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Basic Instincts: Amina Aranaz-Alunan

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Amina Aranaz-Alunan is the owner of fashion bag brand ARANAZ and co-founder (with former schoolmate Loralee Baron-Soong) of the School of Fashion and the Arts (SoFA), the country’s first specialized college for fashion. A member of the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines, she has teamed up with designer Rajo Laurel to create a line of “ecoethical” designer bags under the social enterprise Rags2Riches—whose products are made by the women in the depressed community of Payatas.

Amina earned a Master’s degree in accessories design, graduating cum laude, from the IstitutoMarangoni in Milan after earningan Interdisciplinary Studies degree from the Ateneo de Manila University. Often cited as one of Manila’s style icons, she was a fashion stylist for a local magazine, has modeled a bit and danced ballet for 10 years (and a littleflamenco after that). She and husband Rafa Alunan have three kids, the youngest (a boy) born just last April.

Innovation vs. Tradition
“I believe in pushing the envelope for new ideas, I believe in challenging the norm, I believe innovation can improve things, and innovation is in growth and development all the time.”

Copy vs. Create
“I love original ideas and the creative process. I want to create something that’s inspirational, so I’m always involved in making things, from the prototype to the finished product.”

Results vs. Performance
“I’m leaning toward this because to me it’s something more personal, it’s linked to a person. Results can be tied to an objective, but usually I want to look at the person and see how he or she approaches an issue and tackles it.”

Boss vs. Mentor
“It’s one of the topics I’ve been recently thinking about for my class at SoFA. I’m currently studying in a short program at AIM (Asian Institute of Management), a leadership module, and what I’ve learned so far is that a good leader is always a mentor, and has an authority that’s not based on his position. He’s a person that his followers strive to be, and inspires things in others that make them act.”

Liquid vs. Profitable
“As long as I’m not living beyond my means, at the end of the day I’ll always go for profit. It always involves risks, but you have to take the risks you think are conservative enough to earn you a profit.”

Acquire vs. Lease
“In terms of making bags, we used to have our own factory, but now we’re leasing, even our own store space.”

Train vs. Pirate
“In terms of making bags, it’s really skill-based, so it’s difficult to get workers. We’d rather invest in our workers.”

Midyear bonus vs. 14th month
“I prefer paying bonuses at the end of the year so the employees have something to look forward to.”

Cash vs. Kind (CSR)
“But it (CSR) has to be something concrete.”

Short-term vs. Long-term (financial soundness)
“Our products have a quick turnover, we have a monthly overhead to sustain, so we always need capital to bridge the gap and create new styles. Because we’re in retail and in a niche market, our clients want to see something new. We don’t have the luxury of six months to come out with a new product; ideally, that should be two weeks.”

Dole-out vs. Program/Project (CSR)
“I want to be more involved in this, so I’d like to be on the front lines, from the concept to the execution of the project.”

Volume vs. Margins
“Our brand is high end. I was starting to think of volume after hanging out with some Chinese friendsand doing something in volume, but Aranaz (the product) has always been about margins.”

Spend vs. Save
“I’m conservative that way.”

U.S. vs. China
“It’s a growing market, and they have a young, growing population, so consumer goods companies like mine are showing a lot of interest in it.”

Niche vs. Mass Market
“But of course.”

MBA vs. Experience
(tie) “It’s a toss-up; I’ve been exposed to people who are entrepreneurs, like my parents, but recently I took a mini-MBA course and I’m learning so much. I think both things enrich each other. I value the discipline and structured program of an MBA, but an MBA with experience will keep you straight; it won’t be all theory and no application.”

Stocks vs. Bonds
“Again, I’m conservative with money.”

Golf vs. Running
(tie) “Golf is not for me, and I’m not into running either. I danced ballet and flamenco, so I’m that type.”

Coffee vs. Tea
“I need it to jumpstart my day.”

Iphone vs. Blackberry
“I’m a super Mac person, ever since 2000. Then a month ago, so many friends were telling me to get a Blackberry, but my husband bought me an iPhone for my birthday. Now all my gadgets are synced.”

MAC vs. PC
“I cannot go and use a PC. I get lost and annoyed in using a PC.”

Dogs vs. Cats
“None. No offense, but I’m scared of them.”

Car vs. SUV
“It’s roomier, and I have three kids, so I’m always lugging things around.”

Saturday vs. Sunday
“It’s the start of the weekend, and it’s my ‘me’ day; I can do what I want. I shop, I take the kids out, I go out of town, and I do my errands. Sunday is family day but it’s tiring for me because I spend time with both my in-laws and my family, so we usually get home at around 10 p.m.”


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