An Interview with Rita Nazareno of S.C. Vizcarra 1925

I’ve been friends with Rita Nazareno for a while now and she’s always caring these fabulous leather woven bags so I just had to ask her about them!

You studied and worked in media? What is your background?
RN – I was in television in America for a while – I was Senior Producer at the Fox station in Los Angeles and then Creative Services Director of the local NBC station in Houston where I branded the station, managed the Art and Promotions Departments and fostered relationships with the community.
I was involved in filmmaking when I was younger – I did everything from being a PA to shooting (8mm, 16mm, 35mm and video) eventually writing and directing. My BA was on TV Production and my first Masters was on Film and Video.

FWI – Rita has received: 1 Emmy Award (Los Angeles) and 5 Gold + 1 Silver ProMax Awards!

Were you reluctant to enter the family business?
RN – I wasn’t reluctant at all, because at some point I knew it was in me to enter the family business. I think I had to prove my mettle in my own way before I felt I’d be worthy enough to go back home. At some point I felt that I had achieved what I had wanted to in television and it was time for me to give back to our workers and my family, especially mom, who deserves a vacation!

When did you become involved in the family business?
I’ve always been a consultant and special projects manager for S.C. Vizcarra, but one could say I’ve been involved since I was 5. S.C.Vizcarra had a huge store in the 70’s and I was behind the counter, putting into bags and boxes all the items Japanese tourists were buying. Around that time the Jackson 5 came to Manila. We closed the store down for them – and I even got a kiss from a young Michael Jackson!

Your grandmother started the business in 1925, and your mother continued?
RN – My grandmother started her eponymous company in 1925, as an atelier for fine, hand-embroidered creations. The atelier moved to retail, still selling crafted objects from the Philippines. It then evolved into manufacturing hand-woven items under my mom’s direction.
My Lola Gunding, as I called her, was an amazing woman – such compassion coupled with creativity. And boy, she worked hard. But I do remember her laugh – it was a big, infectious laugh. She was incredible – she was born from a poor family, only finishing the 2nd grade but she had this gift for embroidery, and the good fortune of having people believe in her talent.
My grandmother embroidered the gift of the Philippine government to the then Princess Elizabeth’s wedding to Prince Philip, a delicate trousseau made from pineapple fibers, an indigenous material. My grandmother was also commissioned to embroider the American flag that was raised during Philippine Independence.

Was it predominantly the women in your family that created the business? Were the men involved?
RN – My grandmother was the force behind it all. But my grandfather – whom my grandmother married in 1943 – was an artist, a sculptor. He helped the company a great deal, illustrated a lot of my grandmother’s designs, even designed the logo, which we still use today. He also helped in developing the woodcarving industry in the Philippines.
My Mom is also just as amazing – she’s got such a huge heart and works equally hard. My dad – who handles another Vizcarra company (Pharmaceuticals) along with my younger sister – also does some designs. He switches very effortlessly from Pharmaceuticals to making accessories and furniture. He made our dining table and chairs, our headboards, and even our office furniture!
When my grandmother started her company, she had a group of young ladies helping her with the embroidery. When I was growing up, that particular group of ladies were in their 60s, and I remember them still embroidering with their thick glasses, always joking and laughing. I’d be hanging out in their area, just listening to all the gossip. About 15 years ago, we threw a party for the last remaining lady of the group – something like 60 years of service to S.C. Vizcarra. She refused to retire and she came to work everyday – so she became the holder of the keys. She must have had 50 keys that she held on to. No one can get past her too – I called her Lola Pina (Grandmother Pina).

What brought you to London?
RN – S.C.Vizcarra needed to expand to Europe and I’m here trying to learn the ins and outs of the UK industry – like looking for stockists that are a good fit, and getting to know people in the fashion community. I also am doing another Masters (MA Design Management) at London College of Fashion.

How long does it take to make one of your bags?
RN – Some of our bags take 2-3 days to produce – specifically the natural leather ones woven from one piece of leather so it has no seams. It’s really quite an intricate process and some of our weaves are quite innovative. We’re just really proud of our artisans.

Do you take private orders in London?
RN – You can find our range of hand-woven bags and home accessories on SC Vizcarra1925. And yes, we do take private orders – just email us at info@vizcarra1925.com for enquiries. Or email me, rnazareno@vizcarra1925.com

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