep of the online store or working on marketing strategies then going to the studio to pack any orders, organize inventory or work on a pattern for a new design and deciding on fabrication. Also, trying to squeeze in some yoga in the day helps with stress management since I am a one-woman team right now!
My schedule also changes seasonally. During the summer I am part of local artisan flea markets which Conrado participates in. In the fall and winter, I am getting myself ready for a couple of holiday markets and pop-ups. There is more travel around this timeframe. I travel to places where I can source for dead stock fabrics (Last year, I went to Tokyo and Bali as well.) I spend about 4-8 weeks in Manila, Philippines to work closely with the artisans at my family’s workshop.
Describe your personal style
Simple, comfortable, easy and versatile! I feel like I developed a taste for a relaxed style because I travel so much. Comfort is key to me because I am always on the move! My wardrobe consists of basics with a handful of special trendy pieces. I’ve cut down my wardrobe a lot to my key pieces. My style truly reflects what Conrado showcases!
How do you incorporate ethical shopping into your personal life?
In some ways I have always shopped ethically and consciously for clothing, even when I was growing up. With my family’s business being part of the industry and knowing other factories, I have grown up to know that there are is a lot of excess clothing that can still be used. I had the resources to be able to buy clothing that way, mending garments or making new pieces. I have also grown to love thrift shopping especially when I lived in Paris! My favorite store used to be a bargain store that offered some women's brand-name clothing, which is culled from window displays, sale samples, and other discount-inducing sources. They were pieces that the industry was getting rid of, but the store still sold it! If it was a little damaged, I could always mend it.
I have made more effort to shop ethically over the past few years. Since moving to Martha’s Vineyard, it has become a lot easier to shop this way. There are no big corporations here, I am happier to support small businesses and their products.
What's been the most rewarding part about starting Conrado?
The most rewarding part is being able to share to the world what I love to do and seeing how customers respond to Conrado. I’ve met a handful of people who still have no idea what dead stock fabric is, and being able to share this knowledge about the industry has been worthwhile.
The support that I’ve found from family, friends and the people I have met since starting Conrado has been so heartwarming. Being able to support and give livelihood to the artisans that help create Conrado has been so fulfilling as well. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them!
Where would you like to see the brand in 5 years?
Currently, I am a one-woman team. I wear all the hats at Conrado. I hope to be able to eventually lead a team of like-minded, creative women who share the same passion as I do with creating a more sustainable design process. I would also like to be able to support and give back more to the community in the Philippines by helping with education and better health resources.
Anything else you would like to share?
Conrado is launching collaboration with one of my friends who explores femininity through her illustrations. We collaborated in creating a few swim styles! Together with artist Lena Gustafson’s prints and my designs, we will be launching three swim styles just in time for summer. We are using dead stock swim nylon fabrics that are printed with her illustrations by a local textile printer in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have been working on this for months now and can’t wait to get it out to the world!
I am always in the lookout for other collaborations as well and may explore adding childrenswear or menswear to Conrado in the next year or two!
Use the code STYLED40 for an extra 40% off all items until 2/19/2017. (excludes pre-sale)