Tal de Guzman of Risqué Designs is all about bringing everything local to the storefront

Tal de Guzman, owner and designer behind Risqué Designs, shows that standing tall can also be inherently Filipino. She shows off her love for country by blending her love for art and design with locally sourced material and artisanal skills, resulting in beautiful handmade shoes and bags inspired by Filipino culture.

Risqué Designs Is Bringing Everything Local to the Storefront

De Guzman’s shoes range from towering, wooden heels with carvings of palayok (clay pots), to brightly painted flats depicting the colors of different festivals around the country. Each shoe carries a piece of Filipino culture, a modern twist, and years of handcrafted expertise. She sees herself and her brand as modern storytellers, for most of her designs are based on legends and traditions that Filipinos may have forgotten. Clients often come to ask why a shoe has a certain design, thus allowing de Guzman or her staff to relay the story behind the shoe. “It becomes educational for people,” she says. “And our customers like to tell the stories too, so we’re not the only storytellers here.”

De Guzman finds herself fighting through the mentality that imported goods are better or more worth the money than locally made goods with each shoe she designs. She acknowledges that it’s a mentality a lot of Filipinos have, and is in fact what inspired her to go local. “A lot of designers in general derive inspiration from Western culture, Greek mythology, [and] Roman mythology,” she explains. “But we have a lot of alamat (legends) and mythology [as well]. That’s what I wanted to focus on.”

Going local was not originally in de Guzman’s plans. She tried importing her shoes from Indonesia, but found that it came with too much hassle and unbearable fees. To overcome that challenge, she thought of a Filipino classic: “We had bakya (wooden clogs/slippers) before, why don’t I do that?”

Risqué Designs

De Guzman incorporates wood carvings, a specialty craft found in Paete, Laguna, and hablon (woven cloth) from Valladolid, Negros Occidental in her designs. She was introduced to the wood carvers of Paete when she was a student at the School of Fashion and Art (SoFA). Seeing their wooden statues of saints and furniture made her think that their art can be used in other things. After partnering with them to have a bag frame made for a competition she joined in 2011, de Guzman started exploring the possibilities of wood carving and shoes. She tries as much as possible to get other materials like leather and prints locally sourced as well.

For de Guzman, it’s all about making things personal. She would travel to Paete to check on the carvings personally, saying, “I have to see the actual thing. Yes, there’s technology, there’s e-mail. But it’s different when you see the actual thing.” She emphasizes that building relationships with her suppliers is vital to the brand. “If it’s dealing with my communities, I am the one dealing with them and not anyone from my staff,” she says. This is to ensure also that the communities are not exploited and get just wages. “If you order them around, they won’t understand,” she adds. “You have to treat them as partners.” It is important to develop trust, treat the craft with respect, and establish a partnership with the communities.

Risqué Designs - Marikina Workshop

While de Guzman stays connected with her suppliers on a personal level, she makes sure that her store in Glorietta and her production facility in Marikina are in sync by staying connected online. “I really use a lot of technology in my shop,” she explains. She and her staff communicate frequently via Facebook, especially when clients want to customize shoes and need price quotations. Payments are also made smoothly with the help of Globe Charge and GCash.

Risqué Designs - Fresh Gold

If wooden tarsiers or bright yellow weaves aren’t quite your drift, you can opt for customization at Risqué Designs. de Guzman admits that she had no idea there was a market for customized shoes until she offered it as a way to lessen her stocks. “I wanted to offer customization because I knew it would be hard for people to get exactly what they like,” she adds. “We can create the market. If you give people the option to customize, they would.”

Tal de Guzman elevates and modernizes classic elements like wood carvings and hablon by changing up the color combinations. “It’s very traditional, na hindi bagay-bagay (and doesn’t match),” de Guzman explains. “We’re trying to step it up in terms of how we put together colors.”

Last July 2016, Tal de Guzman launched her newest collection, Amansinaya, in collaboration with Tessa Prieto-Valdes. Because of Tessa Prieto-Valdes’ iconic look as a “Sea Princess”, de Guzman drew inspiration for her 10 new shoes from Philippine marine life. The collection features intricate starfish heel designs, as well as yellow and blue hablon that take after tropical fish. For a modern twist, the weaves are layered under laser-cut leather in shapes of seaweed or coral.

Tal de Guzman encourages budding entrepreneurs to not be afraid of going back to their roots and making use of local materials or labor. This cultural entrepreneur says she owes a lot to friends and like-minded people who helped her out along the way. While there is a growing love for going local, de Guzman says not to just jump on the bandwagon, but to “do it because your heart is for the Philippines.” 

Retail Shop: Glorietta 3 (Ground floor, hallway to Landmark)

Production/Workshop: #23 E. Santos, Concepcion Uno, Marikina City

Website: www.risquedesignsph.com

Instagram: @risquedesigns

Contact numbers: (02)576-4691 / 0916-293-2400