After quitting her job at a local shoe company, Dianne Espera of SEPA Cebu found a treasure in her granny’s old sewing kit by making earrings out of safety pins and old buttons.
“I love shoes and finding a job opening in the newspaper for a shoe designer was like a dream come true, but sadly the company was targeting their products to the lower end market and I wasn’t too happy with the designs they wanted me to do,” Dianne recalls.
“I had so much fun making them that I asked my sister to wear it to school the next day, and it instantly became a hit! Then my best friend told me about a local fair and we both decided to join and make more of those funky pieces I made,” she says.
They used bottle caps, paracetamol, real keys, and padlock as earrings, and named the brand “MOBO”.
“Our college friend Humberto Villegas came to our booth on the first day of the fair and brought Ana Feji with him. She was so amazed with our products that she bought so much and wore it to ASAP the next day. That Sunday, I immediately got a call from Iya Villana to sponsor her accessories for the show.”
That was Dianne’s big break.
Josefa Dianne Espera
“My partner and I split up and I started my own brand, SEPA, which is actually shortened from my name, Josefa,” she narrates.
Dianne shares the same name with her grandmother, her greatest inspiration.
“She was exporting all sorts of native products when I was a kid, so I had my hands busy stringing excess beads from her products.”
Another factor for choosing “Sepa” was easy recall. SEPA was the name her granny’s clients and suppliers called her.”
Her most creative and most detailed pieces are found in her collection entitled a tribute to mcqueen. “When news broke that he committed suicide, I was so saddened because I looked up to him as an inspiration. He was such an amazing artist and his works had such well-thought details so I decided to make a collection that was inspired by his art.”
Diane’s ideas, she says, could be born from a certain emotional state, a mood, an experience, an interesting person she just met, or simply from things around her.
Word of mouth spread her work from friends, to (then famous) Multiply, to networks of people, to stores in Manila, and to TV shows.
“I started sponsoring celebrities with my accessories so we got live acknowledgement on national TV. Today, I still do the same things I did when I started, but I am more careful with the projects I choose to partner with or participate in. I think my most effective marketing strategy is to give my clients my personal service.”
SEPA is known for its quirky, playful, colorful pieces.
But in the near future, she’s looking at working with real gold and real stones.
“To be recognized is truly great but to have stayed this long in the business is what I consider my greatest achievement because when I started this, I never thought I would go this far.”
Hence, some meaningful projects.
“I always want to give back,” she says, so she has collaborated with the group called Anthill, by creating current designs with the Daraghuyan Tribe of Bukidnon, Mindanao.
“In my own little way, I am able to draw attention to the artistry of this tribe. When a collaboration collection with Antill sells, it means more work for the tribe’s men and more income for them,” Dianne says.
There was also no way that SEPA Cebu missed the opportunity to extend a hand to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.
“Pledging a certain percentage of our sales as donation to the typhoon victims brings more awareness to the situation because we are serving a big audience, and people who check our Facebook account religiously get to see it. We believe people are kind by nature, so who doesn’t want to shop for a cause?”
Written by: Ai Macalintal. Ai couldn’t stay in one place for too long, so she’s always walking, traveling or changing address. She’s been an editor in Singapore and has written for Aussie magazines, but penning stories about the Philippines delights her most.